Residential Magazine

Reach Your Potential

Choose your lender partner wisely to achieve success in the mortgage industry

By Paul Buege

Thirty years ago, developing a successful career in the mortgage industry took time, commitment and hard work. It required strong habits, highly effective daily actions and the ability to complete important sales tasks. 

None of this has changed. The industry, however, has evolved in many ways over that time. Today, there are many more key factors for developing a successful career in mortgage sales, such as ongoing training and coaching opportunities. For this reason, there is no bigger factor behind your sales potential than the lender you choose to work with. And not all lenders are getting it right.

Paths to success

In the old-school playbook, lenders saw originators as street fighters — strong, independent, highly entrepreneurial sales professionals who fought hard to grow business. These originators could be mostly left alone to grow business however they saw fit. The strong endured and thrived, while the weaker ones usually went away. 

This mindset still exists, but many lenders are taking a different path. The first step is to hire correctly — in other words, bring individuals into the company who have the true attributes needed to be successful in sales. The second step is to surround these individuals with a team of people who are committed to their ongoing training and development. 

Still, the vast majority of lenders continue to look at training, coaching and mentoring as something they provide on an as-needed basis. Everything about the mortgage industry is constantly changing, from the current market fluctuations to how consumers behave when they start their journey to obtain financing. This means that originator training must always be ongoing and it must focus on two important paths — sales and technical expertise. 

The sources of sales training should come from both the home office and field office. Together, these sources should provide an ongoing variety of ideas and perspectives that originators need to continually improve their business. Ideally, this includes in-house corporate trainers in addition to outside experts, who are brought in to provide the latest sales techniques and strategies. 

Training backburner

Field training should be a highly collaborative process in which originators are able to develop connections to other top professionals in the company so they can learn from the best in the field. Initiatives such as peer-to-peer idea sharing and sales-strategy development can be powerful ways for originators to access and develop new sales strategies. There are other benefits, too. When originators support each other, they know they’re not alone. They will always have someone available to bounce ideas off of and answer questions, making training a team effort.

To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way even the best mortgage lenders develop, train and motivate their teams. Even when team members are willing and able to meet in person, it’s not the same when everyone is social distancing, wearing masks and looking for the bottle of hand sanitizer. 

Unfortunately for many lenders, the combination of the pandemic and tremendous borrower demand has rendered professional development an afterthought. It’s also making it impossible for originators to reach their full potential. When used properly, however, technology can not only be an effective means of providing coaching and training, it is often better than in-person or traditional classroom settings. 

At the start of the pandemic, for example, many lenders quickly shifted their training and development efforts to online environments such as video conferencing. It was discovered that virtual trainings were often being received and retained much better than those conducted in physical classrooms. Training programs were offered in real time, but they also were available in playback mode for those whose busy schedules didn’t permit them to attend live trainings. 

With the loss of in-person connections, however, the availability of electronic training resources has never been more important. Whether it’s hosting virtual events or online coaching sessions, everyone involved in supporting originators needs to be skilled in the use of technologies that help them build productive virtual connections. This entails much more than using a phone, text or email to communicate training knowledge.

The right loans

Training is not all that originators need to be successful. Because loan guidelines are constantly changing, originators also need assistance in ensuring they are matching their clients with the right financing, which means they need to be aware of all available options. That’s why the smartest lenders have developed resource centers that can help out originators when they have questions selecting and developing the best loan programs for both their clients and referral partners. 

Each retail lender consists of two parts of the same house. The first part is what needs to happen to get the right loans to the right borrowers and close them on time. The second part of the business is the sales team and what you do to develop great originators. 

Right now, with the pandemic still raging, you can clearly see which lenders have the first part of their house in order. Unsurprisingly, these are the lenders that are experiencing the most growth since the start of the pandemic. 

On the other hand, many lenders have seen their business significantly disrupted because they weren’t prepared to work with remote teams and have struggled to adapt to new market realities. Some of these lenders may still be growing their sales volumes, but because every loan is stumbling across the finish line, the lender is not creating the type of borrower experience that results in referrals. 

A new home

Right now, the difficulties that many lenders have had in adjusting to this new environment have caused some originators to consider a new home for their business. When evaluating whether another company is a good choice, any mortgage professional needs to ask themselves one question: “How will this company help me propel my current level of success to a higher point?” 

So, how does one answer this question? The key is to look for multiple layers of training and coaching that are offered at both the home office and the branch level. The best companies understand that investing in professional development of their originators produces significant results. When doing your research, it should be obvious which companies fit the bill. 

It also is important to consider a lender’s technical-support capabilities, as many loans are won or lost through this critical function. If you’re trying to qualify a borrower, is help immediately available by phone or text, or by sending an email and praying you get a response before your customer walks away? The lenders that fall into the former category are likely to take an all-hands approach in which everyone helps. 

At the same time, lenders can only be great at training and developing originators when they have the first part of their house in order — which means they must prove they can get the business done and get loans closed ahead of time. If you don’t have that part working well, it doesn’t matter how much training and support you give your sales team — they just aren’t going to be as successful as they could be. 

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The bottom line is that the mortgage industry is no longer the same as it was three decades ago. It takes more than ambition and personal drive to build a successful career. It takes a lender willing and able to invest in the resources to create great, high-performing originators. 

By taking a more holistic approach to sales training, lenders are able to develop originators who understand how to build more effective human connections with referral partners and borrowers. They’ll provide access to coaches who help them develop highly effective business-development calendars and tasks that lead to increased sales. 

With the right approach, a lender can provide motivated originators an entry point to the business with the skills, training and mindset to help them stay forward-focused and optimistic in any type of market. If you want your mortgage career to last, there is nothing better than that. ●


  • Paul Buege

    Paul Buege is president and chief operating officer of Pewaukee, Wisconsin-based Inlanta Mortgage, a mortgage lender licensed in 27 states that is actively seeking new loan professionals. Buege has more than 35 years of experience in the mortgage business, and is an expert in recruitment, business development and growing sales. Under his leadership, Inlanta Mortgage has received numerous awards and accolades, including being recognized multiple times as a top workplace in the mortgage industry.

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