Residential Magazine

Selling Continues to Be a Contact Sport

Originators who thrive understand the high-touch nature of the business

By Douglas Smith

If you’ve been in the mortgage business for some length of time, you remember when loan originators were “out” there. Out there making sales calls on Realtors. Out there attending business meetings and networking events. Out there involved in industry associations. Out there talking with people, making contacts and building relationships. Out there selling.

Today, it’s rare to see a mortgage originator who is out much. Many are parked in their offices, laboring over a loan file or staring into a computer screen. Instead of visiting their referral clients, they default to sending e-mails. Rather than meeting with a borrower for a loan application, they prefer to take the app over the phone. 

The mortgage industry’s once great and powerful sales force is quietly losing its willingness and ability to sell. There are some clear reasons for this new reality. And there also are ways for originators to overcome this.

Changing marketplace

Years ago, the business world didn’t have marvelous inventions like e-mail, text messaging and social media. If you wanted to talk to someone, you either picked up the phone or your car keys. Nowadays, the majority of mortgage originators can (and often prefer to) communicate with people virtually instead of personally. 

There also has been a departure from formalized training. The majority of large banks and mortgage companies have dismantled their once-robust loan officer universities. The big wholesale lenders that previously put on large, regional sales rallies and sales-training workshops for their clients stopped doing so years ago. Consequently, many newer originators have never been taught the science of selling and many experienced originators have long since forgotten how it’s done.

The aging population of originators is playing a role. It is common knowledge throughout the industry that the average age of a mortgage originator today is approaching 50. Many of these battle-hardened veterans have been making loans for 10, 15, 20 years or more. They’ve been through a lot. At this stage of their careers, some may prefer the comfort and safety of their own office environment to what lurks outside of it.  

In the next few years, mortgage originators will find their biggest competition will not be neighboring banks, brokers and credit unions but online mortgage lenders. There are at least a dozen operating now, with more entering the arena all the time. Many offer consumers a platform of lower interest rates coupled with a more convenient way to get a mortgage than with a traditional lender. The market share of online lenders is growing, they are aggressive in their advertising and they are not going to go away. They have one Achilles’ heel, however, and it’s something they will never have: no feet on the street.

Personal relationships

If you are a mortgage originator and you hope to compete against the online lenders going after your clients now and over the next few years, the one distinct competitive advantage you own is your physical presence in the marketplace. Begin to grow that now while you still can. 

Realize that most people — even with all the online options available to obtain a home loan — still prefer to do business with someone they know, like and trust. This requires building one-on-one relationships and maintaining more frequent face time in front of people. Here’s how it’s done. 

Plan more “out” time. Force yourself away from your desk and computer several times a week, and make a commitment to invest more out-of-office time on a consistent basis. Don’t wait until you are all caught up to do this — it will never happen because you will never, ever be all caught up. Plan to get out by blocking “out” time on your calendar throughout the week. What gets scheduled gets done. 

Make more face-to-face sales calls on real estate agents. Stop sending e-mail blasts to agents — they get dozens of these every day from other originators who aren’t getting out either. Instead, arrange frequent appointments for coffee, lunch and visits to their offices or open houses. Let them know you truly appreciate the relationship and their referrals. If you are not in front of your agents from time to time, they will soon forget about you and start recommending their buyers to someone else.

Deliver more first-time homebuyer presentations. Millennials (ages 25 to 39) are now the largest segment of homebuyers in the country and the majority of these people are purchasing their first homes. First-time homebuyer seminars may seem a little old-school, but they are a proven way to put yourself in front of multiple prospects all at once, gain more exposure for yourself and your company, and generate more leads and new loans. 

Become actively involved in your local mortgage lender association, real estate association and homebuilder association. Attend their breakfasts, luncheons and other events throughout the year. Not only will you get to know more people who work in your industry, more people in your industry will get to know you.

Get involved in more groups, clubs and organizations. There are numerous civic organizations, business circles and networking groups you can join. The monthly functions and get-togethers they host will give you an outlet for meeting new people and making new contacts in your community. Added to that, the constant face-to-face interaction with others will keep your communication and sales skills sharp.

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When homebuying season arrives, you’ll want to take full advantage of it by getting out and selling again. Interest rates are low and new construction is happening everywhere. The business is out there. The bulk of that business, however, will go to the mortgage originators who are out there going after it.


  • Douglas Smith

    Douglas Smith is president of Douglas Smith & Associates, a sales-training and performance-coaching company specializing in the banking and mortgage industries. He is a nationally acclaimed speaker and author who helps lenders find more clients, close more loans and make more money. Visit 

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