Residential Magazine

Set the Compass on Your Career

A lack of direction will prevent you from achieving the success you seek

By Jeffrey Nelson

Mortgage professionals who want to transform their days at the office from pointless drudgery to targeted results need to ask a simple question: “How do I set goals that lead to success?” Fuzzy goals mean being too unfocused to generate leads, garner referrals and secure more closings.

A mortgage professional without vision and goals will spend this year making the same choices they did in the past. Goal setting clarifies the direction of a business. After all, how can one be successful without defining what success is?

Mortgage professionals who didn’t set clear goals last year now have the opportunity to correct their course, aim for what matters and set goals that give them perfect vision for the future. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples that illustrate this point.

Goal-oriented professional

Although no two mortgage professionals are alike, here’s what a successful originator’s morning might look like. The goal-oriented originator begins the morning looking for new opportunities.

A vision statement and goals for the year are taped to the computer monitor, a constant reminder to find opportunities to reach for goals with as little waste as possible. To that end, the originator spends several minutes deciding which referral partners to contact that day, passing over items that don’t align with their goals or those that will take too long to complete.

Next, the originator works on a marketing plan. Some areas are progressing too slowly, so the originator brainstorms with a coworker about steps to take. Then the goal-oriented originator writes these steps on the calendar to ensure that they happen.

Later, the goal-oriented originator receives a referral from a real estate agent. The potential client is being relocated for work and hopes to buy a house before moving into the area. In two weeks, the client will be in town and would like to meet.

The goal-oriented originator schedules the appointment but can tell the prospect is nervous about handing over financial information to a stranger. The originator offers to e-mail a list of client testimonials to put the person at ease. Another conversion of a potential client into a current one is underway.

Unfocused originator

What would this same professional’s morning look like if the goals were fuzzy or missing altogether? The unfocused originator would begin the morning by checking e-mail for potential leads.

An ad recently placed in an upscale home guide came out yesterday. The originator hoped that middle-class families — the usual client base — would see the item and reach out about a home loan. Unfortunately, the inbox is empty and a quick check of the website reveals that the ad has attracted no visitors.

When the phone rings and a vendor offers to sell advertising on grocery shopping carts at a discounted rate, the originator immediately says yes. Frustrated and desperate, the unfocused originator figures any opportunity is better than none at all. After hanging up, a co-worker asks how the day has been and the unfocused originator complains about the lack of leads. The co-worker suggests some helpful solutions, but the unfocused professional doesn’t bother writing them down.

Next, a call comes in from a potential client who is relocating to the area for a job and is hoping to buy before moving. They talk, but this prospect is nervous about handing over financial information to a stranger. The unfocused originator stammers out a reassurance of professional ethics and the prospect says they’ll call again later. After hanging up, however, the unfocused originator has a feeling that’s the last they’ll hear from this person.

Goals that matter

It’s no secret that most people in the mortgage industry want to be the professional in the first example. Fortunately, that originator’s vision and success doesn’t require extraordinary skills, smarts or commitment. Anyone can achieve these results.

The No. 1 mistake you can make is to set goals that you think are important, rather than goals that you care about. A mortgage professional who considers client service to be the heart of his or her vision should set goals that lead to clients raving about how the originator goes above and beyond.

Too many originators never imagine setting customer-service goals, because it doesn’t sound important enough in office meetings. But quality service is always a worthy goal and a profitable one at that. Happy clients represent free word-of-mouth advertising. Defining what matters — and what success means — is the first step to achieving it.

Although that’s the first step, if originators stop there, they’ll never make it. Saying that “customer service is my top priority” is different from achieving it.

A popular acronym describes strong goals as SMART: specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and trackable. For a mortgage professional with a strong emphasis on customer service, one goal might be, “Conduct surveys that gauge client satisfaction in six categories after every closing.” Instead of a hazy objective like, “Find out if my clients are satisfied,” this SMART goal is laser-focused on the outcome. Perfect business vision happens with clear goals.

If a mortgage professional brainstorms 30 ideas, they should then focus on the six with the highest return on investment.

Priorities and accountability

A mortgage professional’s time is valuable, which is why it’s not enough to set a bunch of goals. In fact, setting a lot of goals is too much because there’s no time for all of them.

Achieving success with the least amount of time invested means following the “80/20 rule,” which is the general principle that on any to-do list, two out of 10 items are the most important. Or, to put it another way, 80% of results come from 20% of efforts.

If a mortgage professional brainstorms 30 ideas, they should then focus on the six with the highest return on investment. Savvy goal setters increase productivity and decrease workloads with 80/20 vision.

A common expression states that “nothing ever happens without a deadline,” and that’s the truth. Unless one commits to a task by putting it on the calendar, it’s unlikely to happen. Human nature is to procrastinate until a task reaches critical importance or is forgotten entirely. This means that the mortgage professional who wants to create a client survey had better schedule it, lest the year ends with clients no more satisfied than the previous year.

Accountability needs to be created. Self-discipline alone is rarely enough to turn a goal into a reality. Evidence of this will arrive in February, when the flood of new members at every gym in America will suddenly cease.

The internet abounds with accountability strategies, such as “tell someone your goals” or “put your goals in writing.” These are good starting points, but they’re not enough. A mortgage originator who wants to create a client survey needs to do more than write it down or tell a friend — they need to inform their boss and promise to implement the plan by, say, next Friday.

• • •

Mortgage professionals should consider what matters to them, then view it through the lens of smart goals, the 80/20 rule, scheduling and accountability. That’s how to become successful like the goal-oriented professional while leaving the unfocused and struggling originator persona in the dust.


  • Jeffrey Nelson

    Jeffrey Nelson is the founder of Salesachievers Inc. He teaches real estate and mortgage professionals how to grow their personal brands, become recognized as local celebrity experts and attract referrals. He is the author of “Atomic Leads: Fix the Broken Process and Start Attracting Referrals Like a Magnet.” Nelson spent six years promoting Tom Hopkins sales-training seminars nationwide before starting a media agency to help real estate agents and mortgage originators convert clients into promoters, rather than wasting money on cold leads.

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