While the coronavirus pandemic has been disruptive, disorienting and destructive in many ways, it also has led to renewed creativity, original thinking and fresh perspectives. As a result, the mortgage industry is benefiting by shaking things up a bit.
One new strategy comes from Hakim Singleton, a mortgage originator from Philadelphia, who made an additional $30,000 in a month. If you’re looking for a new business-development strategy, learn how he turned pizzas into closed loans.
There are essentially two ways to get loans in a mortgage business: consumer direct and through referral-partner marketing. Due to the pandemic, many mortgage originators are no longer meeting for coffee or lunch, which puts a dent in the pipeline. But people are still meeting virtually with a Zoom link and, with a twist, they are meeting to share meals. In this case, it’s all about hosting a pizza party.
This is what entrepreneurial creativity is all about — following one thought, then taking one step at a time.
When ordering pizza for his family one night shortly after the pandemic struck, Singleton thought about how other people — including real estate agents — were doing the same thing. He thought that it would be interesting to get together on Zoom and eat pizza together. In fact, he could pay for the pizza and invite people to a Zoom call where they could talk about business, family and the chaos of coping through these unprecedented times.
This is what entrepreneurial creativity is all about — following one thought, then taking one step at a time. Although mortgage brokers and loan officers are always thinking about business, this was not a specific strategy designed to create a particular result. In this case, Singleton had limited experience with Zoom, he didn’t have a fancy backdrop for videotaping and he didn’t think about doing a practice run in advance. He just decided to throw a virtual party and see who showed up.
Fortunately, Domino’s Pizza had a special deal going, so Singleton put together three options: pepperoni, extra cheese or Hawaiian. Then he created an invitee list by going through his past six months of transactions and inviting the real estate agents involved. He also identified agents he wanted to cultivate relationships with and invited them. He did not know everyone he invited — yet.
When it came time for the actual invitation, his assistant put together a flyer through freelance-services website Fiverr to give the party some professional credibility, which she sent out via email, text and Facebook Messenger. She handled the follow-up, sent out the Zoom link and drafted the final attendee list, including addresses for pizza delivery. On the day of the event, Singleton’s loan processor ordered the pizzas online.
Of the 25 real estate agents originally invited (only half of whom Singleton knew), six or seven joined that first virtual pizza party. It was unpolished, with Singleton’s kids running around and climbing on his lap so he could help them with their pizza. The family’s golden retriever was playing in the background and Singleton was talking with his mouth full, asking questions and inviting dialogue. The feeling was very much, “Welcome to my home.”
The conversation revolved around how real estate agents were working through the pandemic given the challenges of office closures and social distancing. He learned that some agents were working virtually. One agent said he was telling clients to delay their home purchases until after the pandemic. The next obvious question was how that agent was prospecting for new business. The agent shared ideas and everyone learned from that simple exchange. All in all, the attendees got to talk about their favorite subject: themselves.
That first pizza party was a hit. The daughter of one attendee was interested in the real estate business, so another attendee offered to help her learn. One agent recruited another to join his team. The agents who had previously worked with Singleton shared how much they appreciated his services (which is the most powerful referral he could have received, and without him asking for it). Without knowing it in advance, Singleton had stumbled into playing connector just because he wanted to see how people were doing on a Thursday night.
To date, Singleton has held four of these pizza parties, all of them in the first few months of the pandemic. Then his business went gangbusters. To do more of these events, he will need to hire help.
In terms of results, Singleton added two real estate agent referral partners and closed seven deals directly tied to that first virtual pizza party. Additionally, he generated 16 active preapprovals from that party alone.
With an average of $2,000 earned from each deal, this means $14,000 in loans were already closed. Even if half of the preapprovals fall through, Singleton still has another eight deals, which means another $16,000. In total, this equates to 15 closings, all from spending about an hour with a few pizzas and good conversation. From this one event alone, Singleton made about $30,000 in a month. Over a year, that would be an extra $360,000. Going further, if his two new referral partners each send two deals per month, Singleton will generate an additional $96,000 per year.
Systems create referrals, which create revenue. In other words, there is a process for turning pizza (or coffee or lunch) into loans. Singleton’s team follows a process of weekly contacts with real estate agent partners, alternating between voicemails and texts. The difference after the pizza party was that agents actually responded.
As a follow-up, Singleton’s team sent a thank-you email and then called to ask for feedback. During the call, his team member says, “Thank you so much for coming to the pizza party. We love working with awesome people like you — do you have anybody we can call?” When they make a referral, Singleton’s team follows up with a thank-you text.
By staying top of mind, a mortgage originator ensures that real estate agents will remember them for the next deal. The trick to that is doing the things that keep you top of mind even during this time of physical distancing. This means you need to send emails, text messages and voicemails, and do creative things like hosting virtual pizza parties.
When you have partnerships, you create trust, which creates loyalty over time — and that is how an unshakeable business foundation is built.
Some people might equate a pizza party with chasing real estate agents. Singleton said he prefers to go after Realtors proactively because, ultimately, one agent can introduce him to another through the course of doing business.
A Realtor’s referral gives you a transfer of trust, which is an advantage with new partners. This trust goes beyond the transaction and helps to make future business dealings easier.
Some mortgage originators will buy leads as a prospecting strategy rather than create leads through referral-partner connections. The problem with buying leads is that if the source changes their business model, a flick of their switch could put an originator out of business. But when you’re getting leads from 15 referral partners, and one moves out of state while another retires, you’ve still got your base and can attract new partners.
What do your real estate agent partners think about in the morning? Where do they create their next deal? Mortgage originators ask the same questions. Your network can create referrals because these people are invested in your business, too. When you have partnerships, you create trust, which creates loyalty over time — and that is how an unshakeable business foundation is built.
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Every mortgage originator has to decide how they want to show up in business even as unforeseen circumstances shift the market. You don’t need to be perfect. You don’t need fancy equipment. You don’t even need an agenda. Between creativity and legitimately caring about people, it really is possible to turn pizzas into loans when you keep it real and send a slice. ●