Kellumâ€™s korner: Back to the futureAnthony O. Kellumproducts, technology Remember when learning about products meant plodding through some huge binder labeled "Product 106"? How about when a sales call really meant calling someone or going to his office? What about thumbing through those gigantic White Pages to make your own leads? Well, many of today's mortgage professionals are like kids on the side of the road, pointing to the hottest rides and saying, "That's my car." They have the exposure to the finer things in life, but no clue about how to acquire them through old-fashioned effort. We have programs like "MTV Cribs" and "VH1's Fabulous Life Of," exposing us to lifestyles that appear to have been dropped into celebrities' laps. But where are the camera crews and voiceovers during all of the rejections and late nights of practice that made these overnight successes possible? Even if we don't have the stars' mega-millions, we can still have access to their technology. Using Sidekicks, Blackberries and notebook computers to acquire information at warp speed seems to lead us to believe we should make money at warp speed, as well. Unfortunately, our facility with gadgets, content management and productivity software can create a false sense of progress where we're misled into thinking that e-mails sent and received equals the strength of a relationship. Yes, we can now grab detailed product info at the click of the mouse, but what happens when the server's down or there's no Wi-Fi access? How well would you know your product then? And even with the stellar product offerings and knowledge of them, we still don't have a monopoly on mortgage financing. Americans may have greater access to the Internet and material riches than so-called third-world countries, but if that's the case, why are so many jobs being routed to these same undeveloped nations? With our public school systems lagging at the bottom of the rung and our economic might waning, we can't be smug and believe that the trend of outsourcing in fields, such as information technology, can't translate to our industry. Maybe you've heard about people going overseas to obtain surgeries at fractions of the prices they'd pay in America. You would think that American doctors would have a monopoly on surgery - great product knowledge from all of those years of school, hands-on experience and a captive market. So when people are willing to go to literally great lengths to shop for the best bargain, is it unimaginable to think financing for other major purchases is off limits? Do you think they can't get conference calls in Bangalore? Since we're no longer just competing with the guy across town, but potentially the guy across the Pacific, how do we rise above mediocrity to ensure our present and continued livelihood? Anyone can combine flour, butter, sugar and eggs to make a cake, but the entrepreneurial mindset dictates that it's my own way of combining the ingredients, the special extras I add and the way I get the word out about my cake that affect whether you'll buy mine rather than Phil's across the street. Simply having great cake isn't enough. Sure, we know we've got products to meet borrowers' needs at great costs, but that's never been enough to get customers through our doors. Infomercials, billboards, program sponsorships and ads are all great ways to get our name out there, but sometimes we need to get out of our desk chairs to close those deals. I say we take it back to the old school. A retro mindset means that we might have to pound the pavement to build our real estate agent relationships. We might need to read books on those who have overcome real struggles and apply their methods to our present-day lives. We might need to make more connections by speaking at association meetings or churches. While we have the capability and technology to close transactions without ever leaving our desks, your smile can literally turn out to be a million-dollar one when someone sees it in person. And no matter what's new, hot or trendy, the personal touch is something that never goes out of style. Anthony Kellum is a past president of the Michigan Mortgage Brokers Association, as well as a speaker on a variety of topics regarding the mortgage industry. He may be reached at (248) 866-9292 or e-mail [email protected].