Are you tired of the roller coaster?Ron Vaimbergrelationship marketing, referrals Rates are up, rates are down, and the emotional and financial roller coaster continues week by week. As a specialized trainer and coach to the mortgage industry, I have the opportunity to witness the daily emotional rigors that affect loan officers nationwide. Our business is stressful enough, however many of us do not realize that we are doing things to increase our stress on a regular basis: For instance, changing our business plan and model on a daily or weekly basis. When rates jump, my phone starts ringing with worried loan officers and company owners. Many of them inquire as to what they need to do now that the refinancing leads are disappearing. Then, a week later, rates drop a little, refinancings kick up again, and they place their business-building plans on the back burner. As I am sure you have noticed, the interest rate pattern has been frequently repeating itself lately. I am not suggesting that you do not maximize today's current market conditions. My instruction for any business owner or loan officer is to capitalize on the great market conditions today while simultaneously implementing growth strategies for the futureno matter what the rates do! However, despite my advice, I consistently see people in our business abandon their growth plans as soon as the rates drop. More than 80 percent of loan officers today are in the mortgage business less than seven years. All of these LOs have never experienced a rising-rate environment. The only thing that they have experienced is the latest teetering of interest rates, which keeps them jumping back and forth on their business plan. At one point, rates are going to rise significantly in one or two days this is where things hit the fan. Rates do not rebound, and all of sudden, chaos ensues. You rush to save loans that are not locked in, and the phone stops ringing with new business. Your pipeline shrinks because you are closing more than you are originating. Now what do you do? In order to get yourself off the roller coaster and prepare yourself for the inevitable rate increase, you must take action now. Schedule time to keep maximizing your profits with the low rates, but make sure you block out time for relationship building. Blocking time will ensure that you get the most out of today, while preparing yourself for tomorrow. The best way to position yourself for the future is to master the art of developing relationships. In this brief article, I cannot give you all of the ways in which you can build relationships, but I am going to explain some strategies that you can begin implementing today to get yourself ready for tomorrow. The first thing you need to do is learn the most effective way to develop. Here is where the biggest problem resides. When things slow down, everyone rushes out to the real estate agents completely unprepared. A few weeks ago when the rates ticked up and the refinancings slowed once again, I had a client tell me a story. He was sitting in a real estate agent's office waiting to speak with the agents with whom he has a working relationship. In the waiting area were two other loan officers from different companies having a conversation. My client listened to their conversation. Loan Officer Number One: "This is my first time visiting a real estate agent's office. I am not even sure what I am supposed to do." Loan Officer Number Two: "Me neither, in fact, I have never even done a purchase transaction before, I hope no one asks me a question that I can't answer." I have many real estate agents who are friends and clients, and they continually tell me how so many of the loan officers visiting today are clueless about how to do purchase business. The bottom line is, prepare yourself for building relationships by learning the three essential ingredients of relationship marketing. Rule Number One Develop the Proper Skills to Develop Relationships In my seminars, I perform an analysis of the questions and conversations that are being utilized and conducted by loan officers to potential referral partners. More than 95 percent of these conversations are about products and services that they will provide to the real estate agents. Stop dumping product information and give your referral partners something of value! You can build relationships by helping your referral partners build their business. Giving something to someone that promotes growth is how you create value. You can create value and set yourself apart by asking questions that differ from everyone else's. Start asking real estate agents, "How you can I help you grow your business?" "How can I help with your clients so things are easier for you?" Questions like these will attract attention, and more importantly, their responses will tell you exactly what you need to do to develop relationships with them. These questions will place you on a different level than everyone else. You need to recognize that patterns exist with loan officers. Many of them take advantage of a relationship once its been developed. A real estate agent may not know that they are being taken for granted by a lender or loan officer until you start asking them better questions than everyone else. I ask real estate agents all of the time, "When is the last time the lender you are currently doing business with asked you what else they can do to help you?" The overwhelming response is "Never!" If a loan officer never asks a question like that, then it is an indication that the loan officer is not interested in helping the real estate agent advance to a higher level. Remember, closing loans, fast turnaround, competitive pricing and being available 24 hours a day is nothing special it is your job description. Start asking questions that no one else is asking, and you will favorably position yourself above your competition. Rule Number Two Know Your Business It is critical that you take the time to understand the types of transactions that you are going to be getting from referral partners. If you are going to develop purchase business, then get a basic understanding of how they work. You will be surprised as to how many loan officers cannot understand how to set up a purchase transaction. Many LOs struggle with understanding how to ensure that borrowers will have enough money for the transaction. The loan officers are accustomed to using the equity from borrowers' homes on refinancings to cover closing costs. On purchases, there are a number of other dynamics that can be used to assist a real estate agent in putting a transaction together. Some of the most common are: sellers concessions, non-profit grants, gifts, and lender-paid closing costs. Ask yourself and potential referral partners, "How can I be a great resource to you?" If you understand all of the different ways that you can help them put a transaction together, then you increase the likelihood of helping them grow their business. Helping a real estate agent, or any other type of referral partner, make money makes you become a valuable resource in helping them grow their business and sets you apart from the rest of the pack. Rule Number Three Plan for the Challenges Inevitably, you are going to be challenged by any potential referral partner. You must remember that they have been visited by dozens of LOs who have promised them the world and never delivered. The referral partners are going to listen to you with great skepticism, since they have had so many bad experiences in the past with other LOs. You must be prepared for their challenges. There are two ways that you can prepare for the challenges: the hard way and the easy way. Believe it or not, most loan officers choose the hard way. They go out and make sales calls completely unprepared, and face rejection and challenges with which they do not know how to handle. Over time and after repeated beatings, a few loan officers eventually develop the skills to overcome these challenges and begin to build their business. However, most loan officers usually give up because they cannot handle rejection. The smart and easy way to handle challenges and objections is to prepare in advance. All you need to do is pick the brain of someone in the business who is very successful in working with referral partners. This process is called "modeling." If you want the same results as the best people in your business, then do what the best people do. You are assured of the same results. Spend some time asking the successful veterans what you can expect when you go out in the field. Ask them, "What are the most common challenges that a new loan officer will face?" "What have they done to overcome those challenges?" In a 30-minute, focused conversation with a top producer, you can learn many things that will jump-start your ability to be successful in creating referral partners. Almost all top producers will take time out of their day to help someone who is committed to being successful. If you cannot get a top producers attention, be resilient. They will eventually give you the time you are requesting (a free lunch usually works). Remember, it is critical to constantly build your skills and your business every day. Learn, take action, and your business will become everything you want it to be. Ron Vaimberg is president of Ron Vaimberg International Ltd. He may be reached at (866) 824-6237 or e-mail [email protected].