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Six steps to generate unlimited real estate agent referrals

National Mortgage Professional
Sep 13, 2006

Answer the phoneJoe Cornophone tips, voicemail It is an interesting phenomenon, having the phone ring. To some, it is a negative impact on production. To others, it is a blessing from above, bringing continuing business. No matter what position you take, how we respond to calls is the key to ensuring continued, long-term business. The frequency with and manner in which we answer the phone is critical to each and every person in the company. The receptionist sets the tone for the entire office. This position should be filled with the most knowledgeable and people-friendly person in the office. No one wants to feel disserviced by being pushed off and sent to the bottomless pit extension. An electronic voice service can create the element of disservice unless it assists the caller quickly and easily in reaching his verbal destination. I have recently experienced electronic voice services that track down the individual whom I am attempting to reach. Such a system interacts with the caller until the individual picks up or a direct voice message can be left. This type of receptionist is ever faithful, not seeking promotional advancement and never experiences a sick day (unless the system goes down). An actual human being continues to attract business if he never gets angry or tired or acts in a discourteous manner. Therefore, maybe this position should be highly paid so as to attract a real professional. After all, the ideal receptionist is someone who wants to answer the phone and take on any and all scenarios that are verbally placed in front of him and can do so with an ever-pleasing tone of voice. The underwriter and processor are not great as receptionists. Have you ever received the verbal response, "Well, if I could get off the phone with you, I could review your file"? Whoa! Do you really want such an individual on the phone? After all, if he talks to you in such a way, how does he talk to your sources of income? I always wonder why companies would give such people phone access, anyway. A discourteous response clearly indicates that the individual does not want any phone communication in the first place, yet he will seek to control the situation by insisting that he needs to clarify items with a customer, account representative or broker. This is behavior is as negative as the terse response above and delays loan processing and underwriting. Why couldn't he simply e-mail for clarification, instead of trying to reach someone who is not available to talk? Make clarifying points part of the processing/underwriting conditions and continue pushing the loan file along. Do you see that a phone call and message from a processor/underwriter appears as a manipulative act to stall a loan file? This is how the customer, account representative, broker and loan originator see it. Electronic communication, such as e-mailing, can be an amazing communication service in comparison to actual verbal communication in our industry. Make responding to incoming e-mails quicker and better than responding to incoming calls, and you can reduce the amount of time your staff needs to be on the phone and the amount of calls coming in. A bell should sound when an e-mail is received. Anyone (underwriter, manager, etc.) who is available should immediately respond to the incoming e-mail. There should be a stored library of responses for regularly asked questions to refer to, making the response process more efficient. Software such as ACT! and hardware such as TAPI hard drives can pull up individual files at the push of a button. Upper management often seems not to care about redirecting verbal traffic into more efficient areas of communication. They usually show disregard for customer communication service when they keep placing incompetent people in the position or will not cover the cost of a quality electronic voice system or receptionist. Customer service representatives are one solution to the problem of phone-reluctant processors and underwriters speaking with customers. By assigning a clarifying task to an internal customer service representative, a trained, less volatile individual will be responding to a caller. To make your customer service representative even more efficient, consider utilizing these marvelous inventions - cordless, hands-free phones. They allow a customer service representative to research, move about and determine the status of files without needing to be stuck in a workstation answering the phone. I see this working in every other industry, so why shouldn't it be used in the loan industry? Accessibility of your customer service representative is very important, as well. Unless directed to a specific individual, a message should never be taken to return a call. Customer service representatives should never be all out and unavailable at any time during business. There needs to always be a go-to person on call so that you are actively doing business when you are open for business. For example, I was being fed lunch from a major national builder in a state where it is next to impossible to develop builder relationships. When asked whom they should use for financing, I made two calls, placing them on my cell phone speaker so that they could listen in. The first call was to a major brand name, which was the builder's choice, and I received the following remark after seeking assistance: "I am sorry sir, but there is no one available at this time. Could I please take a message and someone will call you back?" I left a message and made the next call. The next call was to a company that did little branding in their marketplace. Rather, they emphasized open and direct communication. The staff person placed me on hold, getting back to me within 30 seconds of each of the four times I was placed on hold, until the individual was located. Within two minutes, we were talking to the vice president of the company, who took the call on his cell phone. Of course, I had no foreknowledge that the vice president of the company I chose would be available at that time and that the representative from the company the builder chose would not. I find out how a company does business by calling during business hours like everyone else does. I did some introductions and expressed that the two should meet, and the second company ended up receiving a contract to finance every one of the 620 homes being built. In this case, the builder was effectively marketed on communication being more important that name branding, and in the end, no other closing techniques were needed. Remember the first call where the message was left? It was returned two days later. Of course, I thought the news of missing 620 loans would be motivation enough to change their ways. It wasn't, though their name is still recognized everywhere. This brings us to the frequency portion of answering messages. Each of us must respond to calls and messages almost immediately. Return messages as soon as you are available. The system of informing people when you will be available to return calls is a disservice. You are telling them that they are not of the most importance to you. Each call and message must be treated with the most urgency possible. I have greatly reduced phone calls by inverting technology in place of the telephone. By far, I get more e-mails and instant messages than phone calls. While writing this article, I have my e-mail program minimized. I have accessed it five times since starting this article. People are communicating with me, and I to them. If you are going to utilize a phone number, do not spell out your number in ads, on your Web site or in company literature. Encouraging your customers to call (555) GET-LOAN may seem like an easy way to help them memorize your contact information, but it can be difficult to pick out each letter on tiny cell phone keypads, and with the phone number storage capability of those omnipresent devices, few people take the time to memorize phone numbers, anyway. You can be atypical and create fantastic brand recognition without having branding backfire on you. By having everyone in the company respecting the caller and responding immediately with the utmost urgency, you and the company will be known for being prompt, courteous and caring. If you do not embrace such a philosophy, the opposite will be true, and you will be branded in a negative light by the consuming publicyour customers. If you create personal phone messages, change it every day. Be creative and have fun. A few times each month, I find myself on an airplane. It is part of a trainer's life. I will periodically record something like, "Hi. I am on the plane, and they are closing the door. No! No, I'm not on the phone! The airline attendant is going for the marshal! Gotta go! Beep!" By being original and fresh with each day's message, your callers know that you are on the job. By making your recording unique and changing it frequently, callers do not mind leaving a message. Sing a part of "Singing in the Rain" when it is actually raining outside or play a portion of a song on the radio and tell them that you will call them back after rocking to the oldies. Thank them for calling in your message and tell them to have a wonderful day. I hope this article has you thinking on how you answer the phone. Even the voicemail message that you leave should tell people how you love your work. Let them know with your tone of voice and the type of message you leave. Above all else, answer the phone. Joe Corno is president of Utah-based We Be Consulting and Seminars. He may be reached at (801) 836-2077 or e-mail [email protected]
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