Re.fer'ralLisa Kelly-LothMortgage referrals I love my dentist. Her name is Donna. She started her career as an RN, and later went to dental school. I think it's because of her RN training that she is so extremely caring and gentle. She listens to my fears about dentistry and takes them seriously. Everyone in her office is attentive to my needs. Donna is also an excellent technician. Over the last year, I've come to know Donna very well. That's because I've spent a great deal of time in her chair while she fixed my cavities and crowns, and performed root canals. I've also paid Donna a great deal of money. She is more expensive than most dentists. She's also not on my dental insurance plan, but I continue to go to her when I need a dentist. She's that good. When a close friend of mine had some serious dental issues, I told her about Donna. She went and spent even more time and money than I. Then her husband went to Donna. Then her child. Then she told a friend of hers about Donna, and her friend went. I overheard a receptionist talking about having trouble finding a good dentist. Guess what? I referred the receptionist to Donna. According to the 1997 American edition of the Oxford Desk Dictionary & Thesaurus, the word "referral" comes from the root word "refer," which means to send or direct. Referrals are the best source of business for mortgage brokers today. As you can see from the story about my dentist, referrals can be an endless source of business. But these referrals are not automatic--they must be earned by giving your clients reasons to "send or direct" your name to others. These reasons may include much more than just your rates. In terms of special advantages you offer your borrowers: 1. Is your office conveniently located? 2. Do you have convenient hours? 3. Will you come to the borrower and take an application? 4. Is your office clean? 5. Is your receptionist friendly and attentive? 6. Do you have a live person answer the phone? 7. Do you rely solely on voicemail? 8. Do you return calls to your borrower? 9. Are you on time for appointments? 10. Do you turn everything over to your processor and hope you never have to talk to the borrower again, or do you remain in communication? 11. Do you take responsibility when something goes wrong? 12. Are you an expert in the field of mortgage lending? 13. Are you a member of the National Association of Mortgage Brokers? In terms of your actual services: 1. Do you provide an array of products? 2. Do you specialize in a particular type of loan (e.g. government loans)? 3. Do you offer products for purchases now that the refinance market has contracted? 4. Do you clearly explain the mortgage process, so that the borrowers understand the documents? 5. Do you have the latest technology? 6. Do you show interest in your borrowers? 7. Do you give your borrowers the best possible product for them, not for you? 8. Do you communicate with the real estate agent? Finally, once you have completed your service: 1. Do you attend closings? 2. Do you follow up with the real estate agents? 3. Do you follow up with borrowers and have them rate the mortgage experience with you? Only after you can answer "yes" to all these questions should you consider yourself completely deserving of a referral. If you haven't covered these basics, you probably don't deserve a referral, and you probably won't get one. As for Donna ... well, she just had a baby boy, so I'm off to buy her a present! Lisa Kelly-Loth is president of ESI Mortgage LP. She can be reached by phone at (800) 765-3140 or by e-mail at [email protected].