Selling mortgages is not rocket science: Increase your sales through a professional marketing planBy Dave Hershmansetting goals, diversified marketing plans You do not need to be enlightened with the advantages of a diversified marketing plan if you have spent the past years feasting on refinances and then experiencing famine while you attempt to get a grip on the purchase market. To outsiders, we must have appeared to be lemmings, running from one market to the next. Recognizing the need for a plan is easy. Developing a solid plan and implementing it consistently over the long run is the task for those who desire success in any sales profession. This work will outline the components of a professional marketing plan and give examples to get you started. Identifying your goals Every successful sales professional has objectives that guide his actions. For those of you who are not goal-oriented, this aspect of the plan will come as quite a change in your thought process. To achieve maximum performance, every action must have a corresponding achievement. Think about your last visit to a real estate office. What objective did you achieve? The same line of thinking goes for each mailing, rate call or sales presentation. You must go in with a list of possible goals. What are possible goals for a meeting with a real estate agent? Here are a few: 1. A commitment to future business 2. The phone number of a prospective purchaser 3. Referral to another real estate agent 4. Learning the needs of that agent 5. Invitation to a sales meeting 6. Another meeting with that agent 7. Invitation to sit in on an open house with the agent Developing actions to reach goals The problem with the marketing efforts of most sales professionals is that actions enable us to resemble lemmings. If most originators spend most of their time visiting real estate offices with rate sheets, we tend to join in the crowd. A study of the top achievers will show that mass delivery of rate sheets is not the way to focus efforts. As a matter of fact, any action repeated too many times will make us vulnerable to changing market conditions. The key is to choose several actions that are different from the actions of others. Go where no one is likely to follow. Spend your time giving seminars instead of knocking on doors. Write articles. Become a member of a finance committee. Each action must be specific and have a goal. For example, visit four open houses each weekend, with a goal of setting up one interview with a top producer for the following week. Since our goal is to interview with top producers, we must first identify which agent is holding which open house, before we set out each weekend. A personal referral to the producer will open us up for a more productive visit. In other words, do not just visit randomly. Arming yourself with tools It is most important to identify your available tools before you embark upon implementing the marketing plan. Sometimes we feel that a tool must resemble the Starship Enterprise, which could transport loans to your doorstep. Yet, the most common tools sit around our desk, totally ignored or, worse yet, used in such a way that our marketing efforts are undermined. Take a most common tool the telephone. We hear that someone is great on the phone. He gets a call and always winds up with an appointment. Others hear the phone ring and hide under the desk. It is obvious which of the two sales professionals has correctly identified and mastered the tool. The latter may also be forced to favor another instrument, the rate sheet, a common tool that is usually much less effective than the telephone. In order to have an effective and efficient marketing plan, we must recognize all of the tools at our disposal. This enables us to identify which tools are more effective and will help us achieve our goals. Identification of targets It is the identification of targets that facilitates diversification of a marketing plan. The most common target in our industry consists of real estate agents. The most common tool for reaching that target is the rate sheet. But, what kind of real estate agent is likely to respond to a rate sheet? Yes, a rate shopper. If we correctly identify our target as those real estate agents who want to do business based upon relationships, then we realize the inefficacy of rate sheets. What are other targets among real estate agents? You can try new agents, top producers, listing agents, new home sales agents, relocation specialists, etc. What are possible targets outside of the real estate industry? Other loan officers, title companies, financial planners, home improvement companies, large corporations, for sale by owner (FSBO), home counseling agencies, etc. The list is endless. We have seen, in the past, how a concentration on direct refinances worked against long-term diversification. Concentrating too much on one type of agent, geographic area or other target is just as dangerous. True diversity makes us less susceptible to changing markets. But, do not ignore specificity because the development of a niche is a very effective targeting mechanism. Frequency of actions No marketing plan will work unless we implement all facets of the plan with consistency. It is important to specifically define the frequency of our actions. This enables us to set monthly, weekly and daily goals. For example, if our goal is to set up three interviews each week, and our telephone conversion rate is 25 percent, then we know that we have to make at least 12 calls each week. It is in this stage that we define our actions with numerical objectives. The next stage is to make this plan a part of the calendar. Most sales professionals schedule meetings, loan applications and other appointments in our calendars. Very few schedule marketing time, such as general office visits or telephone solicitations. In the end, most of us declare that we spend very little time marketing and too much time "in the office." Our first step in breaking this log jam is identifying what must be done. The next step is to commit to the time in your calendar. Putting it together with synergism Stephen Covey's book, "Seven Habits of Effective People," lists synergy as one of those effective habits. This is because those who are highly effective arrange their actions so that they build on top of other actions and upon the actions of others. It is easy to see why synergy is more effective than a string of haphazard activities that do not work together or, worse yet, work against one another. The opportunities for synergy in mortgage banking sales are endless. What one needs is imagination and innovation to make the connections. Let's look at a few examples: 1. You have two separate targets: FSBOs and real estate agents. It is easy to see that you are in a position to recommend your real estate agents to the sellers, when they are ready to throw in the towel. There is no better way to garner loyalty from a real estate agent than by the referral of business. 2. You have a mailing system for refinances. Instead of mailing solely for refinances, you alter the flyer to include a service for pre-approvals for those who will not be refinancing, because they are looking for another home. Of course, now we have another real estate lead. This means that you will continue mailing, (consistently and diversely), even after the refinance boom ends. 3. You are visiting open houses. You develop a professional follow-up system to assist real estate agents in tracking the people who visit. This helps them and puts you directly in touch with a multitude of leads (including other real estate agents). 4. You are driving in your car two hours each day. You decide to make three marketing calls each day from your car. This results in more than 1,000 extra marketing calls each year. In most of the preceding examples, we connect more than one action to reach another target group more effectively. It is important to note that connecting the actions takes very little extra time. Yet the results may be exponential. We must choose our four-six marketing actions in such a way that they will relate to one another. Evaluation All the implementation in the world may not bring us closer to our goals, unless we take some time to stop and smell the roses. Most of us go through life putting out fire after fire and never contemplating how a particular day has fit into the overall plan. Did we accomplish what we expected today? Are we closer to our goals? Try this for an exercise: For one week, write down every business activity and the time it took accomplish that activity. How much time did you spend implementing the marketing plan? How much other time did you spend on activities that are either non-productive or counter-productive, with regard to the plan? What were the results of your actions? There are literally thousands of questions to ask, regarding implementation of a professional marketing plan. Those who truly want success will question every step of the way, because they do not desire to spend one extra minute performing an activity that is not productive. Finally, we have come full circle from goal setting to implementation to evaluation. If you really are looking to differentiate yourself from your competition, try a professional plan of attack. Dave Hershman is a leading author and top speaker for the mortgage industry, with six books, including two best sellers for the Mortgage Bankers Association of America. His mortgage school is the only comprehensive, advanced curriculum in the industry. For a schedule of classes, free marketing samples, speaking information and articles by Dave, visit www.originationpro.com or call (800) 581-5678.