It has come to my attention that some of you are just simply brain dead. Recently, I was discussing motivation, production, organization and how loan officers fit into all of these things and, lo and behold, an ugly head was reared that not only shocked me, but actually made me physically ill as well.
There have been hundreds of thousands of loan officers trained or at least spoken to by hundreds of trainers, coaches and motivation type people over most of my lifetime. But I confess, I am ashamed to say that one of the most basic sales techniques has gone undetected by so many of you that it is just astounding.
"How many of your loan officers call on how many referral sources?" I asked a manager recently.
"Well, some of my people call on about five and some of them call on more or less than that," he replied.
"And how are they doing?"
"Not real good," he said. "In fact, they are really doing pretty pathetic. They don't seem to be able to do some of the most basic things. They can't seem to call on the referral source regularly. They get discouraged and seem to want to look for me to buy them leads or let them mine my personal database."
"When you say 'call on,' what do you mean?"
"I mean that they call them on the phone."
"How often do they call a referral source on the phone?"
"I guess they call about once a week or every other week."
Seeking a little more clarity, I asked, "Okay, let me correct what I meant in my question to you. What I really mean is how often do your loan officers physically see, face to face, the people they want to refer business to them?"
"Not very often," he stated. "But about once a month."
"Well, now you've got my attention. Once a month! What the hell are they doing with the rest of their time? Do they at least call on their database of previous clients? Do they form relationships with small banks? Set up affinity programs?"
"Some of them are working on those things, but I find that for most of them, they really spend a lot of time seeming to structure deals," he explained.
"Where are they getting these deals?"
"Most often, from leads I am buying for them."
"Those ungrateful ingrates," I could scarcely contain my outburst. My blood started to really get hot, and for someone from the Mediterranean, that meant that my temperature was approaching about 108 degrees. "Are you able to monitor their daily actions? Do you get reports from them? Do they let you know what the results of their contacts are?"
"No, not really" he replied. "My company has me keeping up with so many of their e-mails, so many new rules on a daily basis and my own production that needs to be maintained that I really haven't been able to adequately do the things you ask of me."
"Let me ask you one more question. Is there a list of whom they call on? I know you told me that some of them actually are showing up at offices to present themselves. But have you asked them for a list of who they are seeing?"
"No, but I will. Can I have that list e-mailed to you?"
"Sure, but before we hang up today, I know from our past talks that you really do know who most of your staff is calling on. Can we discuss that subject?"
"Well, tell me the name of one of the offices that they are calling on."
"They are all calling on the local Keller Williams office."
"How many agents are in that office?"
"About 80 or 90."
"And in that office, how many really good producers do you think work there?"
"Well, if averages hold true, about seven or eight. Maybe a couple more than that, but those numbers are probably close."
"And the big producers, are they doing business with any of your loan officers?"
"Oh sure, they do business with all of our loan officers."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, a couple of my loan officers call on the same producers in that office."
My ears started to burn, my antennae were up; I was starting to hear something that I had never heard before in my life. "Do you mean that your loan officers are all calling on the same real estate agents? You don't mean that, do you?"
"Sure, we always have done that," he said matter-of-factly. "It is the way we all work here in our area."
"No, no, no, no, no, no, no!" I was incredulous. "Tell me I didn't just hear what you said to me. Did you say that your loan officers all call on the same referral source? The same real estate agent? No, tell me that you didn't say that. Please tell me I heard you wrong."
"No, Ralph, I did say that. It is the way we've always done business here. Why, what's wrong with that? Here in our area, we've been doing that since I've been in the business - over 15 years. Why are you so upset?" he innocently inquired.
"Upset, upset; no, that isn't the word, not the emotion I'm feeling right now. The right thing I'm feeling right now is that my stomach just jumped through my mouth and is now on the ceiling of my office. I think I'm going to be ill."
"Why, what's wrong? What are you talking about?"
"What am I talking about? What are you talking about?"
"Ralph, that is the way we have always done business. Do I have to say it again?"
"No, please don't say it again." I began pleading with him. "Do you know what confusion your people are causing? Do you know what mixed messages your people are sending to the real estate community? How is it possible for any one of your people to form a relationship with a real estate agent when just after they talk to one of them, here comes another loan officer from the same company - the same office no less - delivering another message asking for business and maybe saying something about the programs that you offer in a different way than the previous loan officer that has just left their desk? I would say that is a problem - a really big problem. In fact, I think it's a monumental problem. We need to talk about this next week. But as my last request of today, I'm going to ask you to review a questionnaire I'm going to send out to my entire database of clients. I want to hear from them what they would do in this circumstance. Will you review a questionnaire if I put one together?"
"Sure, just send it to me."
"Okay, I'll call you next week. By the way, I'm having dinner with an old friend of mine that I've known for about 35 years. He has been in every phase of the mortgage business and was last a manager of loan officers in North Jersey. Is it okay if I ask him his thoughts? I promise I won't prejudice his thoughts. I promise."
"Sure Ralph, ask away. I'm now very intrigued by what you are saying. I'd love to hear what others have to say. It doesn't mean I'm going to change my mind or the way I do business, but I promise I will think about it."
I hung up the phone in utter shock. I called my son, asked his thoughts and he was as confused as I was. He firmly agreed with me. Well, that's to be expected. But then I called one of my friends who is a regional manager for a national B/C lender. He said that I was giving good advice and should stick to my guns. As most of you know, that is not hard for me to do.
At dinner that night, I met my long-time friend. Actually, we hadn't seen each other in years, but we had really known each other very well when we were both active in the daily demands of the business.
I posed my question and his response was direct and firm. "I would not even let the same loan officer call on the same office as any other loan officer from the same company. It is a no-brainer. Confusion will reign. How could you let that happen? Never, never!" He was emphatic. So the next day, I put together the following e-mail and sent it out to about 50 people in my address book:
After you read, this please hit reply and just indicate number one or number two. That is as simple as I can ask. I thank you in advance for your response.
If you were the manager of a group of loan officers (retail only), which of the following plans of attack would you ascribe to?
1. Each loan officer can/may call on any real estate agent/referral source they want, even if they are calling on (attempting to get business from) a referral source that is being called on by another loan officer from the same office.
2. Each loan officer is assigned to a specific real estate/referral source; each referral source is specific to each loan officer from the same office and cannot be called on by another loan officer from the same office.
I received 26 responses. I was actually pretty pleased with the number of reactions. But here is where the brain dead part comes in. Fourteen people chose number two, and since I know you can do simple math, 12 - yes, 12 - of the respondents said they thought that number one was the way to go. I even got a response that said, "Survival of the fittest!"
The following editorial comment is the one I liked best: "Loan officers work hard to establish a relationship with Realtors. If I allow a free-for-all in my office, it would be World War III."
Now, here is what has happened since. My client has caused his loan officers to make a list of the people they call on. He has seen how nothing good can come from having a salesperson call on the same referral sources as others in the same office. Furthermore, I spent the time to call each and every person who answered number one and, just like Howard Stern used to do when he got a letter from a detractor, I won over the respondent. He finally saw the light.
What I'm thinking right now is that all of those loan officers go to all of those motivational training sessions, and not one of those sessions ever actually addresses the basics of what people should do everyday, how to conduct their lives and what specifically a manager must do in order to be successful. Management is incredibly hard. Managing people is the most difficult. But we as motivational people must think about the basics of the everyday life of our subordinates. What are your thoughts?
Ralph LoVuolo Sr., CMC is president of Mortgage Motivator, a mortgage industry training and coaching firm. He is a founder and past president of the New York Association of Mortgage Brokers, a teacher accredited by the New York and New Jersey Real Estate Commission, a former associate professor at Atlantic College and New York University and a published author. He can be reached at (609) 652-6901 or e-mail email@example.com.