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Building Relationships Requires Contact Management

Adam P. Smith
Jun 15, 2012

Relationship building is key to being a successful mortgage loan originator (LO). That also holds true for real estate agents, insurance agents, financial planners and anyone else who has a direct-to-consumer relationship and works in some sort of financial capacity. If we are expected to be entrusted with the largest transactions of people’s lives, then we must be willing to build a relationship with them first. And don’t be mistaken … whether it’s a first-time homebuyer purchasing or refinancing a $50,000 condo, or Donald Trump purchasing or refinancing a new Manhattan skyscraper, it is the biggest transaction of their lives. So whether you are seeking business from new clients or referrals from other sources like real estate agents and attorneys, you need to spend the time building a relationship to prove two things. First, that you have the competency to do the job well, and second, that you have the character to be entrusted with that job. I have heard that it takes at least six to eight interactions with a person to prove those things, and if you want to do hundreds or thousands of deals in your career, you have a lot of work ahead of you. Solid contact management is a great way to build relationships and is very marketing budget-friendly. Good contact management requires a few things to get started like … contacts.! Everyone you meet, or even hear about, is a potential contact. If you hear a neighbor talk about their cousin who needs to refinance their home, are your ears open enough to make a note of such and put the cousin into your contact database? Advocates are also great. Are there real estate agents and financial planners in your contact management system? They should be. How about defunct colleagues? How many former LOs and real estate agents are out of the business now? They still need to buy, sell, finance and refinance their properties. And of greatest importance, your past clients. If you are not in touch with your past clients, they are now someone else’s prospects and shame on you. I cannot emphasize that enough. This is an amazing source of referral business and I would say the majority of our business at any given time is from repeat clients and client referrals. Meeting new contacts is obviously an important thing to do, as well. There are only so many referrals you can gain from your current clients, and you cannot put the burden of all the prospecting on your referral partners. You do need to refer business to them as well. How do you gain new contacts? Do you go to networking events? Do you know how to “net-weave,” and not just network? Do you participate in social events? There are probably great groups in your own neighborhood that would provide a great social atmosphere and probably give you an opportunity to do something good for your community. Do you participate in any charity groups? Sitting on the board of a non-profit or volunteering for a charitable organization is a great way to meet new contacts and to give back. These are also great ways to prove your character. How about your favorite watering hole, sporting events or the restaurant where you order “the usual?” The point is that there are always people, everywhere you go, and they are your contacts … or at least they could be. Obviously, once you have contacts, another important piece of the contact management puzzle is a contact management database. There are a ton of options for this that range from very robust and expensive, to adequate and completely free. I have used Act! and Goldmine, and they are both great, but they both cost a tidy sum and I am all about minimizing costs. I like and use Outlook, but there are many great cloud-based options from Microsoft, Google and the like. As long as it has the ability to store contact data like phone numbers and e-mail addresses, has a calendar so you can keep your contact management on a good schedule, and the ability to take notes when you do have contact with people, then it works. It doesn’t need to be the most complex customer relationship management (CRM) tool out there, it just needs to help you build relationships. There are a ton of tools available, beyond a CRM that will be helpful in building up and maintaining a contact database, as well. Do you have a business card scanner? It might save you a ton of time doing data entry after a networking event. There are a ton of great options for smartphones these days where you need only to take a picture of a business card and it is automatically entered into your contact database. Do you really know how to find good rapport-building data on the Internet? The Web site is a great source for contact information and integrates with Outlook, as well. If someone mentioned their cousin needing to refinance, I could look up the cousin, see where they live, check out the values and even visit, a complete and free database of public records, to see when they bought the house, how much they spent, and so on. Now I even have great data for the cousin when we do finally get in touch. The actual contact management is the key in all this to the relationship building, though. You have to be in touch with people. You have to make sure that your contacts are not falling through the cracks and that requires some serious effort. You have to maintain the database just like changing the oil in your car if you want it to run right. I “prospect” every day no matter what else I have going on in my business, like taking time out to write the occasional magazine article. You cannot let that process fall through the cracks either. When you are busy with deals and closings, you tend to prospect less and then you haven’t been completing a total relationship building cycle and you can see a rollercoaster effect in your work load. You must manage your contacts and build relationships all the time to have a consistent business. I tend to do most of this contacting and relationship building via the telephone. However, e-mails, social media postings or anything you want to do to stay in contact, and to remain in the front of people’s minds is what it takes. I literally have a couple dozen phone calls, set months in advance, on my calendar every morning just to stay in touch with people. These interactions are usually very social and we typically have very casual conversations. How are you? The wife and kids? Glad to hear it … let your contacts do the talking. People love to talk and they will really tell you their needs, goals, etc. if you are really listening and reading between the lines. This is a great opportunity to prove that you have the character to be trusted. All the while, the subtext of the conversation is that I am still in the mortgage business and don’t forget about me. For some reason, it is ingrained in our DNA that with new contacts, people always ask what you do for a living, so don’t feel like you need to force that information down anyone’s throat. They will eventually ask. It is also a part of our psyches to ask somewhat familiar contacts how work is going, so don’t worry. They will ask that too. And when they ask what you do for a living or how work is going, walk through that door they opened and talk about your business then. This is an opportunity to prove that you have the competency to do the job and that you really know your business. I think that the listening aspect, and now, the reading aspect with the modern social media world, is one of the most important contact management and relationship building tools out there. People do want to let it out. They want sympathy for their problems and issues, and we all know misery loves company. So listen, or read in the case of Facebook and other social media outlets, and you will learn a lot about your contacts and become more and more trusted and can even be a problem solver. We have all heard about the differences between being someone’s broker versus being a trusted advisor or even being a trusted authority. Good listening, good sympathy and good problem solving on a personal level will help you become a trusted authority and you have then proven that you have the competency and character to be trusted with their transactions. That can only result in a well-built relationship. Adam P. Smith is president of Greenwood, Colo.-based The Colorado Real Estate Finance Group Inc. He may be reached by phone at (866) 423-0564 or e-mail [email protected]
Jun 15, 2012
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