Sometimes the smallest business can provide the most important lessons in learning to improve your mortgage career. As an example, look at a hot dog vendor's business. What's his secret to successful business? Is it having the biggest or best hot dog, or the lowest price? No, the secret is having a cart in front of the hungriest crowd.
Notice that hot dog vendors don't move from corner to corner throughout the day. They find a place where they expect the highest potential for hungry customers and stay there, waiting for the customers to come to them.
How could this possibly apply to you? It's simple. Most loan officers spend their time focusing on the features of their products (lowest closing costs, rate sheets, etc.), and then they chase clients around, wheeling their mortgage carts throughout the city streets. Instead, the secret is finding clients hungry for your services and waiting for them to come to you. Of course, it doesn't hurt to encourage the clients' craving for hot dogs or mortgages.
Where can you find a steady source of hungry clients? Yep, you got it--real estate agents. Real estate agents not only know clients who need mortgages, but they can also bring them to your mortgage cart.
Maybe you regard the idea of working with agents as dated advice. Lots of loan officers will say, "Been there, done that." They find that real estate agents require a lot of work, are invested only in their business and are without scruples or loyalty. But agents also offer one other important characteristic--a source of income. If you close one loan a month from an agent and earn an average of $2,000, multiply that by 12, and you have $24,000. Assuming you work with four or five agents, suddenly you have a six-figure income.
Let's suggest a possibility--maybe working with real estate agents isn't the problem. It could be the real estate agents you work with who are the problem. And maybe you haven't had success establishing loyalty because you haven't shown the agent that you can solve his problems. You may have inadvertently implied that you are a one-trick pony. Your target audience of real estate agents doesn't realize your depth of experience or breadth of offerings.
Just like you, real estate agents base their experiences on past perceptions. Almost certainly, agents have worked with other loan officers and have had bad experiences, even with in-house lenders. They have encountered indifference, broken promises and an order-taker mentality. It's not a big stretch for agents to realize you want something, but they have a natural defense against going down that road again. They are skeptical and rightly so.
Instead of coming on with an approach of what the agent can do for you, turn the problem around. What can you do for the agent? How can you help him solve problems? Do you even know what problems he has that need solving?
When you try to market to agents, do you start by telling them your feature/benefits story, or do you whet their appetite, making them hungry for more? For instance, how about telling the agent, "I'm searching for real estate agents interested in increasing sales from their open houses. Do you know of anyone in your office who needs help in this area?"
Most smart real estate agents are going to be intrigued at least long enough to begin a conversation. Once you have established a connection, continue talking with the agent, sharing experience, goals and solutions. You are establishing a connection with the agent, showing you are willing to solve problems and share information and not merely be on the receiving end of the relationship.
There are two other important points to remember. Telling agents about your expertise isn't enough to convince them, and you can't expect a single contact will establish a relationship.
Agents make choices about whom they'll do business with based on experience levels. They want to find a reliable source to work with one of their most precious resources--their clients. They won't take risks with those clients.
When you help agents solve their problems, you establish your expertise. With each demonstration of your problem-solving abilities, you further add credibility to your profile. With each contact and increased visibility, you solve another problem--putting yourself in top-of-mind position with the agent.
On average, you need 12 contacts with an agent to lead to a sale. Those contacts can include calls, mailing efforts, visits or advertisements. Each contact reinforces your position. Fortunately, most loan officers don't have the tenacity or patience to nurture that relationship. They give up within four contacts and move on to another agent. Their hit-or-miss campaigns can work to your advantage. Prove you have staying power and, before long, when an agent hears your name, your face will pop into his mind.
How can you afford to take all that time to repeatedly contact a slew of agents? You can't simply market to every real estate agent in your area. You have to become more selective, meaning you have to work at attracting the right agents--agents who are productive and able to sustain a substantial income.
Start by networking with other professionals who market to agents, like title and escrow officers and home inspectors. Take notice of agents who consistently advertise in newspapers and online. From this data, you can find who is doing business and what kind of success they are achieving in the market.
With careful coaxing, you can work real estate agents into a steady hunger for your services. Once you establish your ability to solve problems, you'll find real estate agents referring clients--no more chasing or pitching of rates and services. Take a page from your neighborhood hot dog vendor--opportunity and hunger are the key to establishing a successful business.
Jeffrey Nelson is the founder of Salesachievers Inc., a loan officer consulting firm based in Phoenix. He may be reached at (800) 930-8350 or via his Web site, www.loan-officer-marketing.com.