During a recent meeting with the sales staff, we were discussing various ways and methods to turn this slow down in production around and gain market share. I have to admit, I was floored by the comments of one representative. She said that things are bad for everyone right now so I'd have to wait like everyone else for the market to turn around. Man, was I disappointed. I gave her the illustration of an army unit at war: If the enemy's shells are landing on your head and you remain where you are, you will die. They will continue to bomb your location until you're done. Therefore, you have two choices: (1) retreat, regroup and come back stronger, or (2) muster up courage, map out a plan of action and forge ahead. Then I asked, "What will you do?"
In our current environment, if you are a one to two loan a month loan officer, you are really feeling the pinch, and we dont know how long this will continue. So what can you do?
1. Retreat. At then end of the day, you need to provide for
yourself and your family. Securing regular employment, stabilizing
your income and saving money is never a bad thing. It may feel like
defeat; however, the industry is going nowhere. Sub-prime loans, at
best, account for 20 percent of total loan production. So while
consumer confidence is weak at this point, unless all your business
is sub-prime, you will certainly be fine. However, the biggest
point to keep in mind is that stress can kill you. Find someone who
can handle your loans and pay you a fee, so you can go take care of
your family and come back another day. The financial stress over
somebody's with bad credit trying to buy a house or refinance is
not worth your health.
2. Forge ahead. In this market, many will fall by the wayside. That creates a great opportunity to gain market share. Of course, the best way to do this, as we all know, is to become a trusted advisor as we have all heard many times before and draw those clients to you. It sounds easy enough. How do we do it?
The first step is to get organized. You will not appear as a trusted advisor if you are disorganized. Set up a proper time management schedule in writing! I so often hear, "I have it right here in my head." Then life happens and you forget what you are supposed to be doing. In some cases, clients control your time calling you all hours of the day and night, expecting you to be at their beck and call. A truly successful trusted advisor is at no one's beck and call. You don't call your doctor and say, "I'm coming over right now," do you?
My first step was to allocate time for all necessary things. This consisted of mandatory office meetings, time to work on growing market share, time to return calls to leads, times to return client phone calls (so they know when they can expect to hear from me) and everything else in my life, even time spent reading to my children and hobbies (hey, you gotta have a life). Once I had all this down, I mapped out when I was going to get these done allocating specific times for these items. This way, I did not spend too much time, for example, looking for the best program for a loan. Quicker decisions mean quicker results. Review the file, make a decision, get it in the system and keep moving to the next deal.
Once you have your schedule all mapped out, I would put it into a system like Microsoft Outlook. This way, every day, I am reminded of what I need to do and when. It's always in front of me, keeping me organized and on task for maximum effectiveness.
Then I would identify how much time I need for an item such as lead conversion. I allocate four and a half hours out of the week just to speak to leads that need my attention. I have a team to support me, but if I'm needed, no one will go more than 24 hours without hearing from me. To make this process go quickly, we use a form called the lead tracker. All leads are listed on this form with the name, referring source and referrer's name, the date of the last communication and its result, phone number, and amount of calls made before it became a deal. With this system, physical or digital, we can immediately go to the form and make calls as opposed to searching for that post-it note that you "know was right here." Also, if the referring source (i.e., real estate agent, builder, etc.) wants to know the status, the answers are at your fingertips.
This also provides you the ability to track the source of all your leads. So let's say you are spending all your money on an ad in a real estate journal that really produces nothing. Maybe a better use of those resources would be nurturing the relationship with the people who are sending you business. They will be more appreciative and refer more clients to you, and your closing to lead ratio will increase.
Too often, I also see loan officers start over from scratch every day looking for that new client or referring source. Why not begin with the people who trusted you enough to close a loan with you in the first place. Since that becomes a warm lead, keep in touch with them. Don't look at this and say, "Yeah, but I will probably have to wait seven years for them to move and get another loan." Let's be honest you don't know who your clients know. They could be related to the one person that could explode your career. So unless they are such a pain in the behind that you never want to deal with them again, dignify them by keeping in touch. This will lay your foundation for continued business, even through the bad times.
Once I lay this foundation and get my database in one place, then I would use a form we call the road to success. This form is designed to help you manage yourself into a sustainable level of productivity. Let's say its Monday and the schedule calls for you to build the five pillars of your mini business. Monday may be the real estate agent day. Use that time to show them how they can be more successful as a real estate agent. ByReferralOnly.com has a cornucopia of idea nuggets you could forward to your target real estate agents weekly for free. Now you have a reason to call them as opposed to just begging for business.
We use the road to success form to make sure we make contact with 10 people per day with a minimum goal of 50 people per week. This would include real estate agents, client status calls (remember, the biggest consumer complaint is lack of follow-up), business people, past clients, annual client reviews, your top 50 clients, and follow-ups on big deal calls. This way, you are building a book of business, so even if you take a temporary siesta from the mortgage industry, you will not be coming back in at ground zero. There are many companies that will market to your database for you as well, and with stable employment, you may be better able to allocate consistent funds to your constant marketing efforts. Remember, people usually need to see something up to six times before they are moved to action. So consistency is the key to success in marketing.
Remember, there is no magic pill to success in the mortgage business. However, if you don't begin doing things differently and more proactively, you will not survive.
Joel Miller is a chief strategist with Conyers, Ga.-based Wall Street Capital Funding Inc. He may be reached at (770) 760-1001 or e-mail [email protected].