The Path to Stronger Relationships

I remember hearing through magazines, conferences and seminars similar predictions, “95 percent of all mortgages will be originated through online mortgage companies.” The Internet was just becoming a phenomenal business tool and the possibilities seemed endless. As a not-so computer savvy individual, I felt intimidated by this and remember wondering what it would mean for my personal production and the direction of my company.

Well guess what? It didn’t happen. And the reason why is very simple. Mortgage financing has always been a relationship business. Even with the explosion of generation X, Y and Z buyers that are computer savvy—borrowers still want to feel connected with the individuals helping them make what may be the biggest purchase of their lives. This is where our profession comes in. Mortgage originators are the relationship center that ties homeowners to their dreams.

The foundation for any marketing strategy is developing a long-term relationship that will serve you in providing a continual stream of referrals. Take a look at every marketing effort you undertake and analyze it for its potential relationship strengths. Are you doing your best to provide exceptional service on every transaction so your reputation coincides with your marketing? Are your friends not only your referral sources (Realtors, builders, financial planners and such) but also those you have helped through the financing process?

I recently asked high-producing originators what one trait they felt contributed the most to their success. Many of the answers related to developing and maintaining relationships. One loan officer put it quite nicely when he stated his success came from, “An attitude of real interest in the client’s life, what they are doing, who they are, where they are going, what their goals in life are, how they feel about things—getting to know them as friends. When I show true interest and establish rapport then everything else is easy.” I will add here that this loan officer has an amazing long-term business based primarily on referrals.

During every aspect of your business there are opportunities to build relationships. From your prequalification contacts to borrowers, to Realtors to past clients whom you can develop relationships with that will pave the way to ask for and receive referrals. Let me give you a few simple ideas that can start you on the path to stronger relationships.

Prequals–Your goal is to turn every prospect into a closed loan. This can be difficult when you are competing with other loan officers, especially when most of our initial contacts are by phone and e-mail. You must make a positive impression that will stand out from the competition. The feeling of trust that is developed during the initial conversations is many times the deciding factor for clients.

One of the best things you can do is show empathy and concern for the individual’s needs. Use what I call the five magic words; “tell me about your situation.” Granted, you are the loan professional and probably already know what is in their best interest, but give them the opportunity to fill you in on the surrounding details of why they are in this situation of purchasing a home, refinancing or taking out a home equity loan. Take the time to listen before you start offering your services and advice.

Borrowers–Many mortgage applicants (and not just first-time homebuyers) are confused about what happens between the times they sign the application package, and when the loan actually funds. This two to four week time period seems like a big black hole, where borrowers worry that something will go wrong or continually call to ask if everything is going, as it should. This is a drain on you and your staff and can be easily resolved with a simple system.

At application, give clients a flow chart diagramming the loan process from application to funding. Let them know that you will be e-mailing or phoning them when the appraisal is received, the file goes to underwriting and once the loan is approved. If you have a system in place with your staff, this will take a grand total of about five minutes to complete these items. You are developing security and trust, essential for long-term relationships.

Realtors–The time you put into developing relationships with Realtors can have an immense rate of return. Realtors are looking for loan officers who will help their business grow rather than just continually ask for referrals. Many Realtors have had the unfortunate experience of referring a client to a loan officer and then lost the buyer to a FSBO or another Realtor. Have a system in place that guarantees five marketing touches to each potential borrower. Explain to the Realtor that you plan to reinforce them as their Realtor as you do this. Through e-mails, phone calls, faxes and snail mail you will mention the Realtor and include their phone number and business card. This simple act reinforces your dedication to their business as well as your own.

Past Clients–You have worked hard to get a borrower from the infancy stages of prequalification to the final stages of closing. First, take the time at closing to let them know you have enjoyed the opportunity to serve them and would appreciate their referrals in return. Then, let them know that you will be keeping in touch and they are welcome to contact you if they have any question in the future. Each month, your past client database should receive some type of mailing from you. This can be as simple as a postcard or can be alternated with a newsletter or other informational piece.

On the anniversary date of each closing, place a phone call to past clients to maintain a positive relationship. I’ve heard quite low statistics regarding homeowners’ memory of their loan officer’s name. If past clients have consistently received something in the mail and then a phone call from you stating “happy anniversary” and asking if there are any concerns or questions regarding their mortgage, I sincerely doubt your name will be forgotten. Rather, they will probably remember to give you their brother-in-law’s name and number who needs a mortgage on his new home.

As a mortgage trainer and coach, I want each originator I work with to succeed, but I also know that a marketing idea alone will not increase anyone’s pipeline. That is why so many individuals start out in this business and quit within a year or two. It is also why the industry historically pays on commission. Think about it. You are truly paid for what you do. Succeeding in this business takes not only marketing and innovation to find new business but the commitment and tenacity to develop and strengthen relationships as well.

By Bliss Sawyer