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Success Tips From Sharks

We sure don’t seem to have much downtime in the mortgage industry today. We are either struggling to get loans processed, closed, and underwritten due to spikes in volume or working overtime to strategize on growing our application numbers. In the meantime, we hold sales meetings, send memorandums, and personally coach our originators on the value of investing in themselves by reading sales-related publications and books to improve themselves personally and professionally. As sales leaders, we need to practice what we preach. The problem is, who has the time? Well, you need to find the time, or, I guarantee your originators will not find the time either. You are their example. If it isn’t important to you, it sure isn’t important to them.

I recently re-read one of my favorite books, Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive, by Harvey Mackay. Whether you are a 100 percent outside-sourced originator, inside originator, mortgage sales leader, or homemaker, this book is packed with exceptional sales ideas and lessons for life. I first read the book back in the late eighties and have revisited it every few years since. A co-worker with our bank noticed my copy of Sharks when we were flying recently and we spent a good portion of the flight discussing how each of us has used Mackay’s lessons. I have put many of these lessons into practice and find their application to our industry is highly effective. I have pulled out just five Mackay lessons that can have a significant impact if implemented by mortgage sales leaders.

Lesson 4: The 66 Question Customer Profile
The obvious interpretation of this lesson is knowing your Realtor, builder, and affinity referral sources so you can be more effective when making sales calls and supporting the relationship. I suggest we take it further to include other “customers,” as mortgage sales leaders have both internal and external customers. As leaders of our respective organizations, we should consider our originators, originator prospects, sales support team members, and vendors as customers. Mackay writes, “All of us gather data about other people—especially people we want to influence. The only question is how well we understand it and what we do with it.” Some suggestions and observations on using the Mackay 66 (TM) with your originators and prospects:

  • Originators: Utilization of the list of questions. You know what motivates your originator and how best to manage to achieve maximum results for you and maximum benefits and job satisfaction for originators. Use this list to continue supporting (and continue recruiting) your originators after they have joined you.
  • Originator Prospects: The collection of knowledge and the capacity to effectively use it is what makes a great recruiter. Lets face it, mortgage sales leaders should always be recruiting. The Mackay 66 is not a tool to be completed in front of a prospect at one sitting, but a vehicle by which you can collect and store information on candidates over a period of weeks, months, or years. It sometimes takes years to hire top candidates. The more information you have about the candidate, the more effective you will be in the recruiting process. If a candidate likes to fish, then charter a boat and go fishing. When the candidate’s college football or basketball team is in town, invite them to go to the game with you. Does their spouse or partner like the opera? Send them two tickets. The object is to get to know the recruit personally and your success rate will increase.

Lesson 10: Short Notes Yield Long Results
I remember when I first put this lesson into practice. I started writing a note to each selling and listing agent on every application I took. I included my card and my processor’s card and I know they contributed to my success. Personalized notes are not only great sales tools, but they can be significant tools when recruiting originators and leading your team members. When was the last time you received an e-mail from someone, a minute ago? Maybe you received 10 since you started reading this article. Now, when was the last time you received a handwritten note from anyone? Was it this week, last week, last month? With the onset of instant e-mail communication, handwritten notes have become a dying communication tool. But I suggest it is an extremely effective communication and sales tool for our industry. Do you remember the airline commercial a few years ago, which featured a manager handing out plane tickets to his salespeople so they could go spend face-to-face time with their customers? I still think that was a tremendous commercial. Sending a personal note is the same thing just on a smaller and less expensive scale. Some practical suggestions for implementing and using personal notes:

  • Send one to each recruit you meet with. You may not be interested in the candidate, but they will remember being treated with respect even after you inform them of your decision. The candidate may have the opportunity to give someone their opinion of you in the future, or they may turn into a SuperStar who you may want to approach in the future.
  • Send a note to vendors thanking them for their support, referrals, and extra special attention to the relationship. Vendors can be your unpaid sales and recruiting force if you treat them with respect and show some appreciation.
  • Send to your top producers, rookies who had a good month, sales leaders who hired a top recruit, bankers who referred a big deal to you, joint-venture partners, and sales support team members such as processors, closers, and underwriters.
  • Take Mackay’s lesson one step further and create customized notecards personalized with your photo. Customers, referral sources, and originator prospects will remember your face more quickly than your name so take advantage of an opportunity to put your “face” in front of the reader.

Lesson 14: If You Don’t Have A Destination, You Will Never Get There
“One of my good friends gave me her definition of a goal, and it’s the best one I’ve ever heard,” wrote Mackay. “‘A goal is a dream with a deadline.’ Write yours down-because that’s the only way you’ll give them the substance they need to force you to carry them out.”

Yes, this is another great sales leader telling us to have a business plan. You can’t pick up any leadership or sales strategy book without at least one chapter devoted to business planning. There is a simple reason…they work. What do you do the night before the last day at work prior to a weeklong vacation? You plan everything you are going to do that day. On the last day, you come in early, you don’t participate in idle chitchat, you manage each minute, and accomplish a few days work into one day. We always say the day before a vacation is our most productive day. Why? Because we developed a plan, implemented it, avoided being sidetracked, and reviewed it periodically throughout the day to ensure we were doing everything on our list. It sure works perfectly the day before a vacation, so, why do so few mortgage sales leaders and originators have a written plan? I imagine many of our originators feel it is a one-time exercise each fourth or early first quarter and the plans are rarely referred to again. The “day before vacation plan” is easy to monitor and track results. A yearly plan is not if it’s completed in December or January and seldom reviewed again. Do you, the leader, have a plan you refer to on a continuous basis? Is it is living document you update and manage to, or is it completed and shelved? Many mortgage sales leaders have the greatest intentions but we get busy with our day to day business of meetings, fire drills, operational flow issues, pricing problems, guideline changes, program roll-outs, personnel issues, and the like. However, if we are not leading by example and also periodically reviewing individual plans with our originators, why put much effort into the process? Well, we must get away from the completion of the plan being a task to it being a part of our formal sales process. The plan needs to be a living document referred to monthly and updated consistently. This starts with sales leaders leading by example and dedication to review plans on a monthly basis with our originators.

Lesson 49: It Isn’t The People You Fire That Make Your Life Miserable, It’s The People You Don’t
This is one of Mackay’s shortest chapters because most agree this is the one of the most obvious management lessons. Why do we as mortgage sales leaders continue to believe that originators who consistently produce below expectations will finally “see the light” and become contributors? Why do we accept poor service levels from originators whose customers call us to complain about unreturned phone calls, improper expectation setting, expired locks, and poor service? I believe we do so because we naturally hate confrontation and don’t want to give up on someone we may have personally hired. Think about your headaches day-to-day. I bet they are caused by a handful of weaker producers and maybe a high producing/low-scoring originator.

High maintenance I can live with, but when you add low customer service scores, that is a recipe for disaster. While we may move slowly, we will eventually ask our weaker producers to leave if they don’t respond to coaching. However, our track record in dealing with the “high/low LO” is not good. It happened to me the other day. There are red light blinking on my phone, I check the message and listen to a frantic customer complain about an originator’s poor execution. I think back to how many times I asked this originator’s sales manager to get the service levels up or get him out. You no doubt have experienced the same scenarios, but then the originator has a few great months, makes you some money, and you move on. The resulting problem is not only the impact to your company’s reputation on the street, but you have lowered the “service bar” for your office. If left unchecked, you will see a slow decline in your overall service level.

Lesson 63: I Have Never Seen A Bad Resume
I don’t know about you, but I have made my fair share of hiring mistakes. There are two critical hiring mistakes sales leaders tend to make: hiring flash without substance and hiring originators who may not fit your business model. I am guilty of hiring an originator because of attire, gift of gab in the interview, and talking a “big game.” Mackay Envelope Company is extremely selective in hiring and the process is long and arduous. He also warns against hiring based on a great resume. Mortgage sales leaders should take this lesson to heart and implement immediately. I have seen “guarantee jumpers” move from lender to lender. I wonder how they keep finding employment and the answer is simple. They are sharp, dress well, say all the right things about database management, investing in themselves, etc. Then they talk about lack of processing support, changes in leadership, poor management, bad underwriting, can’t close deals…on and on. And we believe them.

While I still make some mistakes, I have learned over the years to use probing questions during interviews to determine if the candidate has the motivation, drive, sales skills, intellect, work ethic, and industry knowledge to be a successful originator with our organization. Don’t just ask about percentages of volume from different referral sources; ask the candidate to name these sources and tell you about each one. You will quickly know if these sources are “referral partners.” I have been in this industry a number of years and I have had only one other sales leader call me to get a reference on a former employee—only one. We shy away from calling our sales leader peers in fear that they may try to hire the originator back to their company because, if we like them why shouldn’t they?

By A. Blair Glenn