Deb Klein – GMAC Mortgage
“If you can dream it, then you can achieve it.
With several years under her belt as a successful Internet salesperson, Deb Klein decided it was time to reconsider her career path. With a demanding schedule and even more demanding sales quotas, Klein felt that her efforts weren’t rewarded enough on a personal level. “I wanted to control my own destiny,” she said. She ruled out financial planning because both her husband and mother work in the field and she wanted to do something different, but was drawn to similar careers. “I love analyzing numbers and working with finances.” After a conversation with her neighbor and friend who is in the mortgage business, Klein thought she may have found the perfect fit. “Originating seemed that it would offer me the flexibility I needed with three children, the income potential I was looking for, and it would allow me to make a difference in people’s lives.”
With personal ties to GM (several family members live in Michigan and either work or worked for the automobile arm), Klein, had always had a preference for the company. Coincidentally, her neighbor worked for the mortgage division of General Motors Acceptance Corporation (GMAC), and spoke well of her experience there. Klein interviewed with GMAC in Tempe, Ariz. and was soon after headed for a six-week mortgage-training program in Atlanta, Ga. (sponsored by the company). Upon her return, she received some additional training from the company regarding systems and product developments, but according to Klein, “training is never over; there are always things to learn and ways to do better.”
Initially, she made her new career known only to select people, including previous co-workers, neighbors and some of the agents in the Keller Williams office (with which GMAC has a joint-marketing agreement). Slightly trepidacious, Klein waited to promote her business high and wide until she had established confidence with the loan process and her support team, and was comfortable with the amount of business she could handle. “Looking back I should have had more confidence in the beginning,” said Klein, “but it was so new to me, and I was more afraid of making an error on a loan for someone in my immediate sphere of influence than anything else.” Her first loans came in from a few agents she had made an initial connection with and from floor calls. “The first 10 were painful—I was detail-oriented to a fault and was so nervous about something going wrong.” Nothing did, and Klein was on her way to a rookie year volume of over $14 million on 92 loans.
In the beginning, she also turned to her financial planner husband for some guidance and contacts in various areas of the professional world, but found that it was completely up to her to develop her own reputation as a skilled originator. “I was able to make contact with some builders and CPAs and present my services, but there were no givens when it came to generating loans from them,” said Klein. “I had to earn my way by a proven closing record and an ability to establish trust with them and their clients.”
Klein sends a rate-watch letter to her database, especially those who may be ready for a refinance, and also a quarterly newsletter, but remains skeptical of the success of mail pieces and other print marketing. “I think we are all so overwhelmed with mail that such things just tend to get lost in the shuffle,” she said. “I also placed an ad in the local paper during my first six months and I put my name on a four-color flier that was passed out at the grocery store—the first one generated one call and that was it,” said Klein. What she does believe in, however, is the value of a simple phone call. “I completely believe in the importance of ‘personal touch.’ I call clients on the year anniversary of their mortgage, on their birthday and if I notice that their loan may be worth refinancing,” she said. “These calls remind them of who you are and often generate in a refi on a second, or at the very least a referral to a friend.”
During her first year, Klein found the biggest challenge to be managing her pipeline. “There are so many peaks and valleys when it comes to this business,” she said. “Everything’s coming at you at one time and then all of sudden there’s a lapse and you want to relax, but really that is the time you should be up out of your seat and prospecting.”
With an Executive MBA from Arizona State University and having grown up “entrenched in [the] financial planning ‘speak,’ of her financial advisor mother, Klein considers educating clients one of her specialties. “I find that the more time you spend explaining how to increase their overall wealth, the more likely you are to develop a repeat client,” she said. “Client retention is about so much more than just quoting rate and term. Becoming a trusted advisor also creates more referrals in the end.”
Now well into her second year, Klein hopes to surpass her goal of $24 million in volume—and she’s sees the key to success as prospecting. “I have a tendency to be in the office too much, and I notice that getting out of the office and meeting with people literally makes the phone ring,” she said. “I have also learned that you cannot work with everybody. My goal is to target top agents and be smarter about who I work with. It is important to work with people whose value systems matches your own.”
To establish new contacts, Klein has begun reviewing purchase contracts for the listing agents and then targeting those she knows are top ranked in her area. “If I spot one of those agents, I make an extra effort to “wow” them during the transaction and then I ask for 15 minutes of their time once the loan closes” said Klein. “They usually have been so impressed with my diligent updates, they are open to meeting with me.”
Having established a balanced workweek and a manageable pipeline, Klein is now able to spend more time with her three children and husband. “I am so happy,” she said about the choice to pursue originating. “The best thing about this career—you create your own road to success.”