Reaching Superstardom

Your path to Superstar status will be easier if you follow these six steps.

First, let me warn you. This is not an article for the faint of heart. In the next few minutes, you aren’t going to read about how to survive this year or how to find a few more purchase loans from Realtors this month. This one is very different. This story is about reaching superstardom in the mortgage business. It is for $30 million to $60 million producers who are ready to take that giant leap into the record books. It’s for strong, seasoned home financing professionals who aspire to be counted in the top one percent of the loan originators in their market and even perhaps in the United States. So, if the idea of originating a minimum of two new mortgage loan applications every working day of every week for the rest of your career scares you, you might want to skip this one. However, if the prospect of achieving greatness isn’t intimidating, what I am about to share with you is going to excite you. Read on!

There are four classifications of loan originators in our business. First, we have our “Low Performers,” originators funding less than $10 million a year. These are either new originators just starting out and working their way up the ladder of success or they are veteran loan officers who generate only marginal business for themselves and their company. Look at it this way, if you fund $10 million a year with an average loan amount of $200,000 that’s 50 loans a year or about four loans a month. I would hardly call a salesperson who closes one sale a week a solid performer. Would you?

Next we have our “Producers,” those originators generating between $10 million and $30 million a year. They are consistent, steady, and dependable, and represent perhaps 70 percent of most sales forces. Producers make this business run.

Above Producers we have the “Stars.” To be a star in most companies and most markets, you need to be at a production level over $30 million. Most companies and branch managers want and need stars on board to set the pace for the rest of their sales team. These originators close on average between 12 and 25 loans every month. They enjoy receiving local recognition and company awards for their incredible achievements year after year.

At the top of the pyramid (and it is a pyramid by the way, the number of members gets smaller as you reach the top) are the “superstars.” By today’s standards, a loan originator needs to be closing in excess of $75 million a year to be considered a superstar. While many loan officers well surpass that mark, funding $100 million, $200 million, even $500 million a year (yes, these people really exist), I consider $75 million to be the rite of passage into the realms of superstardom. These top producers are icons playing at the top of their game; the Tiger Woods, Mia Hamms, and Shaquille O’ Neals of the mortgage business. They command our attention and respect because of what they have achieved. This club is reserved for only a few hundred in the entire country. It is the pinnacle of success in our industry.

So, are you ready for this level of success? Do you think you have what it takes? While so much goes into becoming a superstar in this business, I’d like to share my observations over the last twenty years of how most LOs got to be superstars.

1. To achieve Superstardom, you must get your “soul” into the business. Superstars play the game at a completely different level. They live, eat, and breathe the mortgage business. To them, this is not just a job; it’s not even an adventure. It is an absolute passion. This is what they will retire doing. Superstars are immersed in their business in every way. They read magazines on mortgage origination, they buy books, listen to CDs and tapes, attend seminars, hire personal coaches, and more. They get up every morning actually looking forward to going to work. To them, work is exciting, challenging, and an absolute blast. It’s one thing to be dedicated to a career and have your head in it. To be a superstar, you must grow beyond that. You must have your soul in it as well. Dedication is a start. “Devotion” is a whole different level.

2. You’d better have some skin in the game. I know a $100 million-a-year producer who spends over $50,000 a year in advertising alone. I know another superstar who spends $2,000 every summer on a client appreciation picnic complete with live entertainment. Some superstars with huge databases will spend as much as $3,000 to $5,000 a month in newsletters, postcards and various means of client contact. Why? Because superstars see this as “their” business and are willing to invest big bucks in their futures. I’m not talking about a few boxes of donuts or some color copies here; I’m talking about investing from 5 percent to 10 percent of your monthly income back into your business to fund a massive personal marketing budget. It’s no wonder you see these people’s names and faces on billboards, magazine ads, TV spots, grocery carts, and many other places.

To play in the big leagues, you have to play like a big leaguer. And that means being vested in your business and your success in every way. If you were closing $80 million a year, you’d be making a lot of money. You’d also be spending about $40,000 to $80,000 in personal marketing. Can you handle that?

3. You have to let go. As some point in their careers as superstars moved up from being a “Producer” to becoming a “Star” they learned that you can’t originate high volumes of business all by yourself. If you are thinking about getting to the level of a superstar, you’d better start letting go of things…now. What are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing? What could you pay someone else to do for you at a lower cost than what your valuable time is worth? Imagine originating $100 million in mortgages a year and still delivering packets around town, chasing down loan file conditions, mailing out postcards, providing loan status updates, and making copies. It can’t happen.

First, you’ll need to let others be responsible to do their jobs. Let processors process, underwriters underwrite, closers close, and let your manager run the operations. Your job is to originate new mortgages and keep your $100 million business moving along. Second, you’ll need to hire on a staff to support your tremendous volume of inquiries, applications, and sales activities. And when it comes to hiring an assistant, don’t think about what you are going to do with your first assistant, think about what you will do with your third! Many superstars have two, three, even five full-time assistants and personal loan processors working on their production exclusively. These aren’t just minimum wage secretaries or $2,000 a month employees. Some superstars pay their assistants as much as $50,000 to $100,000 a year. One top-producer I met recently paid his number one assistant $175,000 last year. Is that something you are willing to do?

4. You need to be better than 99 percent of everyone else. Think about that. To be in the top one percent of your profession, you must out-perform, out-produce, and out-sell the other 99 percent of your peers and competitors. To accomplish that feat, you’ll need to be smarter, faster, and better than them in every way. Are you prepared to invest $3,000 or more a year in a personal coach? Are you ready to drop $1,500 to attend a mortgage Superstar sales seminar? Can you find the time to read books, listen to tapes and CDs, and hop on a plane (at your expense) to visit other superstars around the country to learn how they run their businesses? You’d better be.

That’s what superstars in this business do. They have the best technology, the best training, the best ideas, and the cutting-edge knowledge that keeps them ahead of the pack year after year. They are product experts, they are real estate savvy, and they are students of the sales profession. As a matter of fact, at a recent seminar I spoke at, one Superstar in the audience just spent $10,000 to hire a consultant to construct a new Web site for his business. Why? Because to stay the top producer in his market, his Web site has to look better and be more effective than 99 percent of everyone else in his market.

5. You need a mortgage lending “machine.” Superstars pretty much run their loans through the same process as everyone else. The difference is they run it faster, smoother, and with more consistency. Every step is well defined. Every move is calculated. Every loan moves along within a set procedure. Think about this: If you originated $90 million a year at an average loan amount of $200,000 that’s 450 transactions or 37 loans a month, every month. The only way that kind of volume is going to get done in an accurate and timely way is with an iron-clad system. If the 10 to 12 loans you now originate each month are impeding business and causing problems, what would happen if that number was tripled? Chances are, your current system couldn’t handle production at that level. If that’s the case, to become a Superstar, you’ll need a new system!

Superstars will tell you that the key to a smooth running application to closing machine is consistency—it’s no secret that being inconsistent is the downfall of many loan originators and it could be what is holding you back from that next level. Exceptions should be extremely rare, not the norm on every file. If superstardom is in your future, start rebuilding your loan approval system from the bottom up…today!

6. You have to start thinking huge. Don’t look at what is possible in your future, look at what you might consider to be impossible. Five assistants? A $40,000 a year marketing budget? Producing 600 loans a year? What may seem impossible to some is being achieved by others. To grow big you must start thinking bigger that you have ever thought before. Don’t set your goals and standards on what others around you are doing. Most likely, those other originators around you are not Superstars. They are nice people and they may be your friends, but they are probably low performers and producers. Keep from using their results as a measuring stick. Instead, seek out one or several superstars in your company or across the country and use their success as your measuring stick. If the top producer in your office is now funding $30 million a year, it’s easy to use his or her results as the ceiling for your own goals. Don’t! Set that mark as your first step to achieving superstardom and then move beyond that. Big thinking leads to big moves, big goals, and big results.

If you are serious about achieving superstardom at some point in your mortgage lending career, it will happen with a plan and with a relentless devotion to achieving that plan. The road to superstardom has been laid out for you by others who have reached that level of greatness. Seek out these incredible men and women of our industry. Ask a lot of questions. Find out how they think. Feed off of their energy for success. Before long, they will inspire you to join their elite group. To reach the top one percent of any profession is an amazing accomplishment. Here’s hoping you have the genuine desire to take that journey and the motivation to get there as soon as you can.

SuperStardom Review

As you assess your current or future prospects for reaching the SuperStar category, you might review the following strategies. The more of these guidelines you answer in the affirmative, the closer you are to excelling as a top producer. Add your own yardstick measurements to this list and grade yourself on an ongoing basis.

  • Have a formal, written business plan (with annual production goals), and a long-term perspective about the business. Make the appropriate adjustments throughout the year.
  • Know the daily/weekly actions necessary to reach key financial objectives. · Have contingency plans ready for when business slows.
  • Rely more on purchase business than refis.
  • Work for a company that has an excellent reputation, align yourself with top professionals.
  • Stay abreast of industry trends by reading books, listening to tapes, and attending industry conferences and seminars.
  • Be current with essential tech tools, such as laptop origination, AU, and database management.
  • Seek out a mentor or coach to help reach the next level.
  • Have an assistant or plans to get one.
  • Provide special incentives to my support team to ensure their ongoing commitment.
  • Try new and innovative marketing ideas.
  • Spend at least 50 percent of my time every week talking with customers and prospects.
  • Develop niche markets to expand your marketing reach.
  • Evaluate my competitor’s marketing efforts to gain and implement new ideas.
  • Maintain a database of form letters for typical customer contact occasions and stay in touch with past customers.
  • Approach new markets and new business sources every year.
  • Have a strong work ethic and a highly developed multi-tasking ability.
  • Have a passion for the business; with a desire to win and a drive to excel.
  • Invest in your own marketing efforts; don’t wait for the company to do this.
  • Have an entrepreneurial attitude; I consider this to be my own business.
  • Have a formal plan for asking for referrals at several different stages.
  • Create a memorable/positive impression with first-time customers so that they will be enthusiastic about referring you to others.
  • Initiate brainstorming sessions with originators at seminars and other opportunities.
  • Create an informal/formal mastermind group.
  • Have the necessary patience, knowing that SuperStardom won’t be achieved overnight.