Advice to new originators:
“Don’t look at your clients’ faces and see nothing but dollar signs. Instead consider that they are real people with real problems that you have the opportunity to solve.”
Like most kids watching their parents work, Ryan Eberhardt remembers seeing his dad’s work as a loan originator as stressful and not a lot of fun. So he pursued his dream of becoming a professional baseball player and took a scholarship offered to him by Valparaiso University in Indiana. When an injury sidelined him for good and other interests in forming a construction business didn’t work out, he decided to reconsider originating.
“I realized I didn’t want to be out in the zero degree Indiana winter pounding nails on a roof all my life,” recalls Eberhardt, 24, about his decision to give mortgage originating a try.
He joined Charter Funding in Valparaiso, Ind., but after a month, Eberhardt felt he was unprepared and lacked the product knowledge to be the type of originator he wanted to be. With a minor in business in college, he had some financial background, but felt he needed more specific skills. Eberhardt made the decision to enroll in a six-week mortgage program at the Xinnix Mortgage Academy in Atlanta, Ga.
With its coverage of rates, programs, guidelines, and customer service, Eberhardt considers the experience at Xinnix to be “instrumental in my education—it really helped me understand the mortgage industry.”
The formula seemed to work for him. After completing the training program, he returned to Charter Funding, and closed over $16 million on 125 loans during his 2004 rookie year. Eberhardt credits partly the lessons he learned in baseball with his beginning success. “If you fall on your face, you’ve just got to get back in,” he said. “Not everyone is going to like you—it took me six months before one of the Realtors I now work with would even sit down and talk with me.”
Eberhardt, who now works with seven to eight Realtors made initial efforts to gain their business by making office visits to introduce himself. He would then make phone calls on Fridays to wish them a great weekend and on Mondays to “make myself available to any business that had come up.”
One of his main Realtor contacts was generated from being in the right place at the right time—and offering a high level of customer service to all parties involved in a transaction. “I secured business with the number two agent in Porter County (Indiana) by being the originator on the listing side,” said Eberhardt. “I did such a good job keeping them updated they thought they might as well give me a chance.”
Eberhardt focuses his customer service on understanding their entire financial picture. “I spend at least the first 10 minutes analyzing their goals. Then as they’re talking, I’m running programs through my head and I end up with at least three programs for them to consider.”
Beyond merely suggesting products, Eberhardt’s goal is to be more of an educator than an originator. “My gauge is asking them if they feel confident enough to explain the product to a friend,” he said. “If a client walks out of here not understanding the product, I’m not going to get future business.”
Another goal is to maintain an active presence in his customer’s and client’s minds by sending holiday cards and small gifts. “I send homemade holiday gift baskets to my business partners with candles, hot chocolate, and my business cards. I received thank you calls from nearly every person. People really appreciate something you put effort into.” He also calls customers on their birthday and sends out a variety of other holiday cards.
Eberhardt actively works his database with mortgage mailings as well, including quarterly mailings and yearly reviews. Additionally, he plans to begin distributing an annual survey with a list of questions regarding his own work. “I’m looking for constructive criticism. I want to ask ‘What can I do better to make me more a part of your team?'” He also added that such surveys would allow him to customize communication with his business partners. “I want to have a plan tailored to each partner’s personality.”
During his rookie year, Eberhardt worked 10 to 12 hour days and when he wasn’t with clients, spent the time “implementing ideas, creating new marketing ideas to build business, and learning more about products.” The time was invested at a crucial point in his career, although the hours haven’t changed much this year, due to a goal of distinguishing himself in the mortgage business. “There are millions of people out there,” he said. “If I can combine my product knowledge with my marketing ideas, and be considerate and thoughtful with people, I can be successful—this business is all about customer relationships.”
Eberhardt does not yet have an assistant, but has plans to get one soon when his business plan is more in full swing and he’s comfortable with delegating certain parts of the job. “I have too many ideas going right now, and I believe in being 100 percent in person with my clients right now.”
Eberhardt has learned one thing the hard way—never over-promise. “I missed something in the guidelines with one loan and it led to so much stress,” he said. “If you can’t do it, don’t say you can. Now I know to under-promise and over-deliver.”
For this year, Eberhardt is focusing on time management, especially considering that during his first year he feels that there was some time wasted. To help get him on track with this goal, he plans on taking continuing education courses from Xinnix and eventually getting a mortgage coach. He also is enthusiastic about his company getting an in-house media center. “Right now, I send out all of my own marketing materials, including hand signing and stamping everything.”
For relaxation, Eberhardt spends time hunting and fishing. “It’s very relaxing to get out. In this business you need to get away sometimes.” He also still plays baseball, but said he is “thankful to have a career as an originator. I am excited to see where this is going to take me.”