SuperStar of the Month – Dwight Taylor

Categories:  Builder: 44%
Realtor:  32%
Customer/referral: 24%
Purchase Business:   76%
  Refinance:              24%

Most Effective Marketing: Builder contact/ word-of-mouth

Support Team:  Junior loan officer, administrative assistant, processor

Applications Taken Personally:  90%

As a deputy sheriff and policeman in the Fredericksburg, Va. area, Dwight Taylor had been accustomed to stopping speeding drivers and suspected drug traffickers. He certainly hadn’t considered a career in mortgage lending, although his partner, a former originator himself, had suggested that Taylor look at the opportunities. “He felt he knew what it took to be successful in the field and had noticed something about the way I handled motorists in a persuasive manner,” said Taylor. “But I truly loved the law enforcement profession.”

However, after several years as a lawman, Taylor, 34, grew tired of the late nights and stressful situations, and following a brief stint in automobile financing, went to work for a small mortgage brokerage in 2001. “I started learning what loan origination was all about; reading magazines, attending seminars, and talking to people. I took everything I learned and adapted it.”

Taylor soon realized that he made the right move. In his first year, he closed $23 million. His estimated volume for 2005 is $133.5 million and 420 loans at BB&T Mortgage (a division of BB&T Banking) in Woodbridge, Va. Taylor’s interpersonal and organization skills helped prepare him for his new career. Yet, early on he realized the need to establish a distinct approach to generating business in his marketplace, which includes the Washington, D.C. area. “I decided in this fierce world of mortgage origination, there were too many loan officers beating down the doors at realty offices, not to mention the offices that weren’t open for solicitation or have their own mortgage operation,” he said. “My first marketing efforts were aimed at visiting builders. I had discovered construction-to-permanent loan programs that I thought would appeal to the builder community. My goal was to convince builders to borrow money to purchase land and build houses rather than to finance developments all on their own. They get paid for the land up-front and then receive funds for construction at various phases. It was a way to save the builder money, plus there was no need for a contingent deal, the borrower could close right away, and the pre-approval letter was no longer needed. I could approve these builders’ clients immediately and we would close within several weeks.”

Of course, the rookie originator had to sell builders on the concept of using the construction-to-permanent concept, similar to what custom-homebuilder borrowers often prefer. “I had to get past the sales agent/Realtor who represented these builders,” he said. “For a builder, changing from doing business their normal financing way of having developments funded (through borrower financing) at the completion of construction to construction-to-perm loans closed at the very beginning of the process, is a complete restructuring of the way most are doing business. Some don’t like the idea of giving up control of the process. I had to convince the salesmen and the builder that my way of doing business was more profitable, easier on both parties, and a safer bet for the builder.”

Taylor recalled his first builder meeting. “I entered their model home to find the marketing director onsite. I introduced myself and she noticed I was a rookie. She took me under her wing and explained how the builder community worked, offering to give me a chance with her business, but adding that the builder was not currently using my preferred type of construction financing. Over several months, I competed for their business every day. I was ‘Johnny on the spot’ with a pre-approval letter and closing package. I finally sealed the deal and converted this builder to the construction/perm concept. This is a well-known builder and in the limelight of some of the most desired communities. Once I started working with them, several others followed. My target isn’t the enormous national building firm, but the smaller builder that may benefit from construction-to-perm financing rather than carrying the homes on their own line of credit. I currently fund to approximately 40 different builders.”

Taylor also learned to communicate his message to customers. “From the borrower’s standpoint, this type of program is also highly beneficial, because of the 100 percent financing and no need to sell their home to qualify for their dream home. I constantly remind my clients that ‘we are going to be together in this process for the next 10 to 12 months.’ This establishes the fact that it isn’t the normal transaction, that we are like family. During this time, if I have presented myself in the professional manner and trusted advisor position, I reserve the right to ask for referrals.”

Taylor works closely with Realtors to find clients who are planning to build custom homes. “This in return gives me referrals for the builders and sets up my Realtors for listings once the new home is complete and the current home is ready to sell. Now that the agent has a listing, I am able to hold open houses and market for that purchase business.”

As part of his builder marketing, Taylor often posts signs on various properties. “I’ll post the ‘financing provided by’ signs that include my name and number. This helps them get pre-approved buyers but also allows me to get some leads of people looking for land but not necessarily in this particular parcel. I then become the salesman assisting in finding them the right lot and in some cases, the best builder for their needs.”

Although his primary focus is on builder marketing, Taylor also devotes appropriate attention to his customers. For example, 45 days after settlement he sends new customers a thank you card, copy of their appraisal on CD, and a reminder of how much their referrals are appreciated. “I also note how handy the appraisal can be at this point. Because most of the deals involve new houses, customers will most likely be buying new furniture and the appraisal schematic can be used for measurements of each room. It’s a great tool.”

He also sends holiday cards and periodically calls customers to see if he can provide further service. In addition, he has done radio advertising to reach prospects. “They are usually co-op ads with a Realtor, mentioning us after their subdivision announcement. I also sponsor local news and traffic reports, which are very inexpensive. I don’t get a lot of business from advertising but it’s great name recognition. People will often tell me they heard the radio spots.”

In addition, Taylor provides a series of giveaway premium items, including carpenter pencils with his contact information. “I’ll drop them off at construction job sites. You’d be surprised at the number of carpenters who call me later to say they’re building and need financing or are even starting their own firm. I also have pens and will even hand them out when I drive through McDonalds.”

He is an advocate of the “three-foot rule.” “My motto is if you get within three feet of someone, you should introduce yourself and give them a business card. This has provided me with business, contacts, and of course, referrals for land and custom-built houses. I was at a grocery store recently and saw people at one of the counters. I leaned over and said ‘Does anyone need to refinance?’ A woman said she did and asked about the rates. I later refinanced her house.”

He credits his team with helping maintain a trouble-free pipeline. “I couldn’t do it without them,” he said. The team includes Ryan Napolitano, junior loan officer who assists in backroom and managing pipeline; along with Otto Escobar, administrative assistant; and Maria Castro, processor. “I introduce my staff to our customers, saying ‘These are the individuals who will be making your dream home a reality.’ This allows my clients to put a face with a name and trust in them when they have questions or want to express a concern.”

Taylor is a hands-on originator. “I take approximately 90 percent of the applications and conduct the sales facets of the transaction,” he said. “I prefer to meet clients in person and discuss their financial picture. I use multiple computer monitors so that they can observe current market trends, product comparisons, and a synopsis of their future mortgage. After the presentation of the loan facts, I explain the steps of the process and show customers our large tracking grid in my office. The chart provides us with an update on loan status but also helps ‘wow’ customers with how in tune we are with their transaction. Our goal is to have their loan approved at least a week before closing.”

In just four years as an originator, Taylor has certainly made a name for himself. In addition to growing his production significantly during the last four years, he has been promoted to vice president at BB&T Mortgage, which he joined in 2002. As a producing manager, he is able to share much of what he has learned. “I am regularly called on to coach and mentor other loan officers, as well as participate with the curriculum for the bank’s Management Development program. I’ve found that I can even apply some of the experience I gained as a certified field instructor for the police department. My approach is a mix of motivational speaking, plus ways for originators to have a dynamic presentation, along with product reviews and sales mechanics.”

Taylor continues to refine his own approach to mortgage origination, partially by observing how other top performers have succeeded. He considers an “inner drive” to be one of the most critical SuperStar characteristics. “It involves what you’re willing to sacrifice to get to the next level,” he said. “I have a drive that many originators can’t find within themselves, and the motivation that keeps me looking for new ways to excel. I work 50 hours a week, answer the phone 365 days a year, and consider myself highly motivated and dedicated. I expect the same of those who work around me. Professionalism breeds professionalism.”

He added that some of a SuperStar’s success results from happenstance, including such factors as market conditions, an employer’s support, and other factors. “Not everyone gets the same breaks,” he said. “I believe there is a little bit of luck with everyone’s success.”

Although Taylor has achieved SuperStar success in a short timeframe, he doesn’t take his accomplishments for granted. He wants to continue growing the business and also look for opportunities to help other originators succeed. “I’m making good money as an originator. I’m comfortable doing this but eventually see myself as a mentor-coach. I would like to work with a group of my own top clients and mentor other LOs, to help them be more successful.”