5 Habits Every Loan Officer Needs to Adopt to Be Successful in 2019
One huge problem I had and continue to have with the mortgage industry is what I call the "Good ol' boys" mindset. The idea, extremely prevalent in the mortgage industry, is that those at the top know what it takes to be successful and you should model everything you do after what they did. Never mind trying to actually learn what they did, you'll have to pay large sums for a coach who either was in the Good Ol' Boys club himself or according to the Good Ol' Boys he probably isn't a very good coach. This elitist, old money mindset may have worked in the past, and it will probably continue to work on a lower level moving forward, but it's definitely no longer your quickest route to the top.
The habits that you'll need to be successful moving forward aren't necessarily any different than they were 20 years ago, but the tools and technology available today have made the execution different than before. It's no longer enough to "prospect" just by attending open houses, walking into real estate offices, and cold-calling agents. "Rock-solid follow-up" no longer means just calling when you said you would call or making sure you call your list of leads every day. "Measure everything" is not just about mapping out your sales funnel/pipeline on a piece of paper and making rough calculations. The fact is, the habits may have remained the same but the ability to execute them in an efficient way so that you can do more or better is what will differentiate winners and losers in the mortgage game for years to come.
Habit 1: Prospecting
Prospecting is and should always be the lifeblood of any salesperson's business, and the mortgage industry is no different. HOW you prospect and WHO you prospect is where you will separate yourself from the rest though. Prospecting in your mortgage business should be about managing two separate pipelines: your referral partners and your potential clients. You should ALWAYS segment your prospecting activities by defining whether you're prospecting for potential clients or for referral partners.
Prospecting for clients is where I separate myself from the Good Ol' Boys. For a long time, prospecting for clients directly in the mortgage business has meant calling your referral partners and soliciting business from them. Anymore, however, referral partners (especially real estate agents) expect more in return than just a thank you card and good service. They want you to be able to add to their bottom line. As such, you HAVE to have a steady stream of inbound business that is not dependent on your relationship with someone else.
Ways of prospecting directly for clients in the 21st century include online lead generation systems, social media outreach, client appreciation events, Facebook community groups, and good old-fashioned database touches. Most of these activities can be leveraged or outsourced to optimize your time even further, but you should have it on your calendar daily to prospect for potential clients in your mortgage business.
Prospecting for referral partners can be insanely time-consuming, and it's one of the activities that can make you feel like you're busy and gaining traction without actually getting anything from it. You need to develop the habits in this space wisely and really protect the time that you're prospecting for referral partners. What are ways that you can prospect for referral partners in the 21st century? Well, the most important thing is to view your referral relationships as a funnel. You want to have a way to bring in a lot of agents into the top of your funnel as efficiently as possible, and then you want to use different steps to filter out the agents or referral partners that are right for your business.
Some examples of ways you can bring agents or referral partners into the top of your funnel are LinkedIn automation, manual social media outreach, email or production lists, Facebook Ads for agent-specific contests, in-person technology or social media training events, and many many more. The common theme with these approaches that you need to pay attention to is being able to reach a large number of agents in a small amount of time.
Middle of the funnel activities would be text/email campaigns attempting to schedule a time to chat with the agent, agent-specific networking events, attending open houses of the agents you're already engaged with, hand-written cards, etc.
Your bottom of the funnel activities should be reserved for agents that are either extremely high potential or have been working in your funnel to a point where it's the next logical step. These activities are things like lunches/happy hours, attending open houses, co-marketing, or pretty much anything that requires you to block off your schedule exclusively for 1 agent for more than an hour at a time. It's far too easy to get sucked into these activities with agents that are at the top of your funnel, so it's important that you protect these activities religiously. Get into the habit of treating your prospecting like a funnel, and the specific habits that you need to develop will fall into place naturally.
Habit 2: OVERCommunicating
In today's digital age, there is no excuse for your clients and partners to ever feel like they aren't being communicated with effectively. Automation technology has made it way too easy for many companies to offer automated email updates to anyone that's involved in a transaction. If your company doesn't offer this, you're already a step behind so listen up.
The number one complaint that agents have about loan officers is a lack of communication. So how do you stick out from the rest of the competition in this area? You need to be over the top with your communication, and the best way to do that is through automation. Don't get this twisted: there are plenty of times where a live conversation is warranted. In fact, I recommend that at least once a week you or a member of your team make a pipeline call to every buyer's agent, listing agent, and settlement service company for every one of your deals just to give them an update, get any relevant updates you may need, and build relationships with potential referral partners. You would think this one call a week would be enough, but remember, overcommunicating is what we're going for here. So that being said, what can you automate on top of this weekly call?
You should have an easy way of tracking what milestone your borrowers are at with their loans. My favorite way is a good old-fashioned whiteboard, but I also have a CRM linked with our loan origination system that keeps track of the milestones as well. Either way, you should be tracking these steps. Decide ahead of time what steps you want to communicate to the parties involved, and what parties you want to communicate with. This could look something like this:
- Disclosures Ordered- Buyer
- Appraisal Ordered- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- Rate Locked- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, TC
- Submitted to Underwriting - Buyer, Buyer's Agent, and TC
- UW Decision- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- Appraisal Received- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- CD Out/Signed- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- Cleared to Close- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- Docs Out- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
- Funded/Recorded- Buyer, Buyer's Agent, Listing Agent, TC
This means in a 30-day escrow you should talk to or send a communication to the buyer's agent no less than 13 times or on average 3 times per week. If this person has an in-house TC, you can adjust according to their preferences. If they outsource their TC work, you should talk to them both as many times as a freelance TC can be a great referral source to meet new agents. For listing agents, you have a couple fewer checkpoints but you're still looking at 11 touches. Can you imagine what would happen to your business if you built that kind of relationship/familiarity with every agent you were on a deal with?
I'm not suggesting that you call for every one of these touches, not even close. As I said before, I think that you should physically call the parties once a week. The rest of the touches? They should be automated in some way. You've got a ton of options to choose from for automating these updates but personally, I think the best approach is a combination.
If I were to set this up from the ground up today, I'd set up BombBomb videos for each step, for each party I'm communicating with that are generic enough to apply in any loan scenario. I'd have different videos for each stage for the buyer, the buyer's agent/TC (they'd get the same video), and the listing agent. The video would include the milestone we just passed, the next milestone we have coming up and the standard expected timeline of completion for that milestone, a generic explanation of any potential hurdles we've cleared with the milestone and any that could still come up, and a call to action to text/call you or someone on your team with any questions.
Then, I'd send an automated text message out that says "Hey there, it's Michael McAllister from XYZ Mortgage. Just wanted to let you know I just sent you an email on the transaction we're working together. We just finished X, and are moving along to Y. I included a short video to help answer any potential questions, but let me know if you have any specific questions!"
The trick is, no matter how you decide to communicate, to remain consistent with it. HABITS are called HABITS for a reason. You need to repeat them consistently enough to get to that point, though. Don't do what most of us do at some point and find an excuse for why this particular loan doesn't fit the mold and needs to be communicated with differently. This is the first step of having your wheels fall off the wagon and having to start over with developing your habits. Pick a plan, stick with it, and make it a habit that you carry out every single day.
Habit 3: Rock-Solid Follow Up
This habit is definitely one of the most important habits that you can develop as a salesperson, businessman, loan officer, and really just about anyone who wants to get anything out of life. Far too often in our lives, we give up at the first sign of resistance. As salespeople, we tend to take this a step further by manufacturing resistance that may not even be there.
You know exactly what I'm talking about. "Oh, it's 9:17 AM, she's probably just now getting settled in at her desk and would be annoyed even if she did answer. I'll call later." "Wait, I don't want to call too many people in a short amount of time because what if I miss the phone when they call back?" "I don't want to ANNOY them..."
I hear it all day from Loan Officers, all the time. If you want to be successful as a loan officer moving forward, you've got to kick that sh*t and develop some new habits. One of those habits should be having a list of potential clients you're going to follow up with every day, along with a list of potential referral partners you're going to follow up with. At some point but maybe not right away, none of these prospects on this list should be "top of the funnel." Meaning you shouldn't have anyone on this list that you haven't already spoken with and qualified as a valid potential prospect. Why do I say this? Because with marketing and sales automation where it is, your initial contact can and should be automated.
Platforms like Salespype, AgentLegend, LionDesk, and BN Touch all offer an easy way to do this. When a prospect comes into your funnel whether it's a new internet lead, a potential referral, or an agent that signed up for your upcoming presentation, it should trigger an automated campaign that engages the prospect in multiple different ways, trying to get them to the next step in your funnel (which should be a conversation with you). I promise you that rock-solid follow up will be a much easier habit to develop if you do this. Your time is more valuable than to chase people who don't want to talk to you so develop a process to put those that want to be in front of you, in front of you, and then focus all of your time and energy on follow up towards converting those that are in the middle of your funnel already.
If you have a CRM in place (which you should), I want you to go back over the last year and count how many deals you honestly felt like you could have won if you just would have followed up a little more. If we're being honest, most of us can chalk up a lot of income lost to letting opportunities fall between the cracks. We only get so many at bats in this business, make sure you're not wasting yours by developing daily habits around rock-solid follow up.
Habit 4: Engaging on Social Media (Facebook)
This habit can be a little bit tricky, and I'm sure you can guess why. Social media is addicting for those who choose to really adopt it as a habit, and this can cause issues in your business, relationships, and really just your psyche to be quite honest. Going into establishing this habit, you have to understand that you're using social media as a tool and never lose sight of that. Any excuse to not use social media as part of your business can be overcome by using it correctly as a tool and not for what the average user is using social media for.
The number one use of social media in your business is increasing familiarity with prospects that are in your funnel. Don't get me wrong, you can use social media at the top of your funnel and be fairly effective with it. However, that habit would fall into the category of prospecting. What I'm talking about is completely different. I'm talking about using social media as a way to nurture every prospect you have both directly and indirectly. So how do you do this?
We're going to talk in the context of Facebook since that is by far the most popular platform currently. First off, if you're against adding prospects on Facebook, you're going to need to get over that. If you need to create two separate Facebook pages so that you can have one to keep in touch with certain people and post pictures of your family you don't want the whole internet to see, then so be it. However, you need to have a very active Facebook personal page that you're comfortable sharing with anyone and everyone who wants to see it. The first habit you want to implement is to add anyone and everyone who enters your funnel as a friend on Facebook (if you're generating internet leads, maybe wait until you get initial contact with the lead before adding them on Facebook).
Facebook has an advanced algorithm that determines who sees your content, so adding people isn't enough to leverage social media in your business. You need to post fairly regularly (at least a few times a week, best case scenario would be a few times a day), and you need to ENGAGE with your prospects posts/pictures/videos, etc. Creating a process or a habit around these kinds of activities can be the difference between you winning and losing A LOT of deals. Remember, engaging with your client prospects and referral partner prospects are equally important in this case. Make a habit of liking anything you see from your prospects, commenting if you have time, and sharing if it's appropriate. Other habits that can boost your likelihood of being seen by your prospects include posting engaging content (mainly non-work related), sending birthday or "just because" messages, finding creative ways/reasons to tag your prospects in posts or comments, and many many more.
Once again, the trick here is to be 100% intentional about everything you do. Don't just get on Facebook to get on Facebook. Develop a daily habit around intentionally engaging with the right prospects, and this will be a huge tool to convert prospects that are in your funnel and eventually to add large amounts of hot prospects to your funnel as well.
Habit 5: Measure and Track EVERYTHING
By separating your business into two funnels, you really lay the groundwork for this last step, which is arguably the most important. Having a great month is nothing if you can't repeat it right? Having a bad month is 10x as stressful if you have no idea why it happened and how you'll prevent it from happening in the future, do you agree? The only way to reliably break the cycle of ebb and flow that is usually a mortgage loan officer's business is to track everything you can and develop systems, processes, and habits around the activities that consistently yield positive results while avoiding those that are hurting your production.
What does this look like?
We broke down what some potential agent relationship funnel steps could look like earlier, so let's take a look back at an example to determine how to track what we need to track:
- Run Ad promoting an Ipad Giveaway for Agents
- Automated follow-up sequence introducing the suite of tools you offer to agents with a call to action to fill out a survey to see if they qualify
- Survey respondents see that they may qualify and a booking link to schedule a time for a full consultation on the tools and potential partnership
- After consultation is complete, follow up to confirm access to tools, build relationship further, and ask for referrals.
This is an idea for a funnel I just threw together, and I have no idea how well it would work. I imagine it would probably do pretty well, but the only way to find out is to test, track, and measure. So in this case, I'd run the ad promoting the Ipad Giveaway and I would track the number of leads that I get, the amount of engagement the post received, the average cost per engagement, and the cost per real estate agent opt-in. Then I'd track how many are engaging with the automated follow up, how many contact attempts on average it took to hear back, and the number of agents filling out the survey. With the survey responses, I'd track average self-reported production, expressed interest in different marketing products, and of course ultimately the number of agents that booked an appointment with me. Once the consultation was complete, it'd be a matter of tracking every deal that I received from agents that entered my funnel through the Ipad giveaway campaign over the next 12 months, and ultimately use that to determine my ROI.
If the most important determination of campaign effectiveness is ROI, why wouldn't you just track the agents that came through the funnel and the number of deals you got and compare that against the cost of the iPad to determine if it's worth it? Because without context, you can't do anything with that information other than to decide whether or not to run that campaign again. Whereas if you analyze each step like I outlined above, you can see WHY your funnel isn't working.
Maybe you get a ton of opt-ins with an iPad giveaway but aren't able to get them to fill out the survey. Well if that's the case, maybe you try skipping the survey and going straight to a booking link? If that doesn't work, maybe you need a better sales letter to get people interested in your value proposition to agents? The opposite can occur too, you can have a funnel that converts your prospects very well but your offer isn't enticing enough to get agents to provide their information in the first place. In this case, you'd adjust the offering or lead magnet itself.
A more applicable example for most people would be a simple internet lead campaign. If you're generating internet leads you need to track what your cost per lead is, the number of hours that you're investing to get each lead to the point of going under contract on a home, contact rate, application rate, your closings obviously, and your average commission on each closing AT A MINIMUM. Tracking these details will make it easy to determine if you need a new lead source, new follow up scripts, more follow up in general, or whether you should bag the system altogether and stick with what you know best. If you don't measure/track everything, you could end up losing thousands if not 10s of thousands of dollars per year to stupid leaks in your funnel that are most often easily fixed.
Let Us Get You Started with the Right Habits
Being a producing loan officer myself, I founded Empower Funnels with the idea that I didn't only want to generate leads, I wanted to use lead generation to create a solid foundation for any loan officer's mortgage business. By partnering with us, you get a system prospecting potential clients for you 24/7, a CRM that allows you to measure/track everything you need to track, a fully automated 6 month follow up system to lay the foundation for your Rock-Solid follow up, and a community dedicated to helping you develop the habits you need to make 2019 your biggest year yet.
If you're interested in learning more about what we do, visit our website at EmpowerFunnels.com. You're also always welcome to book a free consultation to speak with me or one of our experts and see if a partnership with Empower Funnels makes sense for your business.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you at the top!