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Affairs of the Heart....

There are different levels of personal involvement you can have in the mortgage business. They are usually tied to how much you leave yourself personally exposed to the world. The scope of your personal exposure multiplied by expectations you have for the success of the results of that exposure will define the intensity of the personal disappointment later.

For example, the more that you believe that every family member, neighbor, or acquaintance will become a raving fan for you, the bigger the frustration will be. The more that you tie your personal relationship to whether they do business with you, the greater likelihood you will be very lonely and bitter (and broke). The mortgage world is a great business where it seems that everyone is your customer. But if your serious expectation is that everyone should be your customer and you take it personally if they are not, you will be crushed.

Your market is not equal. It is broken into many different sections, some connected, some not. You can't be everything to all people. You need to find the sections that appeal the most to you. Once you find the sections (niches) that are the most natural for you to relate to, focus your attention and energy on those groups. Define what you value you can deliver to them and how you are going to demonstrate that value. Then you can have expectations -- and earned disappointments.

When I was at Countrywide we took the New England region from #11 to #1, which meant our share went from 1% to 7%. That's it - 7% and we were pumped! Our industry is totally diffused among competitors. With all the marketing money and investments in bodies and brick and mortar double digit share in any area is still unique. At the branch or loan officer level there are examples of small towns or zip codes where certain dominant leaders are at 20-30% share. These are 20 year veterans who are truly best in business or small banks that are the only game in town. EVEN then they only get 2 or 3 out of 10 transactions. That's the majority of people who say "I don't like you!" if you take it personally. But those leaders don't. They don't like it, but those people weren't in the target areas. They weren't on the radar to even focus on and therefore shouldn't be taken personally.

The really smart ones realize they will never relate to that crowd and actually hire others to pursue those niches. Smart and secure loan officers divide and conquer. They figure that they can either partner with a somewhat competitor or hire a junior loan officer who they can mentor and receive an override on to tap into those niches that they aren't pursuing. This offense is your best defense to protect your business from invasion and give it some room to grow. It also allows your firm to grow hiring potentially the best, as opposed to a body in a geography, setting up future border wars to one dimension while missing all the potential on the other dimensions.

Managing those individuals who are leading with their heart is difficult. You have to get them to see their personal exposure and the ramifications of that approach. It is important to find that personal connection between your customers and you, but there is so much more opportunity. I have seen many loan officers who use the "letters from the heart" approach. They can develop a nice annuity business for themselves. I have rarely seen those same people exponentially grow their business though. They tend to stay at that one dimension, relying on guilt (“come on, you like me, send me business, we are friends, and look at my kids in this picture...") as opposed to demonstrating value as a financial professional while making a sincere connection to them as a person. (It is also assumed that you are always doing what is right for your customer because of that connection; sad to say I have seen too many abuse those connections to the heart to stick it to their "friends" in another body part.)

You can take those "heart" individuals and get them to modify their value proposition over time. Get them using tools like mortgage coach and introducing valuable financial tips not just recipe tips. A mix of information is good.

Those same "heart" folks should be using that growing database to tap into Page 5 opportunities like getting referrals for CPAs, CFPs, attorneys, stockbrokers, builder/GCs and corporate HR contacts. If they have built trust, they should be scripting probing questions early in these relationships to be asking for these referred contacts. Getting the refi customer to refer their neighbor is just one deal. Tapping into other referred professionals is the opportunity for exponential growth.

My last tip on dealing with the "affairs of the heart" is dealing with rejection. You are going to have it; so learning how to handle it will help how you are perceived in your tight knit community and how you deal with it for your mental well-being. If one of your targeted individual does a deal elsewhere, find out where you failed. They aren't wrong; you are. The approach must be "where did I not provide the right solution to your problem?” "Let me know where I can improve my service or offerings so I can better service our community". You do not want to lose the customer, the annuity stream over one deal. When I was frustrated over losing a deal, I did my best to hold my temper until off the phone. Once off I would release the tension (profanity) under my breath and take out a note card from the top drawer. I would write a note stating that I was sorry to miss the opportunity to service them this time but looked forward to working with them in the future -- and that I would appreciate any other referrals (and place a few cards in). I would also note that I would keep their file active and be following up 2 weeks prior to close to see that they were still happy. I would also remind them to keep a copy of the appraisal and any docs they provided to the lender so if they needed to be rescued it could be done in short notice. I would them mark my calendar to call them on that day.

I bailed out many loans in the end because I left the door open with respect and dignity. I had many clients go elsewhere for one deal but come back for the long term relationship. More than 80% of borrowers are unhappy with their mortgage experience. When you lose them to a competitor why do we think our competition is better than us? I always assumed that the customer was thinking “I should have gone with Brian" and that's why I marketed those who didn't go with me. Plus I was at peace after losing a deal. I was not grinding my teeth the whole way home thinking about that guy who walked on me.

In the end the ability to separate yourself from the business so that you don't take it personally saves your soul. We live and breathe this business, especially when you deeply involve yourself, your family, and your community in your business. A healthy balance and evolution into a more professional model over time will keep you and your family from burnout.