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Asking for the Business

“The ‘how’ will become apparent, it’s the ‘when’ that I believe makes all the difference in the world. “

If you’ve been a loan officer for any length of time, you’ve probably been in at least one slump during your career. Now don’t confuse a slump with a downturn in the market. A slump is much more personal. Markets are forever going up and down. A slump occurs when the market is steady, but your business is dropping off. A slump can also occur when the market is falling and your business is falling faster. (I guess technically we could say that a slump also includes the situation when the market is improving while your business stays the same, but we tend to feel OK about that additional business we’re losing.)

So what’s the reaction from someone in a slump?

Typically we need to find a reason for the slump—other than ourselves. After all, we didn’t just start doing business differently, so it can’t be us. We gather the usual suspects:

  • rates
  • underwriting guidelines
  • management
  • flaky borrowers
  • and the economy.

Very quickly we develop a dialogue that places the reasons for our low production in someone else’s hands.

While the above scenario may be typical for many mortgage originators, I know it’s not the appropriate action. In such a situation, originators should ask themselves, “What can I do to get out of this slump?” They try to figure out what they need to do to get back on track. They would soon remember something that their manager said, or something they remember from a mortgage seminar. “When things aren’t going well, it’s time to get back to the basics.” Like a baseball player in a hitting slump who examines the fundamentals of his swing, good salespeople examine the fundamentals of selling.

So here you are in a slump and ready to examine the basics of selling. One of the first things that come to mind is the fundamental technique of asking for the business. Have you been asking for the business? To answer the question you pull out the numbers for last month’s activity in one of the real estate offices that you called on. You see that there were 50 total sales. Of those, 22 were buyer controlled, and of those, the top five agents in the office controlled 15. While you have spent some time trying to cultivate business with this elite group, for the most part they already have very solid lending relationships and have been a difficult group to crack. You admit to yourself that while you did ask for the business from one of those top producers last month (and got another “no thanks”), you didn’t bother to ask the other four. That left seven real opportunities for business last month. Of the six agents who accounted for those seven transactions, the one who did two has a daughter in the mortgage business—so no opportunity there. Another transaction was a cash deal. Of the remaining four, you ended up getting three leads, which resulted in two loan applications. Two out of four—not bad you tell yourself. So what’s wrong with this picture?

What’s wrong is the picture should be bigger. In the above scenario, we immediately culled the listings sold from the total sales. So we told ourselves that aside from not being able to get business from the top producers, relatives of associates, cash transactions, and other sources, we just automatically turned our back on over 50 percent of the business going through the office. The belief is that the listing agent doesn’t control the buyer. While it’s true listing agents don’t control buyers, they have some control over the seller, and the seller is very interested in who is buying their home. So what does all this have to do with asking for the business? Simply, if you had asked associates in your office for the business and heard something like, “Sorry, I don’t work with buyers. I’m a listing agent,” it means you should still be asking for their business.

How do you ask a listing agent for their business? The “how” will become apparent, it’s the “when” that I believe makes all the difference in the world. The key is not to wait until the property is sold to start asking for the business, but rather to get involved in the listing process from the beginning.

Do you realize that there are more ways for a loan officer to help an agent with their listings than there are ways to help them with their buyers? If you take the time to understand how the productive agents in the real estate offices you call on find and market listings, you’ll find ways that you can help them. Sit down with your agents and ask them, “How do you prospect for listings?” They’ll talk about things such as:

  • FSBOs
  • expireds
  • farming
  • relocations
  • referrals
  • reverse directories
  • advertising
  • and who knows what else.

As you listen to how they work each of these areas, you’ll uncover ways that the mortgage knowledge and skill you have can help them enhance what they’re already doing, as well as uncover new ways to prospect. If you help agents increase their listing opportunities, you may have earned the right to go on a listing appointment.

  • What if the loan officer could show an agent that having them on the listing appointment would add value in the eyes of the homeowner and help them get that listing agreement signed?
  • What if the homeowner liked the idea of making sure that when someone makes an offer on their home, they are, in fact, qualified to buy their home?
  • What if the originator could explain to the seller how participating in a buydown would significantly increase the number of buyers qualified to purchase their home?
  • What if the loan officer could provide mortgage information on-site so that prospective buyers walking through the property could see possible financial options as well as what income it would take to qualify for this home?
  • What if the loan originator could help this seller with buying their next home? Statistically the chances are they’re staying within the county on their next move.
  • What if . . . the list goes on.

If loan originators demonstrate this value-added service to their agents, they might just get invited along on the listing presentation. I’m not saying it’s easy to get a real estate agent who will invite a loan officer out on a listing presentation—it’s not. In fact, it’s the ultimate sign of trust when they do. To me, it’s the ideal appointment for the originator. Whether the loan officer goes on the appointment or not, if he can help an agent obtain or market a listing, then that loan officer has earned the right to ask for the business.

How do they do that? By making a request of the listing agent that when an offer is presented on the home, that a counter offer contains the clause, “Buyer must get loan pre-approval with (insert loan originator’s name) within 48 hours of acceptance of this offer.” The listing agent explains to the selling agent that as a service to the seller, they would like to make sure that there is a qualified buyer before taking the home off the market. This is not “steering” the client; they may get their mortgage anywhere they choose. It is just making sure (very early on in the process) that the buyer is pre-approved to by the home by someone the agent knows and trusts. As a loan originator, if you had the opportunity to get in front of the buyers on the listings sold side of the business, many of those opportunities would turn into applications.

Expand your marketplace. Working up front with agents to help them find, sign, and market listings is the best way I know to ask them for the business. It’s just one more way that you can truly bring value to their business. When you do that, asking for the business takes care of itself.

by Bob Sparrow

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