Broker Banker asked veteran originators Al Hensling (United American Mortgage Corp., Irvine, Calif.), Jo Ann Theriault-Fazio (Guaranteed Rate, Chicago) and Matt Elerding (The Elerding Team, Powered by HomeStreet Bank, Vancouver, Wash.) for their insights on having a productive fourth quarter.
Broker Banker—What is the most important step in having a strong 4th quarter?
Al Hensling—The key is to make the commitment to continue working hard, so that you’ll achieve your goals. Many people make good income during the year and then rest on their laurels/take their foot off the pedal in the final three months. That is the worst thing you can do. You just have to dedicate a certain amount of time every day to doing business.
Jo Ann Theriault-Fazio—I concentrate on those areas that help generate referrals and also prepare for the new year. For example, during the last few months of the year I will hold more “lunch and learn” workshops for prospects and I meet with our strategic partners. This helps me stay visible. I’ll also develop my new business plan and implement it before the end of the year.
Matt Elerding—Excellent communication is always important, but even more so in the final quarter. We have a weekly file review and keep customers, agents and others involved updated on all pertinent details. It keeps everything moving along, and ensures our overall system is primed for 4th quarter activity.
BB—How does your pipeline review change?
Hensling—Of course you have to close loans as fast as you can; the only good loan is a closed one. The longer a loan is on the books, the greater the chances something could go wrong. During the fourth quarter you’re giving people who weren’t able to refinance for whatever reason another opportunity. Also, in the final quarter we expect to be dealing more with borrowers who are especially sensitive to valuation and rates.
Theriault-Fazio—We’re spending more time with the loans in progress, trying to get them closed before year’s end. We’re also in ongoing contact with those prospects who haven’t yet applied or who are otherwise aren’t ready. My assistant and I are following up every two weeks. One challenge is when we have a low housing inventory, as we did this summer.
Elerding—The first thing we’ll do is review our database for “slackers,” those who haven’t yet refinanced. For example, we’ll break our customer list down into a specific number who could most benefit from the current interest rate. Then we’ll send them an e-mail explaining that we can lower their rate and monthly payment, with no fee involved.
BB—Obviously you need to continue originating.
Hensling—You must have a business plan that allows you enough time to originate, recognize existing clients and get loans closed. The tendency is to originate and then stop to close the loans. You then have a spike in business and when loans fund, there is a slowdown. That’s not a good plan. We all need a balance so that we’re always originating, always closing and always fostering existing relationships.
Theriault-Fazio—In a time when a lot of people in our industry slow down, I tend to work 80 hours a week and on the weekends. The most important thing is getting back to everyone in a timely manner. And, if I am out doing one-on-one meetings, lunch & learns, and spending time with my referral partners; that just means that I have to put in some extra hours. I also rely on my amazing team to get back to clients right away if I am in a meeting.
Elerding—I always remember that my only job is to originate, to bring in new loans, so that my processor and assistant can move them into closed loans. If I slow down, I’m not doing my job and my pipeline will begin shrinking within 60 days. So I have to continue originating at my normal pace.
BB—Is there any difference in your marketing strategies?
Hensling—We really don’t change our model; our foot is always on the gas pedal. As one example, our print newsletter has a front section that highlights topics of interest to the specific period. So the end of the year we will continue to emphasize the need to act.
Theriault-Fazio—We usually do more social media giveaways during the final quarter. For example, in November we’ll have a drawing to give away a Thanksgiving pie for completing a Facebook survey. This helps reconnect with previous clients and establish contacts with new people. We also send a postcard prior to Thanksgiving, asking clients to complete a survey for a mortgage check up.
Elerding—The only major change is that we send a holiday letter, which also includes a brief section on loan opportunities. We also place an even greater emphasis on just “asking for the business.” I make a point of asking customers and others “Who do you know that might be ready for a purchase or a refi?”
BB—How do you work with strategic partners?
Hensling—Throughout the year we’re meeting with Realtors, financial planners and others and sending e-mails thanking them for their patronage. Toward the last quarter, we’re making a point to ask how we can help them reach their year-end goals.
Theriault-Fazio—We meet with Realtors and others to review the current year and make plans for the new one. I’ll ask them to rate our performance, including the loan process, marketing materials we provide their open houses, and other areas. We listen carefully to what they like and what they think we should do differently. They are great brainstorming sessions. Guaranteed Rate’s streamlined mortgage process also helps real estate professionals to close their deals faster (as well as the educational resources offered to agents on the Partner Xchange).
Elerding—This is a great opportunity to connect with Realtors, CPAs, financial planners and others. During this period, I contact my partners and say that I’d like to help them achieve their goals for the New Year. I’ll ask them to meet for coffee so we can discuss our plans and how we can work together. It also gives me a chance to approach Realtors with whom I haven’t worked with before. I’ll say “I would love to be part of your team.”
BB—How do you keep everyone motivated?
Hensling—Our overall philosophy is “Don’t let up.” We motivate/reward our top producers and acknowledge other staff in different ways so there is no slow period. We also schedule a staff event at the beginning of the holiday season so that people have time later to spend with families.
Theriault-Fazio—In addition to spending time together throughout the year—at lunch, a Chicago Cubs baseball game and other occasions—our team tries to do things together during the holidays. We also make sure everyone has time to spend with their families.
Elerding—First, we all know that slowing down isn’t an option. We’re only as successful as our last month. However, if we do want to take some time off and do a little less during the last month or so, we look for ways to improve our system to eliminate any inefficiencies so that we don’t compromise the overall production.