Many loan originators have significantly expanded their business by developing mutually beneficial relationships with Realtors, financial planners, builders, CPAs, attorneys and other strategic partners.
Early in the year is a good time to evaluate your current strategic partner relationships and plan to develop others.
Originators often discover their most effective partnership strategies through testing various approaches. Jack Lieberman, Guaranteed Rate, Austin, Texas, developed a simple and effective method to expand his network of contacts. “Once I got a deal, I would have two real estate agents to work with, along with an insurance agent,” he said. “I also would ask the borrower for the names of their CPA and moving company. With every transaction I added new people to my database.”
Lieberman also realized the wisdom of being selective. His first step was to identify the 50 top Realtors in his market, many of them referred by title representatives and others. He further focused on the five most successful agents, along with a similar number of attorneys, CPAs, financial planners and insurance agents. “It’s easy to go after quantity rather than quality,” he said. “But working with a fewer number of partners enables you to better leverage each other’s business, developing campaigns with them so that everyone wins.”
In addition, Lieberman learned the most effective way to get beyond office “gatekeepers” in order to connect with potential partners. “If I don’t personally know the one I want to do business with, I’ll find out who does and ask them to make an introduction,” he explained. “By simply asking all my past customers, who their listing agent and selling agent is on their property, I usually have all the necessary introductions.”
S. John Murray, Mortgage Financial, Tewksbury, Mass., includes Realtors, financial planners, stockbrokers and accountants as key members of his strategic partner network. “I found that their referrals are highly trusted by their clients,” he said.
He also developed strong associations with his own insurance rep, accountant and other advisors. “I’m constantly updating them on new opportunities,” he explained.
Savvy originators have also developed rewarding associations with various other professionals.
In order to maintain long lasting ties with strategic partners, it’s generally wise to provide them with some type of benefit. As he developed his roster of choice strategic partners, Lieberman created a “win-win” formula to help ensure their interest and cooperation. “We give value to our partners, helping them learn how they can grow their business,” he said.
While some of that involves sharing referrals, Lieberman has also offered more “hands on” support. “We help them identify where they’re getting business—at open houses and their database for example—and what else they can do to stay in touch,” he explained. “We show where they might be missing opportunities and explain how we can help. This may involve us sending their prospects a letter or telemarketing. For example, we’ll send letters to an agent’s customers stating that their Realtor suggested we provide the client with a mortgage review as a special service. We also mention how good the Realtor is, reinforcing the customer’s decision to use that agent.”
They also will call the leads generated from the Realtor’s website and leave a message offering to review their mortgage on behalf of the Realtor. “We are helping them get business from a database that they may not have time to fully work,” Lieberman said. “We all get more business as a result. We’ll do the same with insurance agents, attorneys and financial planners.”
Amanda Sessa’s “State of Affairs” meetings for Realtors are another proven partnership support tactic. These quarterly lunches or receptions provide agents with insights regarding lending industry changes and cover timely issues relating to FHA, conventional and jumbo loans. “They also showcase our knowledge and ability as loan originators; how we can help them and their customers,” said Sessa, SCBW Mortgage, Boulder, Colo. “Agents from many different offices enjoy getting together; the camaraderie is apparent.”
John Weller’s rapport with Realtors has continued strong since he made his first contact with agents nearly 20 years ago. In addition to regular lunches to discuss mutual areas of interest, he often shares the concepts featured in the 7 Minute Difference (book focusing on values and goals). “I realized that many of my real estate partners could benefit from the specific business planning and priority management,” said Weller, Megastar Financial, Denver, Colo. “At my business planning lunches, I explain how the planner helped me and how it might help them. I even share copies of the book.”
Laura Sosa Rocha, Heritage Bank Mortgage, Atlanta, Ga., sends her CPA, financial planner and builder associates weekly e-mail updates about interest rates and the mortgage market. “I refer business to them, as well as support neighborhood events and I am always keeping an eye out for opportunities for them,” she said. “I just referred a builder two lots on which he made a lot of money by building on them. They were unlisted so he was the first to get them, which in this market is huge.”
Murray supports his professional network by sending them the Mortgage Market Guide and e-mailing information of interest to their profession. In addition, he has had an opportunity to be the mortgage expert on his real estate attorney’s radio show. “It’s worked out well,” he said. “I’ll send a note to my clients to invite them to listen in on the program.”
Brooks Grasso, Fulton Mortgage, Lutherville, Md., has found that socializing with Realtors has helped maintain strong relationships. He participates in agents’ community and social activities. Previous events have included a Bowling with Santa holiday party, a Putting for Bucks golf outing and various volunteer activities. “I believe that this type of interaction is where you start to form the strongest relationships,” he notes. “It generates greater trust, and of course, more referrals. This often has led to referrals to other agents with whom we haven’t previously worked.”
Grasso also stressed the value of maintaining contact with both of the agents involved in a transaction. “It’s important to contact the buyer’s agent and seller’s agent at certain points through the loan process,” he said. “This keeps an open line of communication and in most cases it will develop a relationship with the listing agent. It also further solidifies your relationship with the buyer’s agent.”
Your strategic partnership strategies will partially depend on your operational style and what works best in the market. The key is to develop a formal system that includes regular contact with Realtors, builders, financial planners, builders and others.
David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.