Jack Lieberman has traveled quite a distance since he began originating in 1986. This wasn’t so much in actual mileage; his primary professional move consisted of a single relocation from California to Texas.
The real measure of Lieberman’s accomplishments is evident in his innovative strategies and overall success as a loan originator. He has continued to refine his overall approach to benefit strategic partners and his own business, which has helped make him a perennial superstar loan originator.
Last year, his team closed $120 million and 600 loans and his personal volume was 275 loans and $50.9 million. He’s on track to do or exceed that production for Guaranteed Rate, the ever-expanding nationwide lender he joined in July 2013.
Prior to joining the mortgage lending profession, Lieberman worked in the insurance and annuity division of Mercury Savings, based in Westlake Village, Calif. “I actually became a loan officer believing that I could probably do a better job than the one who helped finance my own house and also because it seemed there were greater opportunities,” he explained.
After a few years as a loan officer at the S&L and a bank, he became a mortgage broker and subsequently launched his own firm, First Rate Financial, which he sold in1997 to Tim Braheem and Bill Hillestad (the founders of Loan ToolBox).
“I did take time out from being an originator when I left California to pursue a very successful land development opportunity in Austin, Texas,” he said.
Having accomplished his land sales goals, Lieberman returned to mortgage lending, first with a wholesaler, and then opening his own Austin-based firm, USA Mortgage, which later merged with Security National Mortgage.
While he already was enjoying a productive year, Lieberman began considering other company affiliations in early 2013. “I knew that Guaranteed Rate was becoming one of the largest and most successful lenders in the country, seemed to have the best pricing, and was attracting many top loan originators,” he said. “I took the opportunity of joining them this July.”
Lieberman’s marketing strategies have substantially evolved during the last three decades. He began like most other originators—trying to get the attention of successful Realtors. “My initial goal was to meet with as many real estate agents as possible, using the broadcast effect,” he said. “Because it was difficult to get in the door of most large Realtor offices, I would make weekly deliveries of rate fliers, cookies and doughnuts and hoped that enough agents would receive them.”
Lieberman later used jumbo postcards and other mailers as part of his marketing program. However, he gradually implemented a seemingly basic strategy that has helped create an effective strategic partner network. “Once I got a deal, I would have two real estate agents to work with, along with an insurance agent. 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.”
He also realized the wisdom of being more 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 five 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 became more proactive in connecting with the most experienced and well regarded strategic partners with whom he wanted to work. He had realized a simple concept—one that many originators and other professionals often overlook. Rather than complain about not being able to get beyond an office’s gatekeeper to gain access to a top Realtor, builder, or other potential referral source, he took a more direct route. “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. By simply asking all my past customers, who their listing agent and selling agent was on their property, I usually have all the necessary introductions.”
As he developed his roster of choice strategic partners, Lieberman also 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.
Of course, some of that involves sharing referrals. However, he also offers 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. 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,” he said. “We all get more business as a result. We’ll do the same with insurance agents, attorneys and financial planners.”
A Valuable Resource
To enhance the support of his strategic partners, Lieberman added a major resource to his marketing toolkit–the Responsive Messaging system, a proprietary program that facilitates automated contacts of his customers, partners and others. It provides automated text, voice mail blast (leaving messages on cell phones) and e-mail capabilities.
“A prime example of the system’s benefit is when a consumer responds to a Realtor’s website notice,” he explained. “The program automatically sends a text message that says ‘I’ll call you in a few minutes, and within about three minutes an automatic phone message is left on their cell phone: ‘Sorry I missed you, I look forward to explaining how I can help….’ The major distinction between our system and traditional voice mail programs is that whereas others will disconnect if someone answers the phone, our system is able to leave a message on the cell phones, rather than office phones, without losing the connection. When the person later hits redial, they are connected with the Realtor, loan originator or other caller.”
Lieberman added that there are several potential applications for the Responsive Messaging system. “For instance, we can call prospective homeowners on an agent’s behalf and invite them to an open house. It can also be used to identify the top Realtors in a specific market and then call them automatically every Friday to leave a message. There are numerous other ways that it can be used. It enables the user to reach thousands of people without having to spend time on the phone.” (For information on Responsive Messaging, e-mail Lieberman at email@example.com or call 512-617-9400.)
Lieberman also has developed an effective customer contact program. He sends customers monthly e-mails on a variety of topics, including seasonal messages, financial and real estate news bulletins, property tax reminders, and birthday greetings.
“In addition, several times a year we’ll call them and leave brief messages on various topics and on an annual basis call to arrange their mortgage review. All of the calls are on voice mail except for the annual review.”
While Lieberman has been successful with Website lead generation in the past and does have a Facebook presence, he noted that social media currently isn’t a major part of his total marketing. “I believe in social media,” he stressed. “However, there are only so many leads we can handle per day and our basic ‘old school’ systems have been quite successful. I believe it is critical to focus on what has worked and not necessarily be concerned about marketing 100 different ways.”
Team originating is another mainstay of Lieberman’s operation. It is a concept he embraced early on and has employed at various companies. “The basic idea is to hire young people out of college and train them,” he said. “Working under a team leader, they initially only take applications and don’t quote rates. Once they get good at that, they learn to quote rates, submit applications, close and take on other responsibilities.”
Lieberman emphasized that the team model ensures that everyone has mentors and receives the best possible instruction in various positions. “They learn because they’re taught by the best,” he said. “This encourages mentoring, accountability and competition. I have been fortunate to work with a great group of people. I obviously couldn’t achieve this volume without them.”
He is now applying the same overall approach in his Austin branch. “Guaranteed Rate’s philosophy is that originators should spend the majority of their time originating, the team members spend time processing and closing. It is a great match.”
His own current team consists of an assistant, transaction coordinator, two processors and one “financial partner,” who is responsible for helping to clear conditions, settle GFE questions, lock the loan and facilitate the closing. “I’ll talk with every customer, take the initial application and help select the best loan,” he said. “Then our team members finish the transaction and move it along to the close.”
In addition to his own originating and helping team members develop, Lieberman oversees five other originators in his office and is responsible for helping to further expand Guaranteed Rate’s presence throughout Texas. “We’re fortunate to have great support from the company,” he said. “It definitely helps to be recognized as the 8th largest originator in the country, along with being the price leader with a great online platform (Partners Exchange).”
Although Lieberman has been originating, mentoring and managing for nearly three decades, he is still enthusiastic about the mortgage lending profession. “I enjoy sales and helping others realize their goals,” he said. “For other loan officers, that means doing whatever I can to help them become more successful. For customers, in addition to assisting them achieve their homeownership-related objectives, it may involve referring them to a doctor, attorney, CPA or insurance agent. It’s all about becoming ‘up close’ and personal.”
David Robinson is Associate Editor of Broker Banker.