By Bill Evans
You can’t get any better unless you know where you are. It is time to begin formulating your New Year’s Resolutions. You remember that exercise. You take a few moments of serious introspection and determine the direction you would like to take during the New Year, both personally and professionally. The self-assessment aspect of this exercise can be most valuable. Assuming you have not fully engaged in this exercise to date, the following questions may help establish the direction for your effort.
1.Do you believe you will be successful if you approach 2011 the same way you approached 2010? If your response is “probably not” here is your next question …
2.What do you think you must change to meet the competitive realities of your changing market?
3.Do you feel you are effectively building upon the business relationships you have created to date?
4.Are you actively managing those relationships as successfully as you could be?
5.Do you have a definitive marketing plan; complete with daily non-negotiable action steps?
6.Have you determined the ways in which you will differentiate yourself from your competition?
7.Your business has changed from a sales focus to a marketing focus, have you?
8.Do you maintain and effectively manage your database as a source of continued referral business?
9.Are there areas of your skill set you believe are worthy of greater attention?
10.Are you willing to make the difficult decisions and take the definitive action steps required to succeed in the future?
As a mortgage professional, you are your own profit and loss statement. You are the president of your own business. As such, you have officially earned the title of “entrepreneur” and self-monitor. The problem with the latter role is that many mortgage professionals aren’t willing to engage in a serious criticism of self, but instead of accepting accountability and responsibility for their actions, they make excuses. “Our rates are too high.” “We are not competitive in this market.” “It takes us too long to wind through the process and get the loan closed.” “I could spend more of my time doing my job if I didn’t have to complete all these reports.” The point is, making excuses does not address the root cause of your challenges. Making excuses is a cop out.
Before you begin to panic about what you have not yet done, relax and take a deep breath. For those who believe their business has evolved from a sales focus to a marketing focus, my congratulations! The goal of “sales” is to convince. The goal of marketing is to attract. A successful mortgage professional need not necessarily be the best salesperson but they must be the most effective marketer. In the mind of your referral sources, all mortgage professionals look the same. Excellent marketing helps provide your referral sources with a compelling reason to work with you.
Allow me to pose a hypothetical question. If I were to travel to your market area and conduct an informal, “person on the street” interview of industry professionals and ask the following question: “If I need a mortgage loan, with whom would you suggest I work to arrange my mortgage financing?” How many people would reply with your name, or your company? If no one knows of you, your thorough approach, your timely follow-up and your value-added service, no one will bother suggesting your name to begin with! The key here is set yourself apart from your competition. Observe what the masses do and do the opposite. Don’t do the same thing that everyone else does. You need a definitive plan. A plan from which you do not deviate, complete with non-negotiable daily action steps. The operative words here are “daily” and “non-negotiable.”
The foundation of your success is referral business. Mortgage lending is not a transaction-based business; it is a relationship-based business. Constantly beating the bushes for the next loan opportunity is nuts. You should have one major goal. For every loan you help secure, you should do all you can to generate four more from all the contacts you have made within the subject loan. Sit down and do that math! Warm referrals are better than three weeks of cold-calling. Take a hard look at building your referral business? And while you are at it, remember the importance of “referral reciprocity.” “What do you have for me today?” is a one-way street that always has you on the asking end and your referral sources on the giving end. Not a good picture. Your goal should be to build “mutually beneficial business relationships,” not one-way relationships that often become a one sided win-lose connection.
Remember the key factor in effective marketing: “Fact doesn’t matter-Perception does.” If you haven’t written them yet, it is time to begin formulating your New Year’s Resolutions. Those who do so will have a leg up on their competition in 2011.
(Bill Evans is president of The Institute of Professional Training, Port Orchard, Wash., firstname.lastname@example.org)