Stormy Mortgage Climate: Networking As Your Umbrella

By Ed Craine and Dr. Ivan Misner

What a year! To date we’ve seen dozens of lenders close their doors, the secondary market has taken a wallop and to boot, rates are on the rise! Couple that with the non-stop dismal news coverage our industry has received and suffice to say it hasn’t been the brightest year in the mortgage industry. But wait, there’s more. Now consumers are leery of originators and lenders and fearful of buying a home altogether. Geez! Why don’t we all just give up?

Unfortunately, too many people have done just that; given up on the industry. In fact, some days it seems that you can’t throw a rock five feet without hitting an ex-mortgage professional.

In reality though, that stigma appears only to apply to a small percentage of loan originators. In general, those leaving the industry are not the tenured loan originators, who understand that the mortgage industry, just like the economy as a whole, is cyclical by nature. Seasoned mortgage professionals understand that business ebbs and flows. Therefore, sales or the lack of sales correlate directly to the state of the market, right? Well, yes….and no. Yes, sales will decline with the declining market if we continue to do business the way we did at the peak of the market. Clearly, the days of picking up the phone and selling a loan in 15 minutes are gone.

But individual sales production needn’t rely wholly on the state of the market. In fact, some loan originators will find themselves with more business than ever in today’s slowing market. Why? Because they recognize that complaining about the changing market will do no good. On the other hand, networking during a downward market, may just result in record setting months for all of us.

Forging a Sunny Forecast:
In order to succeed in the mortgage industry, even when times become tighter and it seems that the ratio of doors being closed to doors being opened is ridiculously disproportionate; it’s important to remember that it does no good to complain to others about how tough business has become. While it might make you feel better momentarily to commiserate with your colleagues, complaining to a referral partner in particular will do you no favors. Imagine complaining to a REALTOR® partner who hasn’t had a sale in three months that you’re only doing $3 million that month. You’re probably not going to earn much sympathy, or worse, you might lose their business altogether by positioning yourself as a whiner.

Instead of griping about the industry, why not instead capitalize on the slowing times to fine tune your networking skills? Remind yourself daily that referrals can keep businesses alive and well during slower times. So shift any “woe-is-me” focus into referral drive and look to earn word of mouth business during this slower time. Here’s how:

1. Set Simple Goals
Networking is more like farming than hunting. That means that you’ll need to spend some time planning your efforts, rather than just shooting for the target. To that end, start by planning realistic goals for who you’d like to meet, so that you can then determine what type of networking venues you want to attend (mixer-v-real estate seminar, for example). Likewise, set goals for the number of business cards you want to collect in a week or the number of business cards you’d like to hand out. You may set a goal for the number of events you want to attend each month. Create your own goals, and use them to drive your momentum.

2. Prepare a Positive Intro
Once you’ve got your goals set, but before you head into the networking world, spend some time devising a clever ice-breaker. Whether you feel comfortable introducing yourself to others via a timely, good natured joke, or you prefer to have an articulate elevator speech prepared, spend some time planning a custom introduction. That way, once you get to the next step, you’ll be ready to begin making new connections.

3. Get Out There
Use this time when the market is in flux to put yourself back out there. If you’ve neglected attending business mixers, REALTOR® meetings, chamber of commerce meetings or your local brokers meetings, now is the time to get back in the game. Your visibility at these meetings shows others to see that you’re still in business and have no intention of taking the slowing market lying-down.

4. Diversify
Attend new mixers, events, meetings, seminars, even social events. This market creates a great opportunity for you to try your hand at networking in new venues. Getting outside of your comfort zone and attending new events will allow you to meet new people, and potential referral partners. Know of a great art opening in town? Buy your ticket. Ever wondered what those big networking mixers were, but never had the time to see for yourself? Now’s your chance. While attending a new event won’t guarantee that you’ll meet a new client; not attending will guarantee that you won’t meet anyone.

5. Learn Something New
Every networking effort you attempt will at the very least, allow you to learn what works for you and what doesn’t. Remember that networking, by its very name, will require some work. Refuse to be discouraged if your initial venture back into the networking realm is less than spectacular. This is a marathon, not a sprint and you’ll learn something new about networking each and every time you attempt it; as long as you’re paying attention.

Neither changing guidelines, nor rate increases, nor product variations should be an excuse for not taking advantage of the opportunity to earn business through referrals during trying times. A downward market can provide the perfect opportunity for you to dedicate your time to fine tuning your networking skills. Remember that every cloud has a silver lining, and just beyond that lies a sunny forecast; a forecast that will only be made brighter by your refusal to let the stormy market get you down.

Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author, Founder & Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), and the Founder & Visionary behind the Referral Institute (www.referralintstitute.com). Dr. Misner can be reached at misner@bni.com .

Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco based Smith Craine Finance, an award winning mortgage brokerage. He was appointed Vice President of CAMB in 2007. Ed serves as an Executive Director for BNI, and writes the column Ask Ed on www.brokerbanker.com. Contact Ed at 415-406-2330 or ecraine@smithcraine.com.

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