Streamlining Your Story

Ivan Misner & Ed Craine

As commercial mortgage brokers, many of us rely heavily on word of mouth referrals. Even if we run massive advertising and marketing campaigns, often there is no better way to generate business than by having our partners refer clients to us.

However, our partners can only do so much in referring business to us if we haven’t taught them how to properly send us referrals. Yet to do so, they must know exactly what it is that we do. From what products we specialize in, to what types of properties we have particular expertise in, to where our geographic areas of concentration are, our referral partners need to be ‘in the know.” But wait! That’s just the beginning. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to let your referral partner know how to emphasize your particular skill set, and why you’re better at commercial mortgage lending than your competitors.

That said, the onus clearly lies on us to teach them exactly what it is that we do, so that they can recommend us not only to the right people, but also in the most favorable light. To communicate this critical information to them in the most effective manner possible, it is necessary that we fully grasp this knowledge about ourselves inside and out. That way, we can streamline our own story.

This sounds easy enough, doesn’t it? Of course, we know what we do for a living; we earn our keep by facilitating commercial mortgage loans for our clients. But the question we must ask ourselves is, “Are we communicating what we do clearly and simply to our referral partners?” Well, the answer is partly yes, we’re certainly communicating simply what we do. But, if we are to be honest, and really examine what we tell our referral partners that we do, we might find that we’re not exactly as precise as we should be. Unfortunately, if we can’t tell our REALTOR®, Accounting, and investing partners how we are able to offer clients the best commercial mortgage loan to suit their needs, how can those valuable partners send us viable referrals?

To get started, take a few moments to really examine where your business stands today, and what direction you want it to take. Many of us will find that although we think we know why we’re in the business of commercial lending, we may not have really evaluated this thoroughly, or at least not recently. Now is then the perfect time to reexamine why you’re in the commercial mortgage business. Here are great questions to ask yourself, and answer honestly.

  • Why are you in the commercial mortgage business? What service does your business provide?
  • What do you sell? Service? Products? Loans? Then ask, what are the benefits of each of your services, products and loans?
  • Who are your favorite customers? What is your target market? Be specific. Do you like working with first time investors, or seasoned real estate investors? Take a critical look at all products, all clients and all properties to determine if you have a “niche” that you’re unaware of.
  • As an advisor, what are your core competencies, and what do you do best? Are you a whiz at structuring multi-use property loans? Do you have an inherent ability to structure loans for “out of the box” properties?
  • Lastly, ask yourself how well you stack up to or stand out from other commercial brokers?

By answering these questions, you will learn valuable information about yourself, which will help you when you are teaching others what exactly it is that you do. This will ultimately aid you in becoming more effective in the development and implementation of your individual, comprehensive referral system. Finally, with answers in mind, think about how you can effectively communicate this information to your referral sources.

For any broker who has attended a seminar, mixer or other business event, you know all too well how many times you are asked the ubiquitous “What do you do?” question. Most likely, you don’t give a moment’s thought before responding with something akin to “I’m a commercial mortgage broker.” However, this simply is not enough to tell a potential client or referral partner (if you’re hoping to earn any business, anyway.) In order to open the door to further communication, or potentially build a relationship; you are going to have to talk passionately, and specifically about what separates you from the competition, including why you are unique as a broker, and what areas of concentration and/or niches you have.

Too many brokers try to be all things to all people. Don’t be one of them! Focus instead on the products you know the best, the type of clients you’ve had the most success with, and etch them into your memory. By clearly understanding your strengths, likes, dislikes, core competencies and niches, you’re better able to “Streamline Your Story,” all the while opening the door for quality referrals to walk right in.

Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author, Founder & Chairman of BNI (, and the Founder & Visionary behind the Referral Institute ( Dr. Misner can be reached at .

Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco based Smith Craine Finance, an award winning mortgage brokerage. He also serves on the State Board of Directors of CAMB and as an Executive Director for BNI. Contact Ed at 415-406-2330 or


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