In Al Hensling’s 33 years in the mortgage lending profession, he’s had the opportunity to develop an ever expanding business, establish loyal relationships with Realtors and other strategic partners, and mentor numerous loan originators.
Hensling hasn’t slowed down much since he started in 1982. Last year, he closed 316 loans and $135,433,000 in personal production, while also overseeing the main United American Mortgage Corp. office in Irvine, Calif. and four other offices.
Hensling got an early start in the sales profession when after high school graduation he went to work for a large automotive aftermarket corporation. “One day I met a very successful young man who happened to be a mortgage broker,” Hensling said.
Intrigued about the potential of a career in mortgage lending, Hensling decided to work part-time for the broker while still working in the automotive industry. He began learning the mortgage business from his new mentor. “He was very experienced and it was a great opportunity to learn from him; for example how to put the loan transaction together. I was able to apply my previous sales experience to this new profession.”
Hensling gradually established some solid relationships with Realtors and began receiving his first deals in the Huntington Beach, Calif. area. After six months, he became a full-time originator and remained with the mortgage broker for six years. He subsequently was asked to become president of a real estate company-owned mortgage company, then partnered with another mortgage banker, and finally in 1993 opened United American Mortgage.
Hensling’s first marketing strategy was visiting with Realtor offices. “My background in the automotive industry made it easier to cold call,” he said.
He determined that many real estate agents hadn’t been accustomed to receiving highly personal service. “I was able to provide a high level of service that they hadn’t experienced before. I introduced myself to Realtors, emphasizing that they would have a partner to work with; letting them focus on their customer and leaving the mortgage side to me. I was able to raise their confidence level; they knew they could turn their client over to me and I would provide the best possible financing solution tailored to the client’s needs. This gradually led to referrals to them and then for us. My business has since been built entirely on referrals.”
Hensling emphasized that agents especially appreciate how he handles the difficult loans. “Our best referral sources frequently have a specific challenge, but by working with the Realtor and client and solving the issue, it becomes a better overall experience. They know we are very capable problem solvers.”
Hensling’s ultimate goal is to develop personal relationships with agents. “We strive to become an integral part of their business and personal lives—socializing with them, getting to know their families and friends, even hosting events with them.”
A Turning Point
A major boost to Hensling’s and United American Mortgage’s success resulted from their Realtor business that eventually led to a rewarding builder relationship. “We were doing so much business with Realtors that a major Southern California builder noticed us. We soon became one of their two preferred lenders.”
In 1994, Hensling had an opportunity to handle the initial sales phase for a substantial Newport Beach (Calif.) development of semi-custom homes. “I prequalified more than 2,000 borrowers who were looking to buy a home in a development of just over 100 homes; knowing that if they did not buy there they would still be potential clients” he said. “I sat at that development every Saturday and Sunday for eight hours, just pre-qualifying people. We captured in excess of 50 percent of the homes sold, plus now I had an enormous database of potential clients as well as later being able to work on other large developments. I continue to market to the original database to this day and it has generated more than 4,000 purchase and refi loans.”
As his Realtor and builder base increased, Hensling saw the benefit of creating a comprehensive marketing program. His ongoing marketing now includes:
- A proprietary CRM/ contact management program enabling them to cost effectively contact customers and prospects.
- A monthly e-mail bulletin to consumers highlights mortgage facts and details on such topics as home improvement loans, consolidating debt, understanding market conditions, the home equity line of credit, reverse mortgages and refi options.
- Color four- page monthly newsletter that features both home and mortgage content. While a print publication is more expensive, Hensling said it is definitely worthwhile. “The way I look at it, if we get two loans from a mailing, we’ve paid for the newsletter. It’s a great piece to have out there; people hang on to it. There are still a significant number of people who like to have something in their hands to read.”
- An infomercial (paid advertisement) that appears in community and style magazines. “It’s an article format that features information about the company and what we do for clients. Although 85-90 percent of our business is referrals from past customers, the infomercial article is good brand building as well as lead generation. Potential clients see it and learn about us, but it also reminds past customers about us and makes them feel good about their choice in using us. We get a tremendous response to this. When we ask where customers heard about us, many will say they read the article.”
- Zillow advertising that shows United American Mortgage as a preferred lender when consumers review specific sale listings.
- Weekly e-mail bulletin to Realtors and other referral partners; providing timely information on market conditions and other topics. This is outsourced to Rate Alert.
Hensling emphasizes that his marketing is effective because it combines several different elements. “The e-mails, newsletter and brand awareness all work together to generate visibility and keep competitors ‘on their toes’ as well.”
There is one other element to their customer support that also serves as a marketing bonus. A few years ago, Hensling developed an office building that has a theater and pool table and also houses his collection of cars (Ferrari, Porsches, Indy car) and motorcycles. “Initially I figured it would be a great place to spend time when I eventually retire,” he said. “Although I didn’t originally intend for it to be an event center, we’ve been able to host training sessions as well as Realtor and charitable events. Clients are extremely impressed. It helps create distinction, that we are different than others. It is one of the best things we’ve done.”
A Team Approach
Hensling knows he couldn’t accomplish the high level of volume without special support. “If I did not have a seasoned team of mortgage professionals assisting me, I would not have the ability to serve the needs of my clients at the level they deserve.” His own team consists of three processors and two personal assistants. “I always have the initial conversation with borrowers; determining the best loan program for them. At that point my executive assistants will complete the application or guide the customer on taking an online application.”
Hensling monitors the process and pays particular attention to the more difficult loans. “If there is a problem, then I’ll get involved to help with the heavy lifting.”
Hensling is enthusiastic about the future. “I enjoy what I do and will definitely keep originating for at least another 10 years.”
He also will continue adapting to the various industry changes. “I see every new regulation or other change as a challenge and I love challenges. While large banks and other firms typically have to work on a ‘decide by committee’ basis, we’re able to respond to different situations in a more timely fashion.”
Hensling will focus on enhancing his own business, strengthening his strategic partner relationships, overseeing United American Mortgage’s other offices and of course, helping other originators achieve their success. “Many mortgage professionals, especially those who had ignored Realtors and builders, had a difficult time during the financial crisis and ended up leaving the business. But I believe that if you’re a consummate pro you will survive in the long- term. By always doing the right thing for the customer, the rewards will come. Build a solid business where everyone is like minded and not solely profit-focused, and you’ll be successful.”