For the past year, the mortgage industry has experienced unprecedented change with regard to regulation and underwriting guidelines. Gone are many products that were made available to consumers that created and then finally burst the housing bubble. To be honest, however, did anyone really expect the no-doc mortgage and pay-option ARM to fund their retirement? Now that mortgage lending has again become a profession that requires skill and intelligence (as well as integrity) the majority of the bottom-feeders have left the industry. Those of us that are left, however, are faced with the challenge of the new regulations and the difficulty of integrating them into our business plan while continuing to provide top notch service to our clients. The new HVCC guidelines as well as increased documentation requirements have indeed made it difficult for mortgage lenders to provide the level of service they have been accustomed to providing.
So the question is how to proceed in this new market environment. Do we need to make changes to how we do business? Do we need to be delivering a different message to our clients? Do we need to educate our clients and Realtors with regard to these changes? Indeed you will have to do all three to thrive in the new market environment. While it may seem like a daunting task, the fact of the matter is that there has never been a better time to truly separate yourself from your competition and provide an experience that will set you apart from and allow you to become a trusted advisor to your clients and Realtors. Now more than ever, you need to ask yourself the simple yet powerful question “What do I do that UNIQUELY differentiates me from my competition?” I’m not talking about a unique selling proposition (USP). While a USP is truly an important part of anyone’s business, let’s remove the “selling” for the time being as “salesman” carries such a negative connotation. What’s unique about you? How does it positively differentiate you? If you can’t answer this question, then you are doomed to battling rate-shoppers and high-maintenance Realtors indefinitely. Look beyond the company you work for. Your company, regardless of how great their infrastructure might be, does not make YOU unique. No one company employs the majority of top originators in the country. Look beyond how competitive your rates are. No company is lending money a point less than everyone else in the country. If they were, they wouldn’t need you as they would simply pay order takers minimum wage to answer the phone. Look beyond your resume. Few clients do business with people based on how long they have been in the industry. You could have been in the industry for 30 years and still not be very good at it! I believe the answer lies in one simple word: VALUE.
If you consistently provide a tangible VALUE to your clients, they will not shop you, they will not nickel and dime you, and they will not become the high maintenance client we have all come to dread. What they will do is return to you again and again as well as share their experience with their sphere of influence. In the current market climate, VALUE is what everyone is looking for.
I was recently in Las Vegas at a huge shopping mall with my wife. As we walked through the mall, we passed Dillard’s, Macy’s, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Lord and Taylor. At the very end of the mall was Nordstrom. While I could have easily found what I was looking for at any of these stores, I proceeded directly to Nordstrom. Why? VALUE. Despite the fact that their prices may be a little higher, the experience you have shopping at Nordstrom is unrivaled in retail. How do they consistently outperform their competition while often charging a higher price? VALUE. Employees at Nordstrom are trained to provide VALUE rather than simply sell their merchandise. The EXPERIENCE of shopping at Nordstrom is why I come back again and again. That experience has VALUE.
So, the answer to the question “What do I do that UNIQUELY differentiates me from my competition?” lies in the VALUE your clients receive from the EXPERIENCE they have doing business with you. It is up to you to determine what that value will be and provide an experience that positively differentiates you. With all of the negative news about our industry circulating through the media, a valuable experience will be an unexpected surprise to most clients. Focus your effort on providing that valuable experience and your clients will walk past all the other shops offering the same merchandise.