Top of Mind Networks

The New Top of Mind Training Calendar

July 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

This was built using Google Calendar – and I’m experimenting with Adobe Reader for my online meetings.  I’m using the simple “embed” code Google gave me in order to display the calendar on this web page.  Wow, this was really easy. If you’re a mortgage professional, you could use a feature like this to add a Community Events calendar to your website (and your preferred agents’ websites). Or you could easily create and maintain a calendar of upcoming Open Houses for your Realtor partners. Lots of fun and powerful applications here!

Never. Ever. Let them walk away. Without a smile on their face. Here's why.

June 30, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Last night I went out to dinner with my family and I’d like to tell you about my experience.  No real need for granular details here, but at the root of my issue was my meal.  I ordered what’s known in Israel as a “schwarma” sandwich for $16.  By the way, that link goes to a photo of a schawarma sandwich, but that is not the place I’m talking about in this blog post.

I took about 4 bites of my meal and I was done.  But I didn’t say a word.  Three different people at my table each tried the schawarma too.  And when they were done tasting it, I asked them each what they thought.  Each of them said the same thing I was thinking.  It was dried out and tasted like cardboard.

I rarely send food back at a restaurant because I think it puts the server in an uncomfortable position.  However, after our meal, I discreetly approached the restaurant owner and politely told him that I didn’t think the schawarma was up to his high standards.  His words back to me were that schawarmas are “always dry” and that’s why we give you the sauce on the side.  Here’s what he didn’t say or ask:

I’m sorry!

Is there anything else I can get you?  Are you still hungry?

Please allow me to take that off the bill for you!

How can we get better?

I’m in the middle of reading Atlas Shrugged and feel more strongly than ever that the restaurant owner has every right to handle the situation however he wants.  He owed me absolutely nothing.  I ordered a meal and he delivered it.

It’s also my right to never visit his restaurant again, right?

This blog post discusses something each of us has experienced hundreds of times in our purchasing lives.  But the angle I wish to take here relates to quick math and long term ROI.  We spent $100 on dinner last night and I think it’s safe to assume that we’d spend the same $100 each time we’d visit that restaurant.  Let’s assume that his margins are 100%, so last night the restaurateur earned $50 in profit.

Conservatively speaking, now let’s assume that I’d dine at his restaurant twice a year.  Finally, let’s assume I live in Highland Park for 10 years.  Now we have all the numbers we need to determine an LTV (LifeTime Value) for me – his customer:

Profit per visit = $50

Visits per year = 2

Number of Years over customer lifetime = 10

Quick math determines that I represent a $1,000 asset for this particular restaurant.  And that’s the number that each of us in business needs to calculate for each of our valued customers.  This is the #1 most critical number any mortgage professional should know.

Taking the LTV concept one step further:  what happens if I leave the restaurant with a big fat smile on my face?  Do I visit the restaurant 4 times a year instead of 2?  Do I order that extra bottle of wine next time and spend $150 per visit instead of $100?

And here’s the biggest variable of them all – one that “by rule” does not contribute to LTV, but philosophically and realistically is the biggest game changer of them all…

What happens if I turn on just one of my friends or family to this restaurant – and they become a customer too?  Doesn’t my LTV instantly double from $1,000 to $2,000?  And when we get to this point in our business, we aren’t using “addition” anymore.  We start using the good old “multiplication sign”.  The same multiplication sign that allowed Facebook to grow to 600 million members in less time than it took the average consumer to forget how to spell “My Space”.

The customer experience matters every single time for all of us.  Car washes.  Mortgage lenders.  Restaurants.

We all should think in terms of LTV – 100% of the time.  I am planning on going back to that restaurant next week and pulling up my laptop and sharing this article with the restaurant owner.  He may throw me out – I don’t know.  But I really want to help him get better – and I want to help you get better too.  If you think you’d like to start using the multiplication sign in your LTV numbers, let’s talk!

Sales Tips and Follow Up Requirements for Realtors and Loan Officers

May 22, 2011 by · 9 Comments 

Are you gaining new prospects, referral sources and market share?  Are you focused long term on gaining relationships and the actions for success?

Lucretius said, “Constant dripping hollows out a stone”

Are you hollowing out the stone for new referrals and prospects?

Better yet, do you follow through and follow up?

A huge majority of sales people don’t follow-up with their most recent customers let alone new prospects. In fact over 48% of sales people never follow-up with customers what-so-ever.

But the statistics tell us sales are made just:

  • 2% of the time on the first visit.
  • 3% of the time on the second visit.
  • 5% of the time on the third visit.
  • 10% of the time on the fourth contact.

A full 80% of sales are made on or after the fifth contact.

How many times are you visiting or contacting your potential prospects before you give up?

Think about this in your business.  Think about the last person to ask YOU for business.  It might be an insurance agent wanting referrals for your purchase clients or a home inspector looking to be suggested during the inspection period.   It might even be the local mortgage loan officer.  Do they expect your business the first time you meet just because they showed up at your door?

How many times would you want to talk to them before you trusted them with YOUR business?  How many times did they contact YOU before they either gave up and quit contacting you or they won your business?

How many times do you call or market to a new potential clients before you stop?

So how are salespeople doing?  Sadly 90% of salespeople make 3 or fewer contacts which is interesting since it has been proven that 80% of sales are completed after the 5th call or contact.

How do you compare?

If you REALLY want the business do not take no for an answer.  Take your prospects NO or indifference as a NOT YET because you have not built up enough trust and leverage to earn their business.  So what can you do?

Commit today to:

  • Send——–1 more hand written card
  • Set———-1 more coffee appointment
  • Deliver—–1 more letter of interest or personally memorable item
  • Make——–1 more phone call

Your prospects should trust that you follow up diligently and consistently with them to earn their business so they can feel confident that you will work that hard “ON” their business.  They should realize that you did the same to GET their business and stand out from the crowd.

Remember, “Constant dripping hollows out a stone.”

Start today and break through to new prospects.

Derek R. Egeberg

Branch Manager

Academy Mortgage Corporation

Become an expert . . . and LISTING Agent's new best friend!!

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Yes, that’s right.  I said LISTING Agent in the title!  For years the mantra for most originators has been to seek out Realtors who work primarily with buyers.  The reasoning behind this is obvious.  Buyers need mortgages and are looking to purchase a home – easy!

As the market starts to contract and loan officers seek other opportunities for revenue – I truly believe one of the untapped gems will be listing agents.  Here are a few reasons:

1.  If someone is selling their home, there is a good chance they will be buying another one.  Sellers often become buyers.  Opportunity for business!!

2.  A good listing agent will get sign calls and leads from their listings.  If you develop a strong relationship with these agents you can work as a team to turn that listing into a lead factory.  Opportunity for more business!!

3.  By helping to support the marketing of a property – open houses, financing flyers, etc. you are developing a bond and proving useful to the Realtor and showing them that you are interested in THEIR income.  That means a lot to the right partners.  Opportunity for more business!!

4.  Listings give you the opportunity to market creative financing options and programs.  Even if a buyer doesn’t make an offer on that property you should have marketing materials at each listing.  Some will take that home and some will call you.  Opportunity for more business!!

5.  Ladies and Gentlemen – although I am listing this one last, I have found this to be THE single most profitable reason to work closely with Listing Agents in the current market . . .

Over the past 3 months I have gotten 6 applications from Listing Agents because the mortgage company that was providing the financing did not do their job correctly and the LOANS WERE DECLINED!!!! 

I work hard to let the Realtors in my area know that I am an expert in the field.  I am thorough and I try to stay on top of all of the regulatory and guideline changes.  Most importantly, I communicate industry changes to the agents.  They know that I know what I’m doing.

In 5 of the 6 examples above, I was able to get the loans approved and closed (or I am scrambling to do so by year’s end as we speak).  One of them was a gonner.  Very poor upfront application process by the original loan officer and a VERY large car payment that needed to be sold in order for the borrowers to qualify.  Why that was never communicated to anyone is a mystery to me.  The sellers, the agents, title company, etc. etc. were all moving forward under the idea that the clients were approved and no one knew that the lynch pin of their approval wasn’t even disclosed.  Since they were unable to sell their car the deal fell through. (P.S. I really tried with this one and worked for a week to see if I could find a car dealer that would buy the car from them but no one was interested).

A few key points for anyone looking to swoop in and save the day:

a.  Make sure you know what you’re doing!  It does no good to market to this type of emergency client if you aren’t able to articulate and quickly dissect the reasons that a loan did not go through.  Being able to identify the issues quickly will help you and the agents avoid a lot of wasted time if there is no hope of a loan going through for obvious reasons. Prolonging the agony does no good for anyone.

b. Make sure that you set up a system to deal with these last minute rushes.  Is your processing and underwriting in place for quick turnarounds?  If you want to be known as the ‘go-to’ loan officer for these types of clients then you have to have great communication with your support staff.  The secret is to get the rest of your loans submitted and approved well in advance of closing dates.  If you claim to have a ‘rush’ on every file you will be known as the LO that cries wolf and you won’t get the attention you need when you need it.  Become known as the loan officer whose files are a pleasure to work with – then you’ll get the special favors when needed.

c.  Be thorough and quick.  Typically a borrower that loses a house in this situation is desperate to get approved and there is a short window of opportunity where you will get extreme cooperation.  You need to take advantage of that.  Meet with them right away, have them bring all of their documents (they have them from their recent application anyway!) like paystubs, W-2s, etc.  Get all of the facts from them about the reason for decline of the loan with the other mortgage company. Get as much information as you can as quickly as you can.  Don’t assume anything – the loan was declined for a reason.  Your job is to find out why and to see if there is another, legitimate way to make it work. You should be able to tell if there is hope of getting a loan approved early and then get to work!

d.  Set correct expectations.   With the new disclosure laws a 3 days turnaround just isn’t realistic.  Frankly, getting a loan done in 8 days takes a mini-miracle so set the expectations upfront that this may take a while.  Under promise and over perform.  Please never, ever, ever say that something is ‘guranteed’ or ‘100%’ (ever, but especially in situations like this).  Everyone’s stress level is super high in these situations so trying to calm nerves by over promising can often backfire and no one truly believes those guarantees anyway.  I start with a 50/50 shot and move up to 99% slowly – I change my message delivery from ‘not sure’ to ‘optimistic’ to ‘extremely comfortable but we need to see what else the underwriter may call for’.  People appreciate the honesty and you are doing much more for them in the long run.

e.  Hone your communication skills.  I often find that I am able to speak with the loan officer or processor at the company that declined the loan.  They are usually upset initially and willing to help.  That starts to diminish over a few days so get that assistance while you can.  Get permission from the buyers to get copies of the loan package if you can.  I always try to call the loan officer and, without blame or finger pointing I simply explain that I’m trying to help and I was hoping he/she could as well.  I have been surprised at the cooperation once they realize I’m not calling to yell at them.

f.  Be fair!!!  I strive to provide the  same rate and fee structure that a borrower has with their previous mortgage company.  I know I am doing a lot more work and I could charge a premium for this type of effort but I feel that the borrowers are going through enough.  If rates go up then there is nothing I can do but I strive to keep things as close to their original expectations as possible.  Incidentally – this is a great bragging point to both Realtors in the transaction as they are very appreciative that it helps ease the transaction along.

g.  Be honest, creative and honest!!  When I try to put these loans together, I am never, ever trying to manipulate documents, white anything out or do ANYTHING inappropriate.  I just know the guidelines and I work hard to figure out how to legitimately make a loan work.  I’m often surprised that some loan officers give up so easily when a simple tweak could make the difference between their buyer getting a home or not.  If it can’t work then it shouldn’t.  If there is a way to help a borrower buy a home within the guidelines and law then they deserve to have that opportunity.  I just work harder at doing the right things right!

These are not the easiest loans to get done but the rewards are significant.  You make customers for life with the borrowers.  You are truly helping people (remember when we all thought that was the most important part of our jobs?) a LOT of people.  Hopefully this will help you build and strengthen Realtor relationships and meet new Agents for future business. I’ve even had Loan Officers call me for assistance because they had a loan declined and know that I can get these things done.

There is no doubt that the stress level in these situations is high.  This process is not for the faint of heart.  They take a lot more work than your average loan and they tax your staff.  However, it is very rewarding to help people and that makes a lot of the stress melt away.  Plus, I just view all of that work and stress as a marketing investment.  You will never believe how supportive your Listing Agent partners become when you work that hard for their buyers and their income.  Opportunity for more business!!

Now go help some people!!

Jason Klaskin

Here's What Happens When Joe Borrower Calls His Local Talk Show Looking for Mortgage Advice

December 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I was in the car this afternoon listening to a local talk show on WSB 750 AM.  The talk show host took a call from a gentleman with some questions pertaining to his mortgage.

Subject Property:  Home on 15 Acres.  Bought in the early 80’s.  Rural.
Loan Info:  30-Year Fixed, 6.5%
Borrower Information:  Never missed a payment.  Presumably credit-worthy.

The Situation:

The caller had been asking his bank for a loan modification, but had been rejected at every turn because he admittedly was not experiencing financial hardship and had no problem paying the mortgage each month.  The talk show host correctly pointed out that there’s no law mandating banks entertain loan mods. 

Next, the talk show host, again correctly, suggested the caller consider refinancing his property.  The caller explained that he’d already looked at refinancing but the banks were only offering rates of 5.25% (1.25% below where he’s currently) – and they actually wanted to charge him almost $2,000 in fees for the transaction.

Here’s where I felt things got interesting.  The talk show host then told the caller to make several phone calls:

1)  To his local Credit Union and
2)  To the “big box” banks

The talk show host never broached the concept of a break even point on the refinance.  She never explained that, yes, there are typically fees associated with refinancing a mortgage transaction and what they cover.  Never did the talk show host recommend shopping his loan with local mortgage brokers, even though it’s possible that’s where he’d find his best deal.  The safe route was her to send her caller to a “big box”.

This is the mainstream media’s take on the mortgage industry, and it’s happening like this all over the country.  I just happened to catch this 5-minute conversation during my 10-minute commute to work.  I’m on the record as an ardent supporter of the ethical third party originator (brokers, regional mortgage bankers).  I think it’s a critical channel, and when it’s working properly banks and consumers both win.  But we must begin re-educating consumers about the value proposition mortgage brokers provide.  It’s not up to the mainstream media.  It’s up to all of us.

I hope to see you at Mortgage Revolution.  We’re going to take our industry back.

Why Can't Your Clients Have Their Cake and Eat It Too?

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Photo Source:  Flickr

Photo Source: Flickr (Lucky Penny Cakes)

Before I became a Mortgage CRM guy, I was just another borrower.  I remember distinctly a conversation I had with the loan officer I was using to finance a home in 2002.

Like many consumers, I’d been screwed in the past by an unscrupulous mortgage professional.  Hey, unfortunately, it happens.

I’d been referred to this guy by our builder.  He certainly seemed to know his stuff – but still, I wasn’t 100% comfortable with the process.  Rates were highly volatile and I wasn’t sure if I should be floating or locking.  My loan officer didn’t seem to have much of an opinion on the subject, which created even more uncertainty.  I’ll admit it, I called him about 3x over a 10-day period to try and elicit his advice.  During one of our conversations he told me something that still resonates to this day:

“Mark, there are three things I have to offer:  price, service and ______ .  Pick the two you want most and I can give you those, but you’re not going to get all three.”

I wish I could accurately remember what the third thing was but it’s not critical to my overall point.  This seemed somewhat reasonable at the time, although it never felt good.  This guy was busy and I was higher maintenance than most of his other clients.

When we stay in a 5-star resort, we know we’re getting top quality, but we’re also paying top dollar.  When we stay at Motel 6, we know we’re getting the bare bones, but that’s what we’re paying for.

But where’s the law that states we can’t give our clients an elite product at low prices?

Just because we could charge a lot more for Surefire doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for our business.  It’s a philosophical decision my partners and I made in the very beginning:  make it easy for people to say yes – and exceed their expectations.

The guy who financed that home for me ultimately got the deal and delivered what he told me he’d deliver.

1)  Was I satisfied?

Sure, I was satisfied.  Would I become a raving fan?  That’s the important question.

2)  Did he get the next deal?

Actually no, he didn’t.  We refinanced from a 30 year to a 15 year mortgage a couple years later and I started all over again.  It isn’t like we don’t have enough mortgage companies here in Atlanta.  In case you’re wondering – no, he didn’t deepen the relationship after we’d closed.  He didn’t follow up.

The Point:

Your job is not just to win the deal.  Well, not if you’re trying to find the holy grail – a residual-based business.  Your job is to exceed all expectations as often as humanly possible – not just say that you’re going to do it.  I’m not saying that you need to be the cheapest.  But I am saying that there comes a point down the road where the client will need another mortgage – and whether or not you get the call largely depends on whether you’re simply meeting expectations or letting your client have their cake and eat it too.

Five Tips on How to Close Your Loans Faster

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Want to Close Loans Quicker?

In the new world of mortgage disclosures, HVCC and ridiculously overzealous underwriters, timeframes to close a loan have grown.  It is not uncommon to have a closing take 30 plus days.  But in the midst of all this, we have found some ways to make the process quicker and smoother for us and our clients.  Consider the following:

1)  Take a complete loan application – while this may seem very basic, it is easy to forget to ask something simple that will trip you up.  For example, a recent client of mine that I had refinanced about a year ago worked on base plus commission.  I never asked about his income and it turned out that he had switched up the compensation to a slightly higher base and no commission.  In this case, he had a 25% reduction in income and all of a sudden didn’t qualify.

2)  Ask if either of the spouses have any “side” businesses.  With every lender pulling a 4506, even a small loss being counted against someone can trip up a deal.

3)  Run the address through USPS to be sure you have the address completely correct.  The ripple down affect from the appraisal, title etc…can drive your processor crazy.

4)  Make sure your client knows (make a phone call immediately after sending the disclosures) the importance of returning the documents quickly.  Go over in detail on the phone with them what you need (I.e complete bank statements etc…)

5)  Make sure they know what has to happen to get the appraisal ordered and the importance of getting the appointment set quickly.  Many lenders have gone to these crazy email acknowledgements (to transmit the TIL) and unless the client knows to look out for it, there will be delays.

Hope this helps…..more change is on the way. How you adapt on a weekly basis will determine your frustration level as regulation weaves it way into our lives with ever more vigor!

10 Voicemail Strategies that Get Sales Calls Returned

November 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Letters To Home
Image by Kim / Apps via Flickr

What do 90% of your daily sales calls turn into? Voicemails.

However, if I were to peek into your sales training routine I am guessing I would see a lot of weight being placed on perfecting conversations with customers face-to-face or on the phone. If you want to have more of those good conversations you need to put a lot more effort into getting your voicemails listened to and calls returned.

Here are 10 voicemail tips that work:

1. Remember the objective is to get a call-back. So, don’t tell them you will call back. That will give them a reason to ignore your message.

2. Don’t leave a web address (URL). This gives them another reason to research without you and never call back.

3. Leave a strong call-to-action. This needs to be something that makes them curious. Something that convinces them you have a better debt strategy than what they are trying now.

4. Clearly and slowly repeat your phone number twice. This is a huge factor in converting these voicemails into call-backs.

5. Make it short. The longer it is the more likely they are to hit delete before they get to your call-back number.

6. After you clearly repeat you number twice leave a quick “P.S.” statement. It should be interesting and make them want to take immediate action.

7. Leave voicemails first thing in the morning and right after work. This shows people you really want to talk to them and doesn’t interrupt important things like work and dinner. This approach will seem more considerate.

8. Disclose clearly who you are and what you can do for them. Don’t be cryptic or mysterious about your services.

9. Have a positive and enthusiastic tone. Your voice should say, “I really want to talk to you because I can help.”

10. Use their first name throughout the message. People love to hear their name and it makes your call less intimidating and less like the collection calls they have been getting.

I guarantee these simple tips with get more of your voicemails returned. Do you have other surefire voicemail tips? Leave them in the comments below.

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Seth Godin on Lifetime Value

November 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

When the godfather of Permission Marketing speaks on lifetime value, there’s only one thing for an aspiring mortgage CRM blogger to do:  let the master do the talking.

Embracing Lifetime Value

If you walk into a company-owned cell phone store to sign up for a contract, what are you worth?

Given the huge gross margins at AT&T and Verizon and the standard two-year contract, I think it’s easy to figure on more than $2000 in lifetime value.

If you ran a business where a customer represented an additional $2,000 in profit, how would you staff? How long would you make someone wait? If staff costs $25 an hour, how long would that extra person take to pay off?

Few businesses understand (really understand) just how much a customer is worth. Add to this the additional profit you get from a delighted customer spreading the word–it can easily double or triple the lifetime value.

So, a chiropractor might see a new patient being worth $2,500, easily. And yet… how much is she spending on courting, catering to and seducing that new customer? My guess is that $50 feels like a lot to the doc. Instead of comparing what you invest to the benefit you receive from the first bill, the first visit, the first transaction, it’s important to not only recognize but embrace the true lifetime value of one more customer.

Write it down. Post it on the wall. What would happen if you spent 100% of that amount on each of your next ten new customers? That’s more money than you have to spend right now, I know that, but what would happen? Imagine how fast you would grow, how quickly the word would spread.

Here’s how you’ll know when you’ve really embraced this–a good customer at your podiatry practice (or supermarket or tax firm) walks out the door in a huff and you turn to your partner and say, “There goes $74,000.”

Seth Godin blogs every day here and I think everyone should subscribe to his RSS feed.  He is, quite simply, the best.

If you only had 3 minutes in front of a group of Realtors (or any customer)

November 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I was surfing a message board that I frequent with high perfoming loan officers.  One of them has an opportunity to present to a group of Realtors next week and he was told that he has a whole 3 minutes to do a presentation.  Hmmm, 3 minutes.  The post started by asking what would other loan officers do with this opportunity.  It got me thinking about opportunities that I’ve had like this and how I approached them.  Here was my response:
If I had 3 minutes to ‘talk’ to a group of Realtors, I would let them talk first. Ask them what their biggest frustrations are, ask them what they are not getting from their current lender relationships, ask them what they would like to see from a relationship.

I would spend 2 minutes finding out what their issues (‘pain’) happen to be and then I would spend 1 minute explaining how you can help ease that pain or resolve some of their issues.

If you talk to them they won’t listen. If you listen to them and then address their concerns I think you would get a much higher interest level.

There are 2 important preparation points here:
1. Be prepared for no one to speak. I’m sure, in the current market, this won’t happen but you should be prepared with stories or pains that other Realtors have shared and then ask them if they are experiencing the same things. You will certainly get a response when you hit some hot buttons. Understand which of those the crowd seems to respond to and focus on those.

2. The reality is that you already know what they are going to say and what their issues are. This is not the point. Anyone can ‘show up and throw up’ and ‘tell’ the Realtors what they can do for them. You really want to engage them and let them know that what they feel is important. Prepare your presentation and then mentally put each of your USP items or points that you want to make into categories that you can then use to help solve their pain.
This way you can get your points across and focus those points on what is most important to your audience.

Also remember that you can’t tell them everything so don’t try. Pick your top 3 key items that you want to convey – the things that will create the most business for your Realtor partners, the things that will save them the most time, make them the most money, releive the most frustration, help them build their business and get continued referrals, etc.

I would be surprised if you try this approach if the following doesn’t happen:
1. You get more than 3 minutes
2. You don’t get multiple questions
3. You don’t have the opportunity to set up appointments with individual agents to go into further detail with them in a more intimate setting

Touch on their concerns and offer to follow up with each of them if they wish. Get business cards and contact info (biz cards).

Maybe pick one or two products to highlight. Any more than that won’t fit in that timeframe.

Bring printed material with your contact info and logo on it. Make sure it is VERY valuable information.

Show them some other printed info you have (especially info on the tax credit extension – some FAQ’s, etc.) and whet their appetite. Offer to send it via email and even offer to personalize it with their information on it(next to yours of course  ). I would bet that you would get a lot of takers.

Remember, it’s 3 minutes and that’s not a lot of time to get ANYTHING across let alone EVERYTHING – so don’t try.

My approach would be:

  • ASK

  • ANSWER

  • TEASE

That’s what I would do anyway. . . by the way, this IS what I do and it works!

I hope the presentation goes well and I’m looking forward to hearing from the LO about the results

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