Top of Mind Networks

4 Simple Steps to Bring Old Leads Back to Life

July 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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If you are like most sales people you get a little surge of adrenaline, your heart rate increases, and a bead of sweat forms on your forehead when a fresh new sales lead pops into your queue. It’s natural-anticipation of an easy deal becomes top of mind.

Unfortunately, the statistics would tell us otherwise. The fresh new lead is much less likely to close than one already in your sales pipeline. However, my gut tells me that most of your sales processes are not built on that premise.

Try these 4 simple steps to get more closings from old leads:

1. Never Throw Away a Lead – Of course, you are never going to close a lead that you throw away. So, why do will constantly kill opportunity based on the date it came into our sales pipeline. Customers, especially mortgage borrowers, should never have an expiration date.

Homeowners regularly refinance, make home improvements, relocate, buy larger homes, and downsize into smaller ones-truly mortgage customers for life.

2. Introduce or Re-introduce Yourself – The first step to bringing that old lead back to life is being polite. Your first contact is likely to be an interruption. Whether you just bought an aged lead or are trying to reignite that old database of contacts-these people haven’t heard from you recently. So, use your manners.

A simple introduction or reminder of a past interaction is a good start. Quickly get to the point. Why should they give you a few valuable moments of their time? And, what value are you going to give them in that first conversation?

Free stuff works great in this step-timely article, valuable eBook, or a simple do-it-yourself mortgage assessment.

3. Ask Permission to Continue Contact – Very quickly get a commitment or permission for follow-up contact. Not only does it assist in your compliance with a variety of marketing laws and regulations, it builds trust and respect.

This simple request makes your customer feel in control and at the center of the process. Asking permission will heighten the awareness to ongoing marketing campaigns and remove any perception of invading their privacy.

4. Persistence Lands Deals – The bottom line in increasing the activation and conversion of old leads is persistence pays. These leads are potentially in a variety of different positions in the buying cycle. Unlike a fresh lead, their intent will be far less clear-that is your challenge.

The opportunity is that those who build processes and campaigns that nurture aging pipeline leads will increase lead ROI and closed deals. Smart sales person know that regular touch points with customers in their database is the best possible source of lead generation on the market.

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My 12 Month Outlook On the Mortgage Industry – and Beyond

July 1, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I spend most every morning in front of the computer – taking in the play-by-play on the economy, real estate market, mortgage landscape, etc.

And here’s the conclusion I always seem to come to:  I don’t understand macroeconomics well enough to have an intelligent opinion as to where we’re headed.  Furthermore, I don’t believe that our elected officials understand any better than I do.  Here’s what I think I know:

1)  Our entire economic system is built primarily on fairy dust in the form of:

a:  Consumer Confidence –  In other words, if the mainstream media gets a hold of enough good news from one day to the next, we consumers can let out of that big sigh of relief and get back to …

b:  Consumption –  Because it’s simple really.  We replace our ’98 Camry with an ’09 Passat.  Progress has been made.  Jobs have been created.  With any luck, technology will continue creating reasons for us to ditch old for new.

2)  Today begins the 2nd half of 2009.  It appears real estate values have begun to stabilize (depending on who you listen to).  Corporate earnings have been better than expected (for the most part).  So things “seem” to be looking up.

I had lunch with Jim and Alan from Phoenix Global Mortgage yesterday at one of my favorite spots – the Cheesecake Factory at the Perimeter Mall just outside the “perimeter” of Atlanta.  I’ve probably conducted 20 business lunches there over the past 5 years (great location, fun atmosphere, good food).  If you didn’t show up for lunch at 11:30, you weren’t getting seated for a solid hour.  The place was always mobbed.  Check out the picture I took from the parking lot after lunch with Jim and Alan:

Ample Parking at Perimeter Mall?

Ample Parking at Perimeter Mall?

For those of you in Atlanta, this is what the parking lot at Perimeter Mall might look like at 1AM on a Tuesday, not the height of the lunch rush.

So here’s Mark Green’s personal economic forecast for the next 12 months, and beyond.

1)  Consumers are making more intelligent purchase decisions.

And all I have to say to this is – It’s about damn time.  The role of our mainstream media is to educate and inform us, right?  Well they’ve downright paralyzed the economy.  Long term, this will end up being a good thing.  But what does it mean to us as entrepreneurs and salespeople?

2)  Business will be harder to come by for all of us.

That statement either scares the bejeezus out of you or it excites you.  I guess it depends on how confident you are in your ability to execute in a difficult economy.  Shortcuts are getting ready to disappear, and for a long time.

3)  Your skill set and sphere of influence database will be your only two weapons moving forward.

If you’re dependent on Lending Tree to fill your pipeline every month, and you haven’t been reinvesting into those relationships, you’ll be feeling the pain in your stomach that kept you up at night only 12 short months ago.  Who is Lending Tree looking out for anyways – you or them?

If you’ve been slow diving into social media because it’s foreign to you, you’ll be feeling the pain too.  It doesn’t matter that you don’t get Twitter.  What matters is that your clients DO.  Who are you looking out for – you or them?

Here’s the really good news.  We’re in the service business.  Therefore, we don’t have to deal with bugaboos like managing an inventory, retail space, etc.  As small businesses, we have the ability to act quickly if we so choose – and without asking for permission from three layers of management.  The next six months are going to shape your success for the next five years.

If you’re like my friend and client Scott Evans, you’re licking your chops because you’ve spent your entire career systematizing and executing.  If you’re looking at the rest of your refi pipeline, nursing and caressing it, completely oblivious to how you’re going to compete in a strictly purchase environment, I hope this article serves as a wake up call.

Based on what I saw at the Cheesecake Factory yesterday, I can’t imagine that the economy is anywhere close to a recovery.  In fact, I think the worst is yet to come.  And I’m very okay with that.  It doesn’t scare me one bit.  My personal finances are in order because I made some good financial decisions at home.  Professionally, I’ve surrounded myself with the best talent I could find.  I trust them and they trust me.  We have a plan, and each day we come into the office and execute on that plan.  If the market recovers, that would be a lot of fun.  If it doesn’t, it’s still going to be a lot of fun.

Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.  Focus on innovation and execution.  See the people. And above all, construct your life and your business to where the 11:00 news doesn’t affect your overall happiness one way or the other.  The way I see it, whether the economy tanks or whether it explodes – 2010 is going to be a fantastic year for me.  And I hope the same is true of you too.

"I'll Hold Myself Accountable" – The Beginning of the End.

June 23, 2009 by · 5 Comments 

We have all said it, and for short snippets of time, we may have even done it.  My question – how’s  that workin’ for ya now!?  Don’t get me wrong – I don’t even have this nailed down myself.  In fact – disclaimer herethis post… yeah, I am writing for me

If the reader gets something out of this, uh, that is good too.

It is a noble and glorious thought that the mere love of our families, addictions [like living indoors, eating daily, etc.] and desire to grow are enough to take us where we want to go in our careers.  You would think – wouldn’t you?  I would!  What would being accountable to 2-3 other guys in the mortgage business bring to the table that my deep affection for my family would not?  The short answer is – I don’t know!  The slightly longer answer [with no greater insight, mind you] is that I DON’T KNOW BUT IT WORKS.

2009-06-23_fear_puppyFor some reason,accountability with people you respect, like, and trust can be the ‘magic bullet’ that many are searching for.  So why don’t more of us step up to the plate and become accountable to one another?

Simple.

               Fear.

Whether it is fear of failure, fear of the unknown, fear of being vulnerable [i.e. being “found out” that you are human] or something few of us would admit to – fear of success, fear can be the biggest stumbling block to any action.  My advice? [Remember, this post is for me, not the reader] GET OVER YOURSELF!  You are not that big of a deal.  Suck it up punk!

The key to a successful accountability relationship, as I touched on earlier, is for it to be with people that you respect, like, and trust.  Without that – your results  may be less than you desire.  Why?  Because there needs to be internal pain for not performing or pulling your weight and that will ONLY work if you have to report lack-luster efforts to someone you care about.  This also leads in to why they must be people you trust.  Not only must you care about them – but they must care about you as well… meaning they will be firm but still support you.  [Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you have to turn in your “man-card” – quite the contrary, actually.]  I am reminded of a segment out of a very popular book – you may have hear of it - the Bible, that I understand as applying to accountability.  It goes something like this;

“Put me on trial, Lord, Cross-examine me.  Test my motives and affections for I am constantly aware of your unfailing Love and I have lived according to Your Truth.”

This kind of vulnerability and accountability only works when you know those you are entrusting your ‘humanness’ to, have your best interest at heart.  Now there are two ways to do this – you can either throw money at it, or throw time at it… just pick one.

Coaching

This is the ‘throw money at the need’ solution.  I personally have never really been coached, in the sense that I have paid someone to2009-06-23_accountability_chickens keep my feet to the fire.  The one exception is that I participated in a joint weekly call with Tim Davis and about 30 LOs.  This was a great thing to participate in and may be an inexpensive way for folks that have never been “coached” to see what it can be like.  Typically, however, due to mere numbers of participants, the personally attention is diminished and you won’t get the full impact of coaching. [The other side is you don’t have to pay the full freight either.]  Two coaches that I trust are Tim Davis and Victoria del Frate.

Accountability Teams

This is the ‘throw time at the need’ solution.  A team can consist of 2-5 players – anymore and I think you are diluting the impact.  Five is an absolute maximum.  Here is why it takes time for this solution to unfold.  First, YOU – cowboy – have to be the kind of person that people respect, like and trust.  Building that awareness with people that are worthy of being accountable with is not easy and is an investment that can only mature over time [Law of Incubation].  For the record, I have attempted being accountable to folks that fell completely flat.  You will too.  Expect it.  You first accountability group will not likely be the final one you end up with.  So what – start anyway.  The second reason this takes time… chemistry and likemindedness are difficult to find and even harder to maintain.  Once you find it – you will know – and will be forever better.

In conclusion, here is a small exercise.

“I, [insert name here], commit to myself to seek out those that I respect, like, and trust.  I am doing this [not I will do this]  in order to begin identifying those that can help hold me accountable for the things I should be doing anyway for Pete’s sake. [Yes, you have to say, “for Pete’s sake” or it won’t work.]  I have made it this far in a battered industry – and dog-gone-it I owe it to my peers, my family, and myself to be better than I am today.”

Go get ’em Tiger!

[Batteries not included]

New Podcast by Tim Davis!

June 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

origmkcoahI just started a new free podcast for Today’s Loan Originator called The Originators Guide. Here is today’s episode and notes. Enjoy and go make a sale!

Setting proper expectations in today’s market

  1. You have to accept the current market
    1. It is what it is. Stop living in the past.
    2. Some will some won’t so what
  2. You have to be knowlegable about the current market, this builds your confidence
    1. This requires study from trusted sources
  3. You have to communicate clearly, politely, and with authority
    1. I like phone communication followed up with a written documents, then seared in with video
    2. Do Not talk industry language with clients. They will nod but they do not understand!
    3. Remember facts tell but stories sell. Use stories to illustrate your point!
    4. You MUST get EVERYONE’S buy in. the agents, the buyers and the sellers!
  4. Make sure you UNDERPROMISE and OVERDELIVER!
    1. This is no time for short rate locks to gain an extra 25
    2. Watch your good faith estimates!
    3. When you know that issues can come up build that into the time!
  5. You have to establish a frequent communication system
    1. You better be calling them long before they call you!

Becoming Nordstrom

June 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

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.dan4g

 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. dan22At 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.dan33 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.

Shout Out: Genuine Chris Finds A Sweet Twitter Angle

June 15, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

You Can Search Twitter Using Hash-Tags Too

Twitter Hash Tag

I’m not down with Twitter yet.

But as y’all know I’m a religious Bloodhound Blog reader, and “Genuine” Chris Johnson gave some Twitter goodies too tasty for me not to share.  Here’s the article:

The Case For Twitter, Really Fast

This just goes to show a few things:

1)  You don’t have to write an encyclopedia to author a great article.  If you can get your point across in 150 words – fantastic.

2)   If you haven’t hooked up your Google Reader yet, you’re missing the boat.  I won’t always be able to pass these nuggets along on the Top of Mind Blog.

3)  Givers get.  Chris Johnson is a guy I continue to respect more and more every time I read him.  Ultimately, I know that I’ll find a way to do business with him.  If you don’t think your work is getting noticed online, don’t give up.  Trust me – people are noticing.

Could I Please Get a Freaking Rate Lock Extension??? – Read At Your Own Risk!

June 12, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Let me be brutally clear. This blog post is not for the faint of heart, so read at your own risk…

Why do originators seem to be needing rate lock extensions these days? Is it because they were “caught off guard” with the huge rate spike? But then I ask myself if you are a mortgage professional, shouldn’t you have know that mortgage bonds were over bought and would spike at some point? I mean for goodness sake, even if you don’t subscribe to a rate alert service, you had to have been living in a cave to not know that the market is wildly unpredictable and has been for some time now, so why would any loan officer tell someone they can close in 30 days or worse yet float a rate or even lock for 30 days.

I mean come on gang! No one can possibly predict what conditions an underwriter is going to ask you for. No one can possibly predict what the HVCC appraiser will value the home at or even get the report turned in.

And for those originators who want to say that I don’t understand because clients are rate and fee shopping them, I do understand and the next client who ask you about rates and fess should be educated that that is the wrong question. The right question to ask is, “can you fund my mortgage loan before Jesus returns, or can you even fund it at all?”

That would be a great question for customers to ask, wouldn’t it?

At any rate, let me continue…

Now customers are ticked, loan originators are scrambling, and agents are screaming! There has to be a better way!

At some point in life you have to wake up and realize that having to put out a constant bunch of fires is no way to make a living. At some point we need to wake up and become proactive in our approach. We must set proper expectations with our clients, our agents, and ourselves.

But, Tim, you don’t understand! The clients and agents are pushing me to get it done!

Really? Who is leading who here?

At some point you have to stand up and take charge. Those who are with you will follow and those who aren’t will drift off into the hands of blown rate locks, delayed closings, and mortgage hell. Let them go.

What originators need to do is set proper expectations and here is the plan to do that…

  1. Recognize that the market has changed and you need to let your customers and partners know. Understand that you can not out guess underwriting these days.
  2. Educate them on doing 60 day contracts or 60 day rate locks. Give them horror stories of those who didn’t head this advice and how it cost them.
  3. Bring you confidence to the table. That means that you need to be polite but bold and willing to let the client walk if they won’t line up with the program.
  4. Establish a From app to closing system. Become proactive and make sure you are keeping everyone in the loop on the status. I recommend you call them so much that they want to change their phone number.

Becoming a proactive leader means that you set the rules for doing business with you and you understand that not everyone will jump on board. Some will, some won’t, so what.

Plan for the worse and hope for the best and you won’t get caught in rate lock extension hell.

Are you comitted, find out here

A Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

June 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I love systems. I love strategies. I love marketing and selling, but none of this will work on a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

And that my friend has more to do with how you react to circumstances, rather than the circumstances themselves. Zig Ziglar said that “attitude is everything” and he is right when you take a great attitude and put major action with it.

I have spent a lot of time studying the mental game of selling. How you feel about situations, how you react, and what you believe is possible will manifest itself into your life.

Don’t believe you can do business with the top agent in your city? You are right! Don’t believe you can make your goal? You are right!

But change what you believe and then you change your destiny!

Good news is hard to find. You have to search it out. You have to diligently seek out the positive. That is why I put together a short 21 minute audio called The Maximum Potential Originator. It is too large to upload to a blog, so I made a website for you to get a free copy.

My hope is that it will encourage and inspire you in your business, but that is up to you!

In the meantime you may enjoy a video of one of my favorite books…

Use Audio Interviews To Market To REALTORs

June 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I talked about how to use the principles of the Millionaire Real Estate Agent, when soliciting business from REALTOR partners, over on the Mortgage Cicerone.   I suggested that originators implement a 33-touch program for REALTOR partners so that you stay in front of them.  The Top of Mind Surefire system does an excellent job of co-marketing yourself, to both the REALTOR and the customer, post-closing.

What can you do, prior to closing a transaction, to demonstrate value to potential REALTOR partners?

I swiped the Loan Toolbox “Gift of Knowledge” idea and found a way to make it more relevant to your local market (and a helluva lot cheaper).

I like to conduct a 30-minute interview with a working, full-time REALTOR and distribute a CD of that interview it to my REALTOR referral base .   It’s much more effective than the Loan Toolbox Gift of Knowledge idea because it positions you as the interviewer.  Here’s how I do it:

1- Find interesting, successful real estate agents.  This is quite simple because so many of them are online now.  I belong the Cyber Professionals, Active Rain, and Wanna Network; many agents are sharing good ideas there.

2- Call the REALTOR and ask her if she’ll perform the interview.  It helps if that agents is not in your local market because she’ll feel comfortable that you arent’ “training her competition”.  Furthermore, “out-of-town experts” carry weight with local agents.

3- Prepare for the interview by sending the Agent-Star a list of 5-7 questions.  Explain that you’d like her have a 3-5 minute answer for each question.

4- Start off the interview with a brief background about how the Agent-Star got into the business and have her describe her success thus far.

5- Conclude the interview by asking the Agent-Star for an “actionable item” which agents could perform daily, that would dramtically improve their business.

6- I use Talk Shoe to record the interview (it’s free and pushes the interview out to iTunes).  Download and save the MP3 of the interview.

7- I use Disc Makers to produce the CDs.  It’s  simple to order and costs about $200 for 100 CDs (or $100 for 25 of them).  Expect a one week turnaround time.

8- Mail those CDs in a package with a “testimonial page” from other real estate agents.  You can solicit testimonials from your LinkedIn account (learn how to do that here).

Bulky packages are ALWAYS opened by real estate agents.  They love the interviews and will listen to them in their car.  The best thing about this idea is that they hardly ever throw those CDs away; they stay in the trunk of the car or on their desks.  It becomes a perpetual business card for you.

PS:  The more tech-savvy among us will suggest that you can just produce a podcast and email the link to everyone.  That’s not as effective as the CD.  Agents know that CDs cost money to produce so they won’t throw it away.  CDs are something they can share with other agents, too. (That’s called viral marketing)

When You Yell Nobody Hears You

June 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I got this little nugget from my favorite new 30-year old show:  CBS Sunday Morning.  More on that in a moment, but first… here’s the full quote:

“When you yell nobody hears you. The best communicators have to live and present themselves in a peaceful manner.”

What a great quote.  Who coined it might surprise you:  Rosie O’Donnell.  It was her response when asked what she learned from her time on “The View”.

Yes, this person inspired me today.

Yes, this person inspired me today.

All I have to do is rewind my life 40 hours for a healthy dose of perspective.  The details aren’t important, suffice it to say that I let my frustrations build and get the better of me.  In retrospect, was my rant justified?  Absolutely.  But did it serve any purpose?  In other words, did it contribute toward the solution I wanted?  The answer:  probably not.

Here’s the deal, and I know all of us can relate to this…  We place the same expectations onto other people that we typically place on ourselves.  Thus, we spend a lot of our lives disappointed and frustrated.  Imagine the life of a great politician.  No matter how “successful” you become, half the people are gonna love you and the other half can’t stand you.  But your job is to build consensus to the best of your human ability.

Do you find yourself losing your temper with underwriters nowadays?  Or appraisal firms (thanks HVCC)?  It’s natural to get pissed – I really don’t blame you.  But if your end goal is to bring your deals to fruition, the challenge becomes channeling your frustration into the solution, not against the wave of obstacles facing you.  Easier said than done, but for me, writing it down like this is going to help me apply O’Donnell’s wise words next time a frustrating, even unjust, situation arises.

Now, back to CBS Sunday Morning.  If you’re sick of the ambulance chasing and fear mongering we’re getting from our traditional media, I’d encourage you to DVR this outstanding news magazine each Sunday Morning.  Here on the East Coast, it comes on at 9am and lasts an hour and a half.  I’ve found their stories to be diverse, thought provoking and above all – educational.  If you like 60 Minutes, you’ll like the Sunday Morning edition even more.  Just without the rambling nonsense of Andy Rooney (God love him, he’s still doin’ it!).

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