Top of Mind Networks


April 28, 2011 by · 1 Comment 

Did you happen to see the South Park episode when Cartman inherited a million dollars and bought an old, failing amusement park?

Yep, he called it Cartmanland. And once he bought the place, he opened the theme park up to… nobody. Don’t you see, this way he could ride all the rides he wanted… and no lines! Well Cartmanland worked out great for a while, but eventually Cartman started to realize owning a theme park required maintenance… and security. But he didn’t have any money for those things because he’d spent the entire million buying the park.

So in order to raise the money he needed for repairs and upkeep, Cartman decided to let two – and ONLY two – people buy tickets into Cartmanland each day. Of course, this scarcity threw people into a buying frenzy. What was a failing amusement park only weeks before suddenly began drawing throngs of ravenous fans. Cartman hadn’t changed a single thing except limiting the number of people who could buy from him.

It’s actually a funny episode and you can watch it here:

Warning, it does contain some pottymouth humor. But it teaches us a solid business lesson.

We really shouldn’t try to do business with “everybody”. Instead, we ought to figure out who we work best with and who inspires us. Do you enjoy working with first time home buyers? Why not specialize in serving that market? Or maybe you’re awesome at originating reverse mortgages?

In sales, I think most of us inherently want more. More clients. More revenue. More success. Right?

Now that we’re 8 years into this ride, I think our clients like knowing that Top of Mind provides them that edge… and that we’re still a relatively well kept secret in the mortgage marketing world. And you know what? When you genuinely stop trying to sell “everybody”, your clients will realize and appreciate that they really ARE valued. I’d have bolded that for effect but for some reason our blog doesn’t seem to like the new IE 9. Oh well. Point made.

Again, if you don’t like potty humor don’t watch that episode. Most of it is pretty stupid.

Building an Email Marketing List

December 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Image representing Seth Godin as depicted in C...
Image by via CrunchBase

As old school as it might sound, there are few things more important to an Internet marketer than a good email list. Email is still a powerful way into consumers’ wallets.

What makes email marketing so important and how do you build the list?

The Importance of Email Marketing

The first step to success with email marketing is to understand that it’s important.

The simple fact is that the majority of Americans are in their email the majority of the day. It’s as essential as the phone in the business world and as common as the TV in the home. So, if you want to talk to consumers there is no surer place to find them than by email.

Add to this the fact that you are likely to get there attention, even if for a fraction of a second as they scan their inbox. Try to get that guarantee from TV, magazine, billboard, or other advertising medium. You can’t even get that assurance from website advertising.

What’s more, that bit of attention is guaranteed to be exclusive–just you and the customer.

How to Build an Email List

The first step is to drive acceptance. This means you need people (preferably prospects) to opt-in to your email marketing. There are a variety of ways, but here are a couple that work consistently.

• Prominently display an option for email updates on your website or blog

  • Include a link to sign up for your email newsletter in your email signature
  • Use Twitter to pitch signing up for emails. Don’t forget an incentive (special content)
  • Buy aged Internet leads and have your initial contact encourage them to sign-up

At every turn in your marketing plan, in every contact with customers, and on each follow-up ask for their permission to receive emails from you.

In the (paraphrased) words of Seth Godin, once you have their permission to market to them you, you need only to find something to sell them.

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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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Lending Tree Predictably Changes Pricing Model

November 18, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

If you and I have ever talked candidly about the lead-gen model, you know how opinionated I can get at the prospect of placing your customer acquisition eggs into someone else’s basket.

Well the sharp folks over at LeadCritic reported on some impending pricing changes being implemented by Lending Tree, and they come as absolutely no surprise over here.  Here’s a direct quote from their article:

While I am on the topic of LendingTree, I might as well mention that they removed their closed loan fee from their fixed filter leads. No more will lenders need to pay their hefty fee for every closed loan, but that does not mean the leads just got cheaper or your ROI is going up. Instead the up front fees went up to compensate for the change. Prices are now range from $20 to $100 per lead. Now let us not forget that you are paying for a long form lead, so with the premium prices you are getting additional data and hopefully a consumer with strong intent to borrow. This puts LT in a the same boat as their competitors with regards to upfront risk of buying a lead. Prior to this change a lender would have no problem paying a fee for a loan they profited on, but now to pay a premium with out the guarantee of closing the lead makes LT look a whole lot riskier for the new lenders coming aboard their network.

1)  Lending Tree is abandoning the fee their clients pay when they close a loan (I’ve heard this fee can range from $700 to more than $1,000!).

2)  Instead, they are increasing their fees on the front end.  LeadCritic reports a range from $20 to $100.  My guess is that for any type of quality, you’ll pay closer to $100 than $20, and that lead is STILL being sold to your competitors at the exact same time.

So let’s analyze the motivation behind this change, shall we?  Do you think Lending Tree’s pricing change was created to benefit them or their clients?  I’ll go out on a limb here and postulate that this pricing change will ultimately benefit Lending Tree.  With the prospect of higher mortgage rates in 2010, it stands to reason that a) refinance activity will drop off a cliff and b) their volume of quality leads will decrease.  The question becomes:  how will Lending Tree adjust for this lost revenue?  Better product or higher prices?

I’ll finish this article with a quote I wrote in a July 2009 article entitled “My 12 Month Outlook On the Mortgage Industry and Beyond”:

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?

I think we have our answer to that question.  Again, if you are a lead gen shop and you’re doing a poor job deepening relationships on the back end and you think you’ve got things figured out – chances are good that you’ll struggle mightily in 2010 and beyond.  Call us at Top of Mind and begin the shift from purchased leads to organic business.  It won’t happen right away, but if you make minor changes in your marketing investments and behaviors today, you’ll look like a genius in 2011 and beyond.

Whoever Controls the Glengarry Leads Wins the Cadillac

October 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

GlenGarry Leads

Blake & the Glengarry Leads

If you’ve never seen Glengarry Glen Ross, this article makes little sense.  Suffice it to say – it’s the greatest salesman’s movie ever made.  The plot revolves around a small office of high-pressure real estate salesmen – think Boiler Room with an A-list cast – and the “Glengarry Leads”.  These are the can’t miss leads, all wrapped up in a cute little ribbon.  Leads that cannot be “wasted” on non-closers.  Grown men would beg, borrow and even steal for exclusive access to the Glengarry Leads.

Shelley The Machine

Shelley "The Machine" Levene

In the mortgage industry, there are lots of Shelley Levene’s.  They’re the shops that solely depend on Lending Tree and other lead providers to fill their pipeline every month.  Make no mistake – it’s a model, and it certainly works.  For a while, that is.  But at a certain point, these lead-gen shops will fail.  In my opinion, you’ll see a lot of them kick the bucket toward late 2010.  They are one-trick ponies.  So long as someone else can line up “sits” for them, they’re really good at “closing”.  But as soon as the deal’s done, they’re onto their next sit.  It’s a transactional model and it does not scale but for a very select few (think Quicken Loans or Di Tech).

Ricky Roma

Ricky Roma

Enter Ricky Roma.  This is the salesman who’s name tops the leaderboard every month.  Ricky doesn’t care about the Glengarry Leads.  He doesn’t need them because he’s able to connect with people on a personal level and establish relationships.  Now I’m not saying I agree with Ricky’s ethics here.  I’m just trying to illustrate a point:  Ricky Roma can work anywhere and sell anything.  His relationship skills allow him to create what all of us are looking for:  a residual income stream.  Roma remains cool as a cucumber throughout Glengarry’s 100 minutes of chaos.

One of my personal objectives for 2010 is to help as many Shelley Levenes as possible transform into Ricky Romas.  The good news is we’ll have a head start – all Shelley Levenes have a client database from which to start.  All Shelley Levenes have aged leads that represent future opportunity.  If you run a lead gen mortgage shop, there’s a good chance you’ll be getting a call from me in 2010.  In the meantime, I hope this flashback causes you to think about the impending mortgage environment.  The refinance market will dry up.  Rates will exceed 7%.  I’m referring 2010 as the Year of Purchase Business.

The truth is:  those cherry Glengarry Leads actually reside within your client database.  You know it.  I know it.  The next step is tapping into it.  Will you thrive in the Year of Purchase Business?

Build Confidence, Gain Credibilty, Get Business…

October 20, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

origmkcoahToday’s consumer is looking for an expert. They want a loan officer they can place their trust and confidence in to get their deal done.

The question is…Are you that loan officer?

Do you have the confidence you need to win today?

Do you have the credibility within your market?

Do you have influence in the purchase money market with agents?

Listen to my interview I did with a loan officer who wanted all of these things and more and how he discovered how that writing a book would open many doors in his business. You will be blown away, encouraged, and inspired!

Click here to listen to the Power Marketing Podcast on How Writing a Book will change your business!

Dust Off the Old Prospects and Clients for Results

October 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

sales leads
Image by TheTruthAbout… via Flickr

One of the biggest killers of mortgage deal opportunity is our own “gut.” We think the next phone call, email, or lead is going to be the one. We think new is better and old is lost. However, the statistical reality continues to prove our “gut” wrong.

This is why staying top of mind on past prospects and clients is critical. Those old leads in your database are nearly twice as likely to close.



This is the number one cause of friction in your mortgage deals. Customers are simply anxious and indecisive about the process. Face it the mortgage process is not like buying a book on Amazon. It is a little more complex and is signing you up for writing big checks every month.

This is going to make that first call more of a therapy and trust building session than a closing sales call.

If you are doing things right (using mortgage CRM and automated marketing) the aged leads in your database have been given the time and education to push through this resistance.


Okay, so they have a little anxiety. Add to that the fact that they have no idea who you are, now you have no chance to close.

Relationships are important, especially in sales. That is why past prospects and clients that have heard your name and seen your marketing are likely to be more responsive to your pitch.

The better these touches are over time the more likely you are to generate sales from past prospects and clients. By better I mean they should be varied and as personal as possible. Too often even the best of us get lazy and have email blasts do all the work–that doesn’t feel like a relationship. However, email most of the time and an occasional call or handwritten note does.


A cold call is probably the point-in-time when a mortgage broker is the farthest away from a trusted position with a prospect. Why then would you think that the next lead in the door is going to be the hottest?

Fact is that trust is earned with time and experience. Consequently, your dusty old prospects and client leads are your hottest prospects. Again, assuming you have touched base with them a few times along the way.


This one is a little secret, one Mark Green talks about as a motivation for starting Top of Mind, consistency is a killer sales weapon. You see most mortgage brokers aren’t consistent. We’re probably all a little bit ADHD. We jump from one shiny object (lead) to the next. Unfortunately, what the customer sees is a guy or gal that doesn’t follow-through.

Now to the smart mortgage broker this smells of opportunity. With a little consistency your database of clients will never have a question as to who their mortgage broker is, and new prospects will experience the diligence they will get after the sale.

Don’t forget the gold in your database–dust of those names, emails, and phone numbers and start closing more loans.

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500 Leads in August!

July 16, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

BHAG, Big Hairy (Fill in the Blank) Goals! You gotta have some BHAG in your business plan because if you shoot for the Moon and miss you may just end up in the STARS. One of my BHAG is for the month of August 2009 and it is to generate 500 home buyer leads.


Of course for the obvious reason, to close more loans, create a security blanket around my business, and because I can. For the life of me I can not remember who I heard this from so any help would be appreciated; ‘it is the person with the largest database that wins’. The more people who want to buy a home that knows me and listens to me the more business I will close.

I feel that to be truly successful as a loan officer and/or real estate agent you have to master two things and two things only, Lead Generation and Database Management. If you can generate and capture a relevant number of people who have raised their hands and told you that they are considering buying a new home in the foreseeable future and you communicate to them consistently providing worthwhile information and valuable call to actions you will have a steady stream of renewing business.

In his book; “The Millionaire Real Estate Agent’, Gary Keller goes into great depth regarding this subject, to paraphrase, he tells his audience, ‘if you don’t believe you are in the lead generation business….then today is a good day to quit’. I take some literary license in what I just quoted but that it is what I got out of it. He also talks about lead conversion ratios, for leads similar to what I am generating Mr. Keller states I should expect a 1 in 50 monthly conversion ratio. If I want to close 10 loans every month from my pool of leads I need to stay in touch with at least 500 people who will be buying a new home in the near future. These are people who contacted me, who asked for information, who asked I pre-qualify or pre-approve them for a loan, these are future home buyers who have invited me into their home buying process.


I place myself where the greatest number of potential home buyers gather, on the Internet and at the homes they are interested in. I think we have all heard that 87% of all home buyers start and maintain their search for information and to view homes on the Internet. But, did you also know that 68% of all Internet home buyers once they find a house they like on the internet will drive by that house? 

I put myself on the Internet in the most used Internet sites for listings and information,,, ActiveRain, and many of the other most used listing web sites, blog sites, and social networking sites. I also put myself at about 100 to 150 listed homes, a small but significant portion of all listed homes in my area.

Through what I refer to as a joint venture lead generation and marketing program I maintain a decent number of real estate agents and their listings to create a synergy that produces significant volumes of leads for both of us. In fact, I have a title for my program, RSVP which stands for Reciprocal Success Valued Partnership.

Using listings as bait to draw out potential home buyers I offer a call to action that drives home buyers to contact me, contact the real estate agent, call into a message center to request additional information, or go to my web site to fill out a pre-qualification questionnaire.

For every 50 listings I have within the system I average about 4.5 leads every day, convert that to a monthly number and it is 135 leads per month for every 50 listings. I also do a few other lead generation programs that produce far lesser numbers, added all together about 1.3 per day, but its having the ability to partner with a real estate agent and utilize their listings that creates the most leads.

My List of Tools

  • Real Estate Agents with Listings
  • Valued Call to Actions
  • Website, Landing Page, Squeeze Page
  • Call Capture and a call back system
  • Individual Listing Web Site creator
  • Auto Responder and Contact Management System

In upcoming blog posts I will discuss each tool, how I use them, specifics and generalizations.

500 Leads in August!

To reach 500 leads in August using the ratios mention earlier I estimate I need about 186 listings, as I write this blog I have a current inventory of 112 listings that are using my individual listing web site program. I am also recruiting several new real estate agents, agents in certain areas of town where I want a better presence and who have a large portion of their listings in the sweet spot of our home buying market, the First Time Home Buyer price range. This week alone I have interviewed 10 real estate agents and next week I have 8 interviews set up, so far.

I want to carry an inventory of 2o0 to 250 listings which if statistics hold true will easily produce 500 leads in the month of August. If I can’t hit these numbers, at least I tried to reach the moon and at worse will need to settle for being among the stars. There’s always next month.

Show Up or Get Shown Out

June 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

j0439345You’ve likely heard it a dozen different ways from a variety of managers, peers and mentors throughout your sales career…

Get to a networking event!
Attend a Realtor Association meeting!
Join Rotary or your local Chamber!
Start up your own Mastermind group!

…and the commands to “get out of your cave” goes on.

One of the first things I ask new clients who tell me that they aren’t generating enough leads or aren’t finding any new referral partners is, “Are you showing up or are you waiting to be shown out?” Harsh? Maybe. Answers whether you’re still in the game or not? Yup!

As I go back over thousands of coaching notes and hundreds of hours of recorded coaching sessions, the answer to why some Mortgage Professionals just seem to be more happy in their careers and find it easier to generate leads and opportunities than others, becomes strikingly evident. The simple fact is that those who are willing to show up in the world on a consistent basis reap all the rewards.

mastermindI can site case against case against case when a client has finally given in and taken the plunge to show up to an after hours chamber mixer, a Women’s Business Council meeting, a event, a Realtor Association meeting, a neighborhood block party, a poker game, a Red Cross charity event, an attorney-friend’s golf tournament…where the door to opportunity suddenly sprang open and then WHOOOOSH… a domino effect of other opportunities, more invites, more new contacts and more business would light a new path for my clients.

And NO, it had nothing to do with their DISC profile, how conversationally savvy they were, or whether they wore Armani or jeans and a polo shirt. What did make the difference was that they were ready to put away all of their preconceived notions about what they were going to show up to and embrace the fact that they were not fortune tellers and would never be able to predict the outcome of one event from another. They just started SHOWING UP.

meetupYou may be thinking, ‘Hey, wait a minute, you’re not trying to tell me that they didn’t have anything in hand, weren’t scripted or prepared are you???’ Yes, in many cases, that’s exactly what I am telling you. The majority of the time, the reason why Mortgage Professionals are NOT getting out in the world is because they find themselves getting stuck trying to come up with the perfect elevator speech, or designing a great flyer to introduce their FTHB seminar or trying to find or anticipate the BEST place to show up to and so…guess what happens? They don’t go anywhere.

If this sounds familiar to you, do yourself a favor, do something radically different. Don’t overly research where you are going to show up, don’t bring anyone with you, remove all expectations from your mind, refrain from having an agenda, tote nothing along, except your biz cards, be open, smile at folks and simply show up with a curious and observant mind.42-15655152

Here is a list of “just show up” places that can all be researched on the Internet. Make it a goal to find, schedule and attend at least one event a week in the month of July.

  • City council meetings
  • Charity/Fund raising  events
  • Library hosted events
  • Chamber, Rotary, Toastmasters
  • Mom’s clubs events
  • gatherings & events
  • Speed networking
  • Local business grand opening events
  • Business expositions
  • Presentations/Trainings put on by other types of Professionals
  • College campus events

Sound too simple? Don’t think it will work? Ignore those thoughts! That’s just your brain trying to trick you into sticking with your old, comfortable habits. (the ones that aren’t generating any new opportunities) Resist, resist resist! Be rebellious, do something different, take a risk and SHOW UP ANYWAY. I double-dog dare you!

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.

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