Top of Mind Networks

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.

Meeting Realtors the Google Reader Way

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

I stayed a little late after work to record a quick video I hope you’ll enjoy.  By the way, I used Camtasia Studio 6 to record my screen motions along with the Microsoft Life Cam to record the voiceover.  It was pretty easy.

Until recently, we used Viddler to embed the videos into our blog, but like most “free” sites, there’s a catch:  advertising begins to be integrated once your videos reach a certain point of popularity.  Therefore, David moved our videos over to a service called Screencast.  Not sure what it costs, I’ll let David answer that in the comments.

Hollaback if you dig the video.  Oh, and if you think it sucks, go ahead and hollaback anyways.  I can take the heat!

Always Have a Contingency!

June 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


A few years ago, when the market was red-hot, real estate agents were forced to present their contact in the strongest light possible. Often times this included “no contingency contracts“. Of course, this is not always the best thing to do, but that was the way the market was back then.

Today is different. Much different. But, unfortunately, a lot of agents are still operating as if the market is still 2005. It amazes me at how many contracts we are seeing in our loan files without financing contingencies! This is crazy! The year 2009 is much different than 2005. Not only have the credit and lending markets severely tightened up the availability of funds, but we also have had many regulatory changes. The largest and dumbest change affecting everyone in the industry is the new HVCC appraisal rules. Not only does it affect lenders, but it affects agents, buyers, and sellers.

The HVCC dictates a hands-off policy for lenders and brokers. Thus, we can no longer choose the best appraiser for the neighborhood, talk to the appraiser, or even discuss comps with the appraiser. Because of this ridiculous HVCC rule, we are seeing a lot of bad appraisals. And one of the worst results can be a lower value when the market actually still supports the higher value.

Just this week, I have seen the following deals blow up and need to be re-worked:

1. Refinance – original appraisal was $560,000. We had to order new appraisal under HVCC rules. New appraisal value, $450,000!

2. Purchase – Purchase price: $440,000. Appraisal value: $410,000 – after waiting 12 days, the appraisal finally came in one day before the proposed settlement date!

3. Purchase – Purchase Price: $280,000. Appraised value: $265,000.

Agents, please do not exclude financing contingencies. It does not matter what any lender tells you – we all have to work under the same rules for conventional loans (and some lenders are starting to require HVCC for FHA now too!). This is a reality that is affecting all of us everyday. This is a reality that will affect you too!

Under the new rules, it is imperative that you put the financing contingencies back into contracts. To not have a financing contingency is gross negligence in your implied duties of care  with your written agency contracts. Please remember to protect your client!

And while we are talking about this subject, please go here, and let your voice be heard!

Real Estate Agents and The Pareto Principle

June 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

When joining with real estate agents to become mutual success partners it becomes apparent that it is a numbers game. I liken the process to a frog kissing contest, you need to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your princess and/or prince. You can avoid chapped lips from kissing too many frogs that never poof into something worthwhile if you apply the Pareto Principle to your efforts.

The Pareto Principle also known as the 80/20 rule, the ‘law of the vital few’ as well as ‘the principle of factor sparsity’ states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. It is a very common rule of thumb in business that 80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients. This principle certainly holds true in the real estate world.

A recent stat that I saw attributed to the National Association of Realtors was that 22% of the real estate agents do 90% of the business, now I’m not too sure about this stat because I really do not believe anything coming from NAR but in my town the 80/20 rule is very accurate. There are just over 10,000 real estate agents in what makes up the St. Louis area, of those it seems that about 20 percent of these agents close at least 6 transactions a year.

I have no idea where I picked up this next factoid but I always say that the average real estate agent has the ability to refer 6 transactions annually to a loan officer, the average real estate agent is NOT the 80 percenters! The lower end real estate agents are to be avoided at all costs, it is the upper 20 percent that is mine and should be your target.

I divide the 20 percent into two catagories, the upper 5% and the remaining 15 percent of the top producer. The upper 5% I refer to as Elephants and in another post I will discuss how to go Elephant Hunting, these heavy hitters are completely different than the majority not only in their production but how to attract them to you.

So why concentrate on the remaining 15 percenters? It is a simple numbers game, we have 10,000 real estate agents in my town, throw away the bottom 80% and you have 2,000 real estate agents who produce great to decent numbers. We are going to take and place to the side the top 5% of producing agents or 500 elephants, you are now left with 1500 frogs that need to be kissed.

If the average agent in this group can send you 6 transactions annually, which is extremely low but I use this number to build my business plan, then how many agents do you need to recruit to become your success partner? Say you want to close 100 mortgages via your real estate partners, that would translate into 16 real estate agent partners or in my case about 1% of the total frogs I am willing to kiss should be in my pond.

This is great news, only 1 percent of the total base of top real estate agents in your area can be sending you enough business to make a very comfortable living in our industry. Real estate agents can and do still control buyers, they have an influence within the transactions that can not be ignored. Best, is that every one of these top real estate agents recognizes that they need a solid lender partner in their business if they are to continue to be successful, it may as well be you.

Eventually, once you have built a reliable base of partners you will determine that these real estate agents will be able to refer directly and indirectly many more than 6 transactions per year to you, which means you will not need a large number of agents. Personally, I like having a large stable of good agents, the more I have the more I get. But, it is also reassuring that I have a small representative sampling of available producing real estate agents. Knowing that there is a large pool of frogs to replace a prince/princess that has reverted back to a frog allows me to work among my partners without fear. No fear is the key to your success in partnering with a real estate agent for mutual succss.

My advice is that you partner with with real estate agents who share your views, that you have commonalities with, that are willing to work your programs and systems, and who recognize your value. Remember you are looking to partner with a small number of available top producers, you must be selective in who you partner with. Find them, ask for the appointment and then interview them just as if they were a job applicant, because that is exactly what they are. You are looking to partner with a professional who will work with you and for you, does this not sound like a partner.

The mistake most loan officers make is that they want and go kiss all the frogs and think they will all turn into their needed prince/princess, huge mistake. This is your business; only partner with those that fit your business.

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)

Is This Your Business Plan?

June 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Is your business plan to go capture, maintain and increase business, or in today’s market has your thought process started to resemble this?


images3See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.

In digging really deep with several colleagues about what was driving their business the common theme with everyone was simple.  It is the same actionable items that every leader in every industry talks about.

 1.  Are your customers, partners and past client databases hearing from you or about you?

2.  Are your customers, partners and past client databases reading about you or learning about your business?

3.  Are your customers, partners and past client databases seeing you either in scheduled visits or the simple drop-in?

If the answer to any of these is “NO” then the question is this. 

Why would anyone do business “WITH” you if they do not know “ABOUT” you? 

As a trusted advisor in an industry your clients need your information when it is convenient and needed for them, not when needed or convenient for you.  How many times have you seen someone call partners when they need business, but not at other times?  After a few repeated events of this call for business and then no call for 6 months or so, might that partner feel somewhat used?

A systematic plan must be put into place where you are seen, heard, and spoken about.  Do you have a repeatable system that puts printed material in front of partners?  Do you have a repeatable system to call your needed partners?  Do you have a system that gets you in front of partners?


If the answer to any of these is NO, are you

 leaving your business to these three monkeys ?

Would you do business with someone like this?


In truth, we all get tied up in the day to day business of putting out the loudest or longest scream, we focus on the fires, in short we put effort working “IN” our business instead of “ON” our business.

I challenge you to take a moment to find the systems, plans and methods in which your clients can connect with you.  There is no time like the present to implement actionable items into your daily routine.

~To Your Success!

I Was Attacked By A Bird Today!

May 29, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

That was the title of the email I sent out to realtors a few years back. Why am I telling you this? Because it really happened, and it got me a lot of closed loans. Here’s what happened:

I was headed to the office around noon, and it was a beautiful day out. So I decided, what the heck, I’ll put the convertible top down. I smiled as my favorite song started playing through the speakers, the top was down, I leaned my arm on the door sill and thought about how perfect of a day this was.

That’s when I saw it… This small bird was sitting on top of the traffic light seeming to monitor all the cars approaching this 4 way street crossing. Suddenly, he leaps up and starts flying in an erratic pattern toward my car. No biggie right? WRONG! I was puzzled that he was now only about 30 – 40 feet from my car and was swooping lower and lower as he approached me head on – Almost like a crazy game of “chicken” – never mind the fact that he was moving, and I wasn’t.

20 feet, 15, 10, 5 and “swoosh” he zips by the top of my car at full speed near enough for me to have reached out and brushed him with my fingertips had I wanted to. I figured that he was either suffering from some bizarre bird-hangover or he was just making his point that he wasn’t intimidated by me and my 2,900 pound hunk of metal. Bold bird huh?

But he wasn’t finished… I turned my head forward again to watch for the light to turn. 3 seconds later I’m being assaulted from behind by this crazy Sparrow from hell! (Actually I’m pretty certain it was a mockingbird) He is hovering in the air about 5 feet from my head screeching like some sort of banshee and zipping down in mock dives!

Maybe he thought I was encroaching on his territory, or maybe he just didn’t appreciate the music I had chosen to listen to on such a beautiful day… I will never know. But just as quickly as he appeared, screeched, and dive bombed, he zipped away again. I craned my neck to see where he went, and just as I thought I caught a glimpse of this feathery devil, I felt a rain drop on my forehead.

No big deal, it’s just rai…. Wait a minute. What the heck? Why is this “rain drop” milky white and dripping down my…. OH NO HE DIDN’T! Apparently this was the parting shot from this bold little bird. If he couldn’t chase me away, he was going to show his disdain for me and my bright yellow car the best way he knew how! Sick…And I never carry napkins in my car either…

So what do you think? Interesting story right? It really happened, and yes, I ended up using my tie as a make-shift napkin that day. Better than driving around with bird droppings on your forehead! So how did this email get me 3 loans in about 2 hours?

At the time of this happening, I was quite active on My Space and with a real estate specific blog. I rushed back to the office after what we from this point forward shall refer to as “the incident” partly to blog about this, and partly because I had a sudden urge to dump my tingling head into a 100 gallon bucket of water and soap!

So I get back to the office, and I posted the blog exactly as you see the story recounted above. I posted onto MySpace, posted onto a few other select social networks, and then I wrote a short recap and emailed it to my realtor prospects within my auto responder. (This is a list of about 200 – 210 top producing realtors that had double opted in to my email newsletter)

I sent the email out, linked back to the blog post for the “expanded” story, and placed a quick “oh by the way” note at the end of the email. The results? Normally my emails get opened at a rate of about 40 – 45%. This email showed more than 70% had opened within 1 hour of sending the email.

My blog, MySpace page, and others had more than double the number of comments normally received, and my “oh by the way link” had showed more than 27 clicks in that same hour. What was my “oh by the way?” This was a link to a short 4 page email marketing guide I had customized for the real estate industry. Nothing more than a collection of marketing suggestions, ideas, creativity boosters, etc.

By the next morning, I had plenty of emails from agents laughing at the story, inviting me to lunch, and thanking me for the guide.

3 of the agents ended up in a conversation with me on the phone, and I landed a total of 3 loans referred within a 24 hour period… So the lesson of this story? If you want to get 3 loans in 24 hours, you need to get bird poop on your head… Ooops, wrong moral… Sorry about that.

The true moral is that standing out from the crowd, even in a seemingly unrelated fashion can get you noticed. I wasn’t suddenly a better loan officer for having been attacked by hell-bird. Not at all. But I had a funny enough experience to make the right agents laugh, notice my link, and in turn notice me. I’d been there emailing those agents for months up to that point.

It took a bird crapping on my head story to get their attention, but once I did, I closed plenty of loans because of it. 1 of the agents that referred me a loan that day became a regular, and we went on to do plenty of business together.

This is the power of networking, whether it be in person, or online. My MySpace page, my blog, my email list. All of these tools served as my distribution channel. Whether you have a funny story to tell, or a useful article to share, you need to expand your reach. Be friendly, be helpful, be consistent. Now have a great weekend and watch out for those angry birds!

Dial Out to Bring Business In

May 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 



When I tell people, “Dial Out to Bring Business In”, I am often asked, “Are you serious?”


And the answer is simple….if you are not on the phone already and you are in your office, you need to pick up the phone and talk to SOMEONE!!!! So in short, YES!!!


–The Challenge–


Take 1 hour per day and call current and prospective referral partners. If you don’t, someone else will!  The calls should genarally be between 8:30-9:30.  Most people are more energetic in the morning and the daily fires have not blown up yet.


You should be able to do a minimum of 8 per hour if done properly.  That leaves 7.5 minutes per call which really is a LONG time to talk.  That little hour means you can/should talk to 40 referal partners per week.  





Hi _(referral partner name)_, this is Derek from Territorial Mortgage do you have a minute for business? (ask this so as not to interrupt their schedule…they may have clients. Also this will intrigue them.)


Great, I’m actually prospecting and wanted to follow up with you to see if you have any clients or transactions you may need help with or anyone you know that may need a second opinion.  (You have now been completely honest. You are calling for business and if you are honest ABOUT your business my estimate is your service can IMPROVE their business.)


—let them respond with Yes/No/maybe….


If yes, take it from there, if NO then…(Drop a value add here such as)



 Great, I have some flyers for the new $8000 FTHB tax credit. If you have any questions just let me know and I will be happy to answer them for you and your clients. I will drop them off by _(be specific so you can BEAT the expectation)_.



Would it be ok if I followed up with you in about a month?  (Why a month? My guess is if you REALLY look at your potential partners you can come up with a list of 150-200.  It will take you a month to get back around to the first call.)




_(insert partner name)_, is there anything else i can help YOU with right now.

You ask this to show that you care, but also they may have other questions and you open the door to THEIR conversation.

Then end with.


Thanks (insert partner name), have a great day!




Now, should you get their VM I leave the following message.


Hi (insert name), this is Derek from Territorial Mortgage.  I was calling with a business question.  Please give me a call when you have a moment. 


That will get their curiosity up but not give away your intent. 


There are the two forms I use to track my calls, both are easy spreadsheets.  Feel free to drop me an email and I will be happy to share.


The old saying, “build it and they will come” should be “CALL AND THEY WILL ANSWER!”


To your success!

Video: Just Do It!

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

camcorderStatistics show that Americans will spend 4 hours watching television, 3 hours listening to the radio and 14 minutes reading magazines. Hmmm and you were wondering why you were getting such a low open rate on your emails to your database? Facts are facts and here’s another one for you…

The Online Publishers Association published a report on consumer behavior and video advertising. They stated that out of 80% of viewers who watched an online video ad, over half took some type of action.

And then, of course, there’s the YouTube phenomenon, which I know you don’t need me quoting statistics for you to trust, that YouTube proves, video is the way to go!!

But gosh, where does a Mortgage Professional begin? How does one dip their toe into the icy cold water, so to speak, when it comes to implementing video into one’s marketing strategies?

Start simply! And most importantly, forget about trying to be perfect!

webcamNo doubt about it, the majority of folks like to watch, rather than read! Plus, video can save you thousands of marketing dollars and can have a much farther outreach than any postcard mailing or email blast can ever have!

The fun comes in when one starts to consider the endless creative avenues a Mortgage Professional can travel down when using video as a marketing medium.

Here are just a few ideas from video-leveraging-newbies, using varying levels of video technology to reach out to their target audiences:

Database Biz-Dig

Remind your past customers why they did business with you in the first place and why they should refer their friends and family to you now. Sharing how you’ve been able to help your clients in the current market shows you’re still in it to win it, that you’re a reputable, knowledgeable advisor and that you’re still doing what’s right for your borrowers. My client, Jimmy Sgambelluri out of Newport News, VA uses a simple, but direct approach, no fluff, just a webcam perched on his laptop and his “tell it like it is” demeanor…

Meet-n-Greet Wow Factor

Pre-record a quick vid to further solidify your newly formed relationship with your borrowers. After your initial phone conversation, send them a greeting that shows who you are, be transparent, be YOU! Here’s just one example from a client of mine, Joe Gonzalez out of Allentown, PA. He’s using Think Big Work Small’s platform to create a few special effects…

Train to Gain Leads

Take a topic that you know your target audience struggles with, needs assistance on, needs to know for their own good, etc., and put a short training video together to pique interest and spur further inquiries. Here’s one of a series of ten training vids that I developed with the help of a professional, (Brandon Hamilton), green screen, hot lights, the works…

Whichever what you slice it, video advertising, vlogging & vmailing is the marketing wave to catch. There is absolutely no need to take a “Jaws” size wave right out of the gates. C’mon, it’s not like every Mortgage Pro out there is “hanging ten.” It’s like everything else, only a few, only the brave, only the adventurous will take the plunge and those are the few that will continue to grow their business, that everbody else will dub, “lucky.” So, in the words of Clint Eastwood, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya punk?”

I Just Got a Lead from YOUR Referral Partner

May 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Ever lose a deal to a competitor? We all have. It is part of being in business. You win some, you lose some…BUT, you have to ask yourself WHY did I lose this deal?

For most loan officers it is because the RELATIONSHIP was never really a TRUE RELATIONSHIP at all, you just thought you had a relationship. Technology makes that even worse. We live in a world of set it and forget it. I will just put you on a drip campaign or send you a friend request on facebook. I may even send you a birthday card or just maybe a Christmas card if I feel like it or I think my budget can handle it, But pick up the phone and call…oh no that is not for me. Surely you will call me if you need a loan, won’t you?

I love automation. I love technology. I love it from the point that it can create leverage for today’s loan officer. Do some videos, set up a follow up system, get your contacts into surefire and whamo, you got it made…or do you?

At some point you need to develop a true relationship with your clients and referral partners. You need to call them. You need to meet with them. You need to make sure you help them with what they need and that requires personal communication via phone and in person! My wife always said that our volume went up when I hit the streets. She was right. Why? Because I actually left the cave and made friends. I talked to my agents face to face. I found out what THEY were concerned about and offered value based on what they felt value was to them.

Sometimes we need a little perspective and FOCUS

So my challenge to you is when was the last time you met face to face with your agents? I hope it wasn’t too long ago, because I may have just gotten a lead from YOUR referral partner.

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