A friend invited me to a networking group the other day. As I enjoy networking I eagerly accepted. Looking over the list of expected attendees I realized that there were very few here that I knew. Obviously a great opportunity to expand the people I know and the people that know me.
As a mortgage professional, what I sell is completely understood by the average individual out on the street. So how should I fill my 60-second ‘commercial’ that I knew I was going to be afforded at this event? I wanted it be fresh and interesting. No one really cares what today’s rate is, or what the 10 year treasury is doing. No one cares what is in the forefront of my mind, like what the Fed is doing to control loan officer compensation. That is my headache, not theirs.
“Good morning. My name is Michael Loeb and I’m with TGC Financial, and we are residential mortgage lenders.”
I had 55 seconds left.
I woke up in the middle of the night, a few hours before I was going to get a chance at possibly attracting new referral sources, and realized that there was nothing drastically new in mortgage lending. It was all pretty plain vanilla and has been for a while now (at least to the casual observer). That’s when I realized how much like selling ice cream my business was. Filling 60 seconds was a breeze after that.
Five years ago I could have a conversation with a realtor that went something like this:
"I’ve got a buyer; he’s unemployed and filed for bankruptcy yesterday. His wife works part time at the circus training elephants and gets paid peanuts. Is there anything you can do for them ?"
Well, yes. Yes there is, I have a niche product that is just perfect for them with Three Ring Lending. All I need from them is 2 years of tax returns, current bank statements, and paystubs. However, I need EVERYthing on those documents blacked out. No numbers can appear. It’s called a “No Income, No Asset, No Credit, No Fool in their right mind should lend these people money” loan. We can close it in 5 days.
"I was hoping for 3."
I got quite a few laughs, and every head was nodding. We all know what it was like back then.
Today’s conversation goes more like this:
"I’ve got a guy with an 802 mid score and half a million in the bank. Do you think we can get him a loan to purchase a $120K 3/2/2? He’s putting down $40,000."
Cross your fingers, I’ll see what I can do. Here, take this end of the Ouija board.
(It's actually not that bad, although some days it feels like it.)
Mortgage lending used to be Baskin Robins, 31 flavors. We had programs for just about every situation. Today it is more like Carvel soft serve. You have vanilla (conventional) and chocolate (FHA & VA). So when you’re selling the same product that everyone else has, how do you convince people your product is better? You don’t. You sell your product by differentiating yourself from your competitor. You have to add more value to that product than your competitor does, and the thing that adds the best value in a client's eyes is customer service.
Customer service. Everyone says they have it, yet so few people say that they ever experience it. Just ask anyone who has recently dealt with their cell phone company, cable company, utility, or a litany of other companies. I think that we are so used to dealing with people via various technologies that when we come face-to-face, or over the phone with a real living human being, our skills are found lacking.
It all comes down to honesty and open lines of communication, with every person involved in the transaction. You can buy all the bells and whistles you want, at the end of the day your clients most want to know that you care about them, not the profit potential they represent. They want to know that you see them as an individual, not a name on a file folder, not a loan in your pipeline. Not just a client that needs to be sold.
Customer service is a dying art form. Yet when you are selling the same product as the three other guys down the street, it is the only thing that will separate you from the pack.