In the mortgage industry and really any industry that is reliant upon referral business there is this question... should I hunt or should I farm? For those of you who just went WHAT??? Let me expound on the concept and discuss it further.
There are two approaches to building business and a pipeline within the mortgage industry. You can be a hunter which is someone who actively purchases and pursues leads "hunting" down and out hustling the other hunters for your prey or you can choose to be a farmer which is someone who builds and tends relationships who will hopefully bear fruit allowing you to eat even when game is scarce! In other words are you buying leads and chasing them down for business or are you working off of referrals from partner relationships.
The absolute pros of being a hunter are many. A couple that I can touch on here are that you have immediate gratification which leads to a sales pipeline that is fuller, faster and more robust than the farmer initially. You also can focus more of your time on the focused activity of generating money from your pipeline right away. Yet there are cons with this approach also. For instance while during an up housing market the hunter may have many leads to follow but what happens when the market takes a down swing? Also I would point out that often the people who you are doing a loan for often are individuals who after you are gone won't remember you or refer much business. There is a real lack of connection here with this approach and as many in my industry know this can lead to starvation pretty quickly!
That brings us to the farming method which focuses on relationship development and building a lasting referral network. The true pros of farming is that not only do you develop lasting relationships with local businesses but you also become part of your communities make up. Through this method you in essence create top of mind awareness of your place in the market and continually build trust among your contemporaries and others within the community. Ultimately this leads to a place where even within a down market you are able to sustain your business and survive the lean times. The cons of this method are few in my eyes but here are a couple. It takes time... yes that most precious commodity time! If you are not prepared for this both mentally and financially this can impact your life in a significant way. Additionally if your employer or your business is unable or unwilling to accommodate for this ramp up time then you will find yourself frustrated and struggling early on.
My analogy of the farming method and hunting method within the mortgage industry or real estate industry are the following:
During an up economy hunting can be a very effective and profitable method! Like the hunters on the Great Plains during an up economy you can aim in almost any direction and bag yourself a 4000 pound buffalo. These choice clients you barely have to work to find and are easily brought in. Yet like the hunters on the Great Plains a down economy will make game more scarce and hunting much more difficult! This in turn leads to the hunters searching farther and wider from their base camps and as the game continues to dwindle the farther the hunter must travel ultimately leaving only a few hunters standing and many dead and starved in the wilderness. Hence why after the crash in the real estate markets in 2007 to 2009 there was massive attrition within the loan officer and Realtor ranks. Just within the loan officer ranks there are only a third of us who have survived and remain today.
As in the real world endeavor of farming building and farming a network can be just as frustrating at first. Yet if you understand this going in and remain diligent you can create a sustainable and robust farming network that can feed you even in the lean times. See when you first start working the farming method you plant all sorts of crops. Some of those crops are like the strawberry plant which at first bears many fruit but at times it is substandard which is still okay because it's fruit you can cultivate and feed from. Like with the real crop though strawberries slowly bear less and less fruit then begin the cycle again so you cannot rely on just early sources to bear you continual fruit. Then others are like the potato. Like the potato you plant it, water it, tend it, and yet no crop is visible and nothing seems to come to harvest. Yet like the potato by cultivating the ground tending your relationships it's growing unseen from your eye establishing deep and robust roots. Then a sign of life appears a small green stalk grows upward but again no visible harvest. What you don't see is that when you do begin harvesting these potato's you find that out of sight there are multiple potato's to be harvested from just one small stalk. Also those that are harvested can also produce further plants with similar results allowing you to harvest and eat during lean times.
For the record I have conducted business both as a hunter and a farmer and find that I personally prefer the farming method. Don't get me wrong you will have to invest time and effort into both. There is no eight hour work day with the farming method as you make yourself available to your network and their clients at most anytime. Yet by mixing in a bit of hunting with your farming efforts you can survive those early days of building your farming network waiting for referrals and still conduct business and thrive not just survive!
Word to the wise... do not become to enamored with one approach or the other as with anything if you neglect it and don't tend to it your skills and your sources can dry up and leave you back at square one! Remember to continue following up with your referral sources and looking to add to your network regularly and don't fall out of practice hunting every once in awhile to keep your skills honed and ready.