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Losing Business: How to Be Irreplaceable

In the mortgage industry, it used to be that customers collaborated more closely with loan officers from the very beginning of the process. Once the conversation started, LOs could feel confident that prospective borrowers wouldn’t likely leave for another lender. Now, with the open access to information available to consumers on the Internet, people looking for mortgages are shopping multiple lenders before making their purchasing decisions.

It can be helpful for us to ask a simple question. If we’re losing potential customers to the competition, we might begin asking, “What went wrong?” Why do consumers choose one lender over another? When you ask people directly, they will offer a myriad of reasons: the other lender had a better rate, the other lender was closer, and so on. But answers such as these don’t really get to the heart of why we’re losing business. Might there be a deeper reason why customers are dropping out of the pipeline?

Here’s a phrase I’ve always loved: people may never remember what you so or what you do, but they will always remember how you make them feel. I think that, more often than not, the reason organizations lose business is because they fail to establish that emotional connection with their customers. It’s easy to leave when there are no hurt feelings, but it’s a lot harder when there are real relationships involved. A competitor could offer the best rate in the market, but if you have a close enough bond with your customers, they’ll pick you every time. At the heart of it, losing business is not about rates or geography; it’s all about how you make people feel.

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Leadership Means Owning the Failure

As in every industry, leaders in the mortgage industry eventually run into some kind of setback. It could be lost revenue; it could be problems with compliance; it could be regional economic challenges. Whatever it is, it’s only naturally when these things occur to start looking for the cause. Who’s to blame for what has happened?

The first thing we often do is look to our employees. Which employees were responsible for the problems? If we replace or reprimand those employees, the problems should sort themselves out, right? Well, not necessarily. We typically think of monitoring employee performance as a means of understanding how well our employees are doing. What if, instead, we thought of it as a metric for ourselves? How well are we doing as leaders of those employees?

Leadership means owning the failure. When things go wrong, we don’t just seek out an employee to blame. We ask what we should have done differently as leaders. Perhaps we didn’t provide enough training; maybe we didn’t give our employees the right incentives; it’s possible that we didn’t put the right people in the right positions. Whatever it is, we as leaders necessarily play a role in every failure.
Next time we run into another setback, let’s think about the incident as a learning moment—not just for our employees who were involved but also for ourselves. How can we set up our employees for success the next time around? This is the kind of question the best leaders will be asking.

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Great Leaders Never Stop Improving

I spend a great deal of time and effort writing, speaking, consulting, and coaching one single topic. It’s something everyone in the mortgage industry (and everywhere else, for that matter) wants for their businesses and their lives. It’s the goal for which we’re all striving—the reason why all of us get up in the morning. Yes, that’s right. I’m talking about “success.”

It comes natural to us, I think, to frame everything in terms of how it will or will not help us achieve success in our lives and in our work. However, I think the way we talk about success sometimes detracts from what it really means to be successful. All too often, we see success as the summit of some great mountain we are climbing. Once we’re there, we’re done.
We have an obsession in our society with arriving.
We finish the college degree, and we’ve arrived. We don’t have to learn anymore.
We get the job, and we’ve arrived. We don’t have to focus on professional development anymore.
We get married, and we’ve arrived. We no longer have to impress our spouses.
Great leaders never stop improving. They know that success is not a destination; it’s a way. Success is a way of moving in the world. We can always become more successful, but we can never really “achieve success.” Success is not the summit of the mountain—success is rising to the next ridge.
So, what about you? How do you think about success in your organization? Are you pushing your people to “achieve success,” or are you pushing them to “become more successful.” This small distinction can make a world of difference in what you accomplish as you move forward…

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Your Best Prospects Are Your Past Customers

As a coach and consultant to leaders in the mortgage industry, I get to have conversations with people in a lot of different organizations. One of the things I’ve discovered over the years is that the organizations that have demonstrated the greatest growth are often those who place the greatest amount of emphasis on sales. These organizations spare no expense to give their originators the resources they need to go out and bring in new business. Revenue is the fuel that keeps a company going, and the best companies develop originators that are good at filling up the tank.

That being said, I have noticed a trend in some organizations that works against revenue generation. While originators may be great at going out and generating new business, they often miss opportunities by neglecting past customers. In recent years, technology in the mortgage industry has enabled most companies to keep thorough databases of their past customers. And yet, many loan originators still fail to mine these databases for leads on new business.

There are essentially two ways of getting business: waiting for customers to come to you or going out and finding them. Most originators wait for inquiries from home buyers, but the best originators will maintain relationships with previous home buyers and leverage that relationship into more lead generation.

So, what about you and your organization? Do your originators look at past customers as sources for referrals? Your past customers can turn out to be your best prospects, because you’ve already laid the groundwork of building the relationship. And once you have that trust, everything else will fall into place.

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The Power of Specialization

Take a moment and think of the top athletes of all-time in a few different sports. If you’re a sports fan, this may come easy to you. But, even if you’re not, you should recognize some names. In basketball, you may mention Michael Jordan or Lebron James. In baseball, you may mention Babe Ruth. You might mention Michael Phelps, Tiger Woods, and Muhammed Ali in swimming, golf, and boxing. But, for the most part, it doesn’t matter which athlete you mention; they will have on thing in common—all of them have excelled at only one sport.

Muhammed Ali, so far as we know, never won a medal in swimming. Tiger Woods never scored a goal in hockey. Michael Jordan gave baseball a shot, but it didn’t work out too well. No, for the greatest athletes, they become great by focusing on one thing and ignoring the rest.
A long time family friend spent his entire career as a quarterback in the NFL. I once asked him how he got so good at football that he was able to achieve the level of excellence that most boys can only dream. What he told me has stuck with me to this day. When he was in high school, he told me that he had wanted to play baseball. He was a decent baseball player, but he was an even better quarterback during football season. At one point, his football coach gave him some advice: stop trying to play both sports and focus on the one he was best at. The rest is history. Would he have made it to the NFL if he had stuck with baseball, too? Probably not.

As leaders in the mortgage industry, we can’t afford to spread ourselves too thinly. We can’t be good at everything, but we can be great at something. Let’s find that one thing and focus on it exclusively. Specialization is the road to excellence.