The Dodd-Frank Act and the Federal Reserve Board’s loan originator (LO) compensation rule, which came into effect a little over one year ago, created some serious challenges for leadership in the mortgage industry. The biggest concern we see industry leaders wrestle with now is about “shaving” or “saving” … that is, are you shaving price to save deals or are you saving profit at the expense of losing deals? And, how do you make it all work? How do you make enough revenue per loan to make a deal worth doing on $100,000 loan, without pricing yourself “out of the market” on the larger $300,000 or $400,000 loans? Can you actually “have your cake and eat it too?”
In today’s environment, sales leadership, organization and volume planning have become critical keys to success. In our work as a coaching company specific to the mortgage industry, our team deals with a wide variety of loan officers in diverse markets across the nation. We’ve seen many different pricing models emerge, and many mortgage companies are finding it more important than ever to redefine their value proposition in an effort to separate their businesses from the competition.
Here are five key strategies to help you build a profitable business in our current market, despite the limitations and challenges we face.
Step 1: Determine your monthly volume goals
The first key is knowing where to start. The most effective sales leaders in this post-Dodd-Frank Act era have helped their LOs understand where their business is coming from, and how many loans must close each month to reach their income goals.
First, define your typical market and establish pricing based on a “per loan” revenue target that is expressed as a percentage of loan amount that equals in dollars the kind of revenue and commission you want to generate per loan. Then, determine each LO’s monthly production goal, based on how much money each LO wants to make. Have each LO work out how many loans need to close each month to reach his or her individual income goal.
Next, factor in the conversion ratios to determine how many leads they must generate to ensure they hit that goal. If your LOs don’t already know what their conversion ratios are, take a closer look at the previous year’s production numbers. Determine how many applications were taken and compare that to how many loans actually closed, this gives you a good ballpark figure to start with. But, to dial this in better for the future, start tracking these numbers to determine what the real conversion ratio is for each team member.
So, our first step is to begin with the end in mind. Help your team determine what they really want to achieve personally, and then work backwards to decide what level of activity it will take to reach that vision.
Helping your team know what your lead generation targets are on a weekly basis, is the first critical step to success in the current environment. Keep an open line of communication with your team and discuss the numbers, the pricing, and how to overcome challenges in your specific market. This will keep your team focused on proactive business development, rather than reactively “doing business by accident.”
Step 2: Define your “perfect” borrower
To win in today’s market, your LOs must exude confidence and trust in every transaction. Your pricing model should fit both your company culture and the type of borrowers you choose to work with. But you should also challenge your team to think seriously about how they can be more valuable to their customers and offer a level of service that goes well beyond the promises of great price and “world class” service offered by everyone else (whether they can really provide it or not).
For example, if you choose to work with high-end clientele, your LOs must become experts at strategies to differentiate themselves at a higher level. They need to be able to efficiently offer a more in-depth consideration of the long term financial impact of the mortgage choices they make in real long term dollars.
And, since the LO compensation rules mandate that we cannot lower our price on any one specific deal, we need systems, tools and strategies to ensure that we can be confident in charging a higher profit—even on the larger deals—if we are going to be able to also make the smaller deals worth doing.
Knowing your market and being realistic about the type of business your team wants to attract will also enable your team to focus their energy and efforts on the production, and not the difficulties.
This focus and consistent attention to production activity is a critical element in establishing an effective sales process.
Step 3: Define your value proposition
In the post-Dodd-Frank world, it has become more critical than ever for sales teams and leaders to focus on differentiation strategies and value propositions, and how to make sure those value propositions are understood by the consumer consistently. The team that truly understands the company’s value proposition will clearly and consistently articulate this value to the consumer.
Mortgage advisors who reinforce the company’s value proposition—while they are in the process of helping the client set up their loan structure—are winning hands down.
Sales teams that spend a significant amount of time and energy drilling, practicing and learning the art of communicating a stronger value proposition are able to focus on the long-term benefits of the choices that a borrower makes when setting up the mortgage. By focusing on the client’s long-term financial growth and overall net worth down the road, and then dollarizing that value difference to the consumer will offset the few dollars or cents a month in interest rate or upfront closing costs offered by a slightly lower priced competitor.
Though you may occasionally lose the extremely high maintenance, hardcore rate shopper, in the long run, your LOs will see a significant increase in their conversion ratio and corresponding income.
Step 4: Focus on growth
No single LO can win a market. It takes a whole team working together under a common brand identity to build a solid reputation. Working together, over an extended period of time, on what makes your company uniquely more valuable to the customer will make your company the dominant force in your marketplace.
To get your entire team dialed in and really working as a team, you must encourage collaboration. Schedule meetings on a regular basis to brainstorm ideas, discuss the company’s branding strategy, and leverage the unique talents and strengths of your team. This consideration includes advertising, attending trade shows, an Internet presence, social media activity, e-mail campaigns, direct mail, and traditional person-to-person marketing and referral partner development.
For example, if you have an LO with a strong marketing background and a passion for direct mail marketing, encourage that LO to use those skills to benefit the entire team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, if a different LO has the natural charisma and passion for meeting new people, encourage that LO to attend as many networking events and trade shows as possible, to attract new clients and at the same time connect the entire team and company to the community in a very visible way.
As a team, discuss how to establish referral networks, what’s working and what are the best practices in your marketplace. Explore what opportunities you have as a team to reach a wider audience and leverage existing relationships into to multiple opportunities.
A well-oiled, well-orchestrated sales team that sees the benefit of idea sharing profits tenfold what one individual can create. But, it is critical to steer the team away from internal competition and backstabbing that can very quickly kill morale.
It’s important for the sales manager to be fair in these open forums. It’s natural to have one or two LOs who stand out from the rest. Help the ambitious, goal-oriented members of your team to direct that energy in a positive way towards helping the weaker members of the team. Help them understand that the greater goal is to strengthen the team’s presence in your market by sharing their insight and wisdom. The reputation and the strength of the team as a whole is how market share is captured.
Step 5: Establish effective accountability and performance management
A big part of accountability and performance management is tracking. The law of the Hawthorne Effect tells us that what gets measured gets done. Compare it to tracking your diet and your sugar intake. If a doctor gives a diabetic an effective tool to track sugar levels and eating habits, the disease may be managed. But, when the patient forgets to keep track of dietary intake, the sugar levels can spiral out of control fairly quickly and with dire consequences.
The same goes for performance tracking. But, much more than the traditional “call report,” an effective performance tracking tool should help your loan originators sustain the volume of activity necessary to ensure they hit their desired closing numbers. Your tracking tool should also help each LO recognize what efforts are successfully working and which ones aren’t, and track the source of the lead and the specific obstacles faced in trying to capture that lead.
It should make clear which lead sources are providing a 20 percent conversion rate versus an 80 percent conversion rate. This enables the LO to adjust time and energy spent on various work efforts, and adjust strategies to reach significantly higher volume levels in dramatically less time by focusing on high pay-off activities.
So, can a leader be made, or are the leaders of the world simply unique individuals who come with the right set of personality and experience? Certainly, personality traits and skills are required to be an effective leader, but, in life, there are very few “natural born” leaders in existence. They are almost always created through the crucible of effective training, practice and experiential learning. If you are a sales leader, a sales manager, or the owner of a company, I encourage you to implement these five keys to effective leadership in your business.
Erik Janeczko is the head coach and chief business development strategist for Maximum Acceleration, a coaching system designed to help loan originators build their businesses by implementing proven core strategies. NationalMortgageProfessional.com readers can download Erik’s free goal planning and performance tracking tools at www.maccelcoach.com/plantools. He may be reached by phone at (573) 298-4237, ext. 101 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.