What It Takes to Succeed in Mortgage Origination Sales
by Bob Williamson
Using a personal story from his own experience, Bob identifies one key to success in selling – without which no one can ultimately be successful.
Of all the qualities and skills necessary for a successful career in mortgage lending, the ability to sell – to communicate persuasively – is certainly one of the most essential. But what does it take to be a great salesperson?
One of my first jobs was selling encyclopedias door-to-door in the summer of 1967, at the age of 18. That experience taught me one of the most important lessons I've ever learned.
I had just graduated from high school, and was ready to enter college in September. I needed a summer job, and saw an ad in the newspaper looking for students to conduct a “survey”.
The P.F. Collier Corp. was doing pretty well using young people to sell their encyclopedias door-to-door in those days. I was hired along with a group of others my age, and we were all trained to deliver a canned presentation, the essence of which was that Collier was looking for a limited number of homes where we could place our fine set of encyclopedias free of charge -- in exchange for the family's agreement to do two things: 1) write us a testimonial which we could use in our advertising; and 2) protect our “investment” in them by purchasing a set of 10 yearbooks, which would keep the encyclopedias up-to-date for the next ten years. (The yearbooks, of course, cost about $600 – the actual market value of the encyclopedias.)
To paraphrase former President Bush, when I was young and naïve, I was young and naïve. I believed every single word of that presentation. As far as I was concerned, the encyclopedias were being given to these families free of charge, and it was only fair that we ask people to care enough about them to keep them current!
I did very well. I "placed" far more encyclopedias than anyone else in our office, and for most of June and all of July I was ranked #3 out of the thousands of PF Collier salespeople in the country.
One day in early August, I knocked on the door of a man who let me in and listened patiently to my entire presentation. I knew there was something different about him, because he seemed very amused by it all -- not the typical reaction I was used to getting from my prospects. He proceeded to tell me that he had sold encyclopedias a few years back, and that he had invited me in because he wanted to see if anything in the “pitch” had changed. (It hadn't, he said.)
I was shocked. Looking back, it's a little hard to imagine how I could have been that naive, but I was. I didn’t even know what he meant by the word pitch – but he explained it to me.
The next day I confronted my sales manager with my new-found worldliness.
"Is it true that we're really selling these encyclopedias, and this whole thing about placing them free is just a way to get people to think they're getting something for nothing?"
My manager's answer was spoken like a true salesman (always answer a direct question with another question): "What do you think, kid?"
From that point, I was history. I couldn't bring myself to lie to people, so I re-wrote the presentation. Although I was troubled by the deception in the original script, I still believed that the encyclopedia was a good product, and thought that if I showed people what a great value they were getting, they'd still buy.
But they didn't.
My boss insisted I go back to the script. I tried, but within a week, I was having terrible stomach pain. I went to my family doctor, and he told me I was developing an ulcer. That gave me a great excuse to quit the job.
Looking back on it, here's what I learned: To be effective, you have to believe in what you're selling. Although the term wouldn’t come along for another 25 years or so, that was my first introduction to the concept of a Unique Selling Proposition (USP). If you don’t believe down to the core of your being that your product or service is in some way unique and superior to that of your competitors, you either have to improve it until it is, or find a better product. The alternative is to lie to people; if you take that road, you will ultimately become a cynical crook.
Many of us have been spoiled by various refi booms of the last 10 years or so. If you could take an application and get it closed, there was plenty of business to be done. But those days will soon be gone, and it will be some time before we see 3% rates again, if ever. And whether you are marketing yourself directly to the consumer, or to a referral source like a Realtor, the question you have to ask yourself is this:
“What can I do for this person that is concretely different and better than what my competitors are doing?”
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. The thing your clients want, the thing they’re missing (whether they realize it or not), the thing you could do for them that would make you the clearly superior choice – might very well be something that loan originators don’t typically provide. See the How to Succeed in This Terrible, Awful, No-Good, Lousy Market videos here.
Try interviewing your past clients about the entire home buying experience with an eye toward identifying a common problem you can help solve. Interview your Realtor partners about their side of the transaction. Be on the lookout for insights you weren’t expecting to hear – those are often the best ones. (For example, one of my clients realized that, even though his customers seemed to love him and the service he provided, they rarely referred new business to him. I persuaded him to survey some of his past clients and specifically ask the question: “Is there any reason you haven’t sent your family and friends to me?” He was horrified to learn that the “vibe” they had gotten from him was that he was already so busy that they wouldn’t be doing him any favors by sending him more business! So he solved the problem by ending every conversation with a client by saying how much he loved his work and enjoyed being of service to his customers – and that if they knew of anyone who was thinking about buying a home or refinancing, he would really appreciate it if they would have them call him. He immediately tripled his referral rate.)
Do a serious and thorough self-examination. What could you do to make yourself a better loan originator – from the standpoint of what you give to your clients and referral partners – instead of from the standpoint of what you can get. Would you deliver better service more consistently if you took the time and trouble to develop and implement a system for getting your loans processed and closed? Would software tools like ACT! or Mortgage Coach make you more efficient, more organized, better able to explain loan options to your clients? Do you know your loan programs and guidelines as well as you should? Do you have the right products to best serve your market and clientele?
Act on the results of your self-examination. I have often encountered people who are looking for the easy answer, the quick fix – the magic marketing idea that will bring them lots of loans without their having to do too much actual work. They think that their life would be great if they could just find the right script that will turn leads into loans. And there are in fact consumers who can be at least temporarily persuaded by just the right words – as I learned during my brief career selling encyclopedias door-to-door. But if the words aren’t true – if you don’t walk your talk – sooner or later, you’ll start hearing a little voice in the back of your head calling you a phony. If that happens, listen to it: that’s your conscience -- the best friend an honest salesperson ever had.
Bob Williamson is a trainer and personal coach whose clients include some of the mortgage industry’s top producers. If you think you could benefit from coaching, find out how you can get a free, 1-hour personal coaching session with Bob.