multi-level marketing, right down to how furiously every lender in the business is recruiting free-range LOs like a carnival barker hawks Yaacov’s Golden Elixir (Cures Gout! Cleans Metal! Makes mounds and mounds of julienned green beans!). But that is not what I want to talk about this time, because at the end of that article, which proposed a shift in thinking for loan officers toward growing organic business rather than just looking to score the next (ever-rarer) deal, I promised to talk about how to set such a business up and have it functioning, churning out regular loans and steady business. It really is possible to do this. There are five things you have to do:
- Put down the gun; fire up the tractor. Loan officers come in three flavors: hunter, farmer, and trappers. Hunters are by far the most common; these are the fellows that go racing about everywhere looking for their next deal. They are transaction-based thinkers. You have seen them at networking meetings, handing out their cards and telling you about their incredible rates. Even those that do not behave like Ned “Needlenose” Ryerson are apt to end up working at the local furniture store, because sometimes the game are scarce, and then these fellas don’t eat. Then there are the farmers. Most of these guys are hooked in deep with Realtors and referring banks, they work their databases, and they get steady business all the time. It is nice work, if you can develop it. And you can if you try. The trappers are a blend of the two, cultivating business from all over the place, from referral partnerships, yes, but also outside sources, including social media and advertising. These are, in my opinion, the most successful of all the loan officers, and the more you can do to become one of them, the better. Stop hunting. Start farming and trapping.
- Take the bird’s eye view. Birds, as has been exhaustively documented, see better than humans. Their long-range vision is exceptional – heck, a pigeon sees about 100x better than you. Short-term thinking in the industry is one of the proximate causes of the current mess, so stop it. Think about what your business wants to be multiple years out, and start creating the systems and processes that make that come into being. We all want to steadily increase business, and there are things you can do to make that a reality, but most of them are not going to happen overnight. Take the long view. See clearly what is far away, and then work toward it.
- Get some Zen. Once you have shifted out of the transaction-based hunter to a more stable farmer/trapper way of thinking, and you have a long view of what you want your business to look like; start telling people about that. There is a tendency right now (well, okay, there is always a tendency, but it’s magnified in the current market) to be a little shrill in our communication with our potential clients. We do need to eat, after all. That comes through clearly – people have terrific radar for desperation – and it chases off people that really need what you have to offer. Communicate patience. You’re going to be around for a long time. You have foreseen this. You can wait for the business to mature, for the client to come around. Be at peace, grasshopper.
- Buy the world a coke. Now that you have got your Zen thing on, start buying a round for the house. Remember, you are trapping and farming. It does not matter if the people you gather have a need for a loan right now. You do not eat your seed corn. But you do build a gigantic silo and fill it as fast as you can. Have something to offer to people, a rate watch newsletter, a regular mortgage analysis, free drinks at the local burger joint. Whatever. Then get as many eyeballs as you can. Like any good farmer, you want all the land you can get and every acre of it planted. You want to show as many people as you can that you are something different, show them things they can not or will not obtain anywhere else. Collect all the people you can. There is much potential market share out there right now, in case you have not noticed. Many people out there used to have a loan officer. Be a place they can receive good information on a regular, consistent basis, and they will have a new one, named you.
- Work like an Egyptian. No, not the current kind. The pyramid kind. Building the pyramids took an incredible amount of work; but that work was coupled with skill of a degree we still have a hard time duplicating. Do the bleeping work, people. Being a mortgage guy was, for a bit there, so easy we had offices full of trained monkeys making $200,000 a year. Now it isn’t. Now, to be a success, you have to be a professional. Learn your craft. Study. Work with a company that has all the tools, all the weapons you need to do the above. Learn your loan programs. Learn how to write and talk about them. Communicate relentlessly. Innovate. Hey, it’s like, I don’t know, a business. Think of that. Our industry has a reputation for being filled with the flotsam and jetsam of the business world, but whether you like that image or not, you can not contend we have not deserved it. Here is an opportunity to change that, starting with you. If you think most people won’t notice, you’re probably right. But who wants to work with people who can not tell the difference between a real professional and a hack? Enough will see it and appreciate that you will have all the business you can do.
I strongly believe this is the wave of the future. Rate pimping over Twitter is not a long-term successful strategy. Begging Congress to leave us alone is a loser, apparently. So we are going to get hammered and we are still in the middle of a shaky market that has dark clouds hovering. So what? Tell me who doesn’t. In every industry that goes through a shakeup like this, there is one group who always makes it out into the sunshine on the other side, and that is the veterans, the professionals, the ones who take their craft seriously and do the work necessary to survive the lean times and harvest like madmen in the fat ones. Decide you will be one that makes it. Chris Jones, branch manager with City 1st Mortgage Services, is a seven-year industry professional in brokering and banking, with a background in financial services, national politics and Main Street entrepreneurialism. Raised outside Washington, D.C., Jones lives in Lehi, Utah, with his wife, Jeanette, and their eight children. He blogs for Zillow.com and can be found at www.thechrisjonesgroup.com, firstname.lastname@example.org or (801) 850-3781.
Back in November, I wrote about how mortgage lending reminded me of multi-level marketing. That was before the new compensation changes were implemented, so now I need to make a correction. Mortgage lending practically