Lead Generation ? Fuel for Your Business by Bliss Sawyer

by 19 Jan 2010

Ethynol, solar, wind, and lead generation will power 2010

Lead generation fuels your business with referrals and can keep a pipeline filled with loans. Utilizing a variety of ways to generate those leads will help you to grow a strong referral-based origination business that will withstand all the product changes and rate fluctuations.
In today’s market, it is essential that you have a consistent flow of prospects. Yes, loans are more difficult to complete and less borrowers qualify; but there is also less competition. Many borrowers no longer have a connection to someone in the industry. Realtors have also seen the departure of loan officers and many are looking for a solid, trustworthy originator to add to their team. Reaching out with consistent, creative marketing will help you reach these borrowers and Realtors.
Many loan officers are stuck in a rut and often do not feel comfortable trying new marketing ideas or strategies. These are the same loan officers that wonder why their phone isn’t ringing with prospects or blame the market for their low production. During all of my coaching and training, I emphasize that if your marketing is based on building and strengthening relationships then the leads will follow and your business will steadily grow and be strong during any type of market. 
Build it and they will come.”   This quote from the movie “Field of Dreams” symbolizes to me times when effort is required and yet you perhaps will not be able to see immediate results. This is why so many are not able to succeed in this industry or get by closing just a loan or two a month; they don’t take the time to build their business with relationships.  
Building a marketing system based on strong relationships requires an enormous amount of work and there are times when you definitely wonder if it is all worth it. Yet, the potential for high income and even higher job satisfaction are there for anyone willing to do the work. Top producers understand the effort it takes to succeed and they are willing to put in the time and energy which bring exceptional results.
So how do you build a strong lead generation system? If you would like to grow your business to the next level and start to see your phone ringing with referrals and your pipeline filled with quality loans, there are a few necessary steps.   Take these ideas and build your own marketing system. Schedule in time EVERY DAY to be working on your marketing. There is tremendous value in staying focused and simply “doing” your marketing each day.
These steps can easily be broken down into three categories: 
1. Sphere of influence marketing   
2. Database marketing   
3. Realtor marketing

You can get by with just one or two of these and still run a profitable business, but if you are reaching for top producer status then focusing your energy on all three is the easiest way to attain that goal. Here are a few specific things you can do for each of these strategies that will greatly increase the chances of your success in 2010.
Sphere of influence. How many people know who you are and what you do for a living? This, quite simply, is your sphere of influence which then can become your database. The harder you work at growing this group and then maintaining a strong relationship the greater your referral network will grow.   Your sphere of influence, if utilized correctly, is a goldmine. The key is to continually grow and market to this group.
Your sphere of influence includes past, current and potential clients, friends, family and neighbors, business associates and all others that you have contact with in your daily life. Work diligently to obtain contact information (including email addresses) for these people.   This will be a large task at first, but is well worth the effort.
If you have not been working on growing your sphere, it may be small. Set realistic goals to increase your database each week. This will necessitate that you to get out and network. Get involved in things that will give you the opportunity to meet new people. Volunteer to be on a committee with your local Board of Realtors. I recommend one that puts you in front of Realtors as much as possible. My personal favorite is the new Realtor orientation. If you have a chance to teach a class or other type of instruction, this will help to build your reputation as an expert which is priceless in this industry.
Get involved in things that you are passionate about and volunteer to be in a leadership role. This gives you credibility and the opportunity to meet new people. I also think that being involved with your children’s school, sports teams or other interests can have a positive impact on your sphere of influence. One of the first things people want to know when they meet someone is what you do for a living. I certainly do not recommend you walk around passing out business cards, but as you get to know more people it will be a natural evolution for them to come to know you.
Have something of value that you can offer to send them in order to obtain their contact information. I utilized a one page report title “What is Your Name Worth” that gives people information on how to protect their name. This is very non-intrusive way to gather their address and email. 
Database marketing
This is one of my favorite topics, primarily because I personally have experienced the tremendous growth in my own production from this strategy. Yet many loan officers don’t spend the time and money marketing to their database. Reaching out to your database is what I call warm-marketing. It is much easier to generate leads from sources that know you and trust you than to try to build a business through cold-marketing to people that have never heard of you.
Once you have put together your sphere of influence, the next step is to reach out on a consistent basis with a strong message. Utilizing the four levels of communication will greatly increase the opportunities for your sphere to refer business to you. Email, postal mail, phone and in-person strategies should all be utilized in your marketing plans. You have the ability in your communication to educate and train your sphere that you work on referrals so when they do have an opportunity to direct a loan, you are the first person they think of.
Although email is the lowest form of communication, it is a wonderful communication tool. One caution I do have is that you must be careful with mass emails. Tracking is essential to make sure your message is getting opened and read. Utilizing a system such as www.Velma.com will help you not only track your emails, but also stay compliant with anti-spam laws. 
One step up from email is postal mail, one of my favorite ways to stay in touch. I highly recommend sending something 12-15 times each year. Nine of those could be a simple recipe or other type of postcard just to remind them of you and how to get in contact with you. (Remember to ask for referrals in every communication.) The other 3-8 touches would be something of value such as information, coupons, newsletters, magnets or holiday and birthday cards. Make it as personal as possible and include your picture and signature to reinforce who you are.
The next level of communication is reaching out by phone. With this, your sphere is able to hear your passion and knowledge for the mortgage business. You are able to connect on a personal level and they can ask questions in an informal setting. Once a year, minimum, I recommend that you contact your people to see if they have any questions or concerns with which you can help. This gives you a wonderful opportunity to ask them “by the way, do you know of anyone looking for a mortgage at this time?” They may not immediately have a name, but you have reinforced that fact that you work on referrals. Often, loan officers will see referrals weeks after contacting people, but can directly tie it to their phone conversation.
The highest level of communication, of course, is in person contact. With Realtors, builders and other professionals, it is fairly easy to drop in, take them to lunch or have contact in some way.  With the rest of your sphere, it may take a bit of creativity. Have a customer appreciation event and invite your entire sphere of influence. You can keep it small with an open house or lunch or go big with something like a movie event where you rent out a theater and make it an exciting event. Whatever you do, make sure you get the word out; make it fun and follow up after the event.
Realtor Marketing.  
Many of us in this industry have a love/hate relationship with Realtors. I’m going to give a few tips that, if consistently followed, will allow you to work with Realtors that you enjoy and in turn, value you as a professional.
Develop a core group of Realtors.   Come up with a list of 10-12 Realtors you want on your list and gather all their contact information and birthdays.  Your list should include agents you currently work with as well as those you want to develop a relationship with.  Deciding on which agents to target can be difficult.  Here are a few suggestions: 
  • Your manager - he may be aware of who would fit well with your personality.
  • Title officers or title company staff
  • Friends/family – find out Realtors they personally know or have used in the past as this may open doors for you.
  • Realtors you currently know or work with – ask if they would recommend any agents in their office that you could successfully target for future business.
  • New Realtors – 80 percent may quit by year two, but you may find a superstar!
Your list is not set in stone – be flexible with the names placed on this list.  Over time, you will get a feel for prospects that are worth your time and effort and those that are not helping your business grow.   A Realtor may be the nicest person you know, but if they are unwilling or unable to send referrals your way, it is best to replace them with another name. 
Consistently market to that group. Once you have your list set up, track the communication you have with each one (see four levels of communication above.) . It may take a few weeks to get yourself in the habit of tracking your activities, but I guarantee you will improve the number and quality of interactions you have with Realtors by consistently utilizing this form. Take a few minutes at the beginning or end of the day to track what you have accomplished and plan your next steps.
Always be looking for ways to stay in touch with your Realtors. Offering information and training is a fabulous way to gain a reputation as an expert. Now is a great time to have First Time Homebuyer seminars as well as investor seminars. It’s also important to be creative and have fun. Remember them on their birthday, drop in with something for holidays and invite them to lunch. One loan officer I know calls her Realtor and sings them happy birthday each year. Another one dresses up for holidays as he drops off a treat.
In my conversation with hundreds of Realtors over the years, I have come to the conclusion that they basically want three things from their loan officers. 
1. Deliver what you say you can deliver. Be completely honest, even if it isn’t what they want to hear. Having something come up during the process or at closing that should have been taken care of at application is very frustrating for Realtors.   I recommend in this environment of change that you set the stage upfront. Let the Realtor and borrowers know that there may be more forms to sign or you may have to ask for additional documentation, but you have done everything to the best of your ability at that time. Then work hard to know your files along with program guidelines so problems are taken care of as quickly as possible.
2. Be available. Many realtors feel that loan officers beg for business, but then once they have it, they feel no need to stay in touch and or return phone calls. I would over-deliver on this and have regular emails and phone calls set up in your schedule. Even if it is to just say “everything looks great and is processing as needed.” This will give them the security that you are still working on the file. They will also feel more confident in referring future business your way.
3. Be positive and upbeat.   Selling real estate is a tough business and Realtors want to work with someone that helps lift them up. In all of your interactions find something positive to say. Steer clear of negative comments about clients, other Realtors and your staff. Negative comments do not improve your reputation as a professional and often brings you down in their eyes.   If you are consistently positive and upbeat, you will find that Realtors will search you out for your help with their clients. 
The wonderful thing about this industry is that the potential to succeed is limitless.   I realize it doesn’t feel that way when your phone is not ringing, your pipeline is dry and you are not feeling motivated. If you find yourself in this situation, I recommend that you take a step back and make a list of all the reasons you are a loan originator. Then write down your production and income goals for 2010 if you have not already. The most critical step is next, taking action.    Your phone won’t start ringing and your pipeline will not magically fill unless you start doing something different. Decide now what marketing tasks you will work on and be willing to stretch yourself.
To succeed you must build your sphere of influence, market to your database and reach out to a core group of Realtors. And if during all of this, you can show that you care and are passionate about what you do, I guarantee to you that the loans will follow.
Bliss Sawyer is a nationally recognized coach, trainer and speaker.  Bliss specializes in relationship-based marketing strategies for mortgage professionals.  She can be reached at 806-577-3937 or by email:  Bliss@BlissSawyer.com.  Visit her website at  www.BlissSawyer.com.



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