Learning to Sell by Dan Sullivan

by 01 Aug 2008
Remember the ?good times? in this industry? Remember when getting a loan was as easy as picking up the phone faster than the other Loan Officers in your group? Now, most of the other LO?s in your office are not even in the industry and the phone is dead. The days when the phone rang off the hook with borrowers calling, literally begging you to help them with the refinance or purchase of their home, are in the past. Have you noticed the one loan officer in your office or across town who is incredibly busy in this market? Have you stopped to ask yourself why that loan officer is getting business and you are not? Chances are, he or she does not think of himself or herself as a Loan Officer, but rather as a sales person. Chances are, that person is a talented sales person. Learning sales as a skill is tough. Selling, according to my friend Tom Ward at Majestic Consulting, is ?The ability to get somebody to do something that, if left up to that person, would not otherwise get done.? It?s learning to ask leading questions, knowing when to talk and when to be quiet, and molding conversations to help people to adopt your opinions as their own. I have a secret that I have shared with very few people in my life. After more than 21 years in sales, most of it in the mortgage industry, I have to confess that I?m not a salesman. My former colleagues and employers may find this an interesting and even confusing confession. I have enough awards to fill a wall and have achieved Platinum and President Sales status at numerous companies. So how did I do it? My senior year of college, I went home during spring break and had the opportunity to play golf with my father and two of his friends. That day, I lost to a man who only had one arm. He had learned to play golf after losing his right arm in an accident years before. He adapted. Sales skills can be learned, but true sales ability is a talent. I can teach my son to play golf but he needs true talent from within to ever make it to the PGA. Similarly, I will never have true sales talent; I just wasn?t born with it. Knowing that I would never be a talented salesman, I taught myself to be successful with only half of the skills possessed by the top sales people. I used my skills in building relationships and became one of the top sales people in two national firms, Norwest Mortgage and Countrywide. Along the way, I also helped a local title company grow from the number six company in a market of six companies to number two. I helped bring my company, Velma, from a start up to a nationally recognized mortgage marketing firm. My model for success starts with building relationships with referral partners, Realtors, CPA?s, Financial Advisors, friends, and family. Here are three important human traits to never forget: 1) People love to do business with friends, 2) people love to help others achieve success and 3) the borrower will tell you anything you ask at the loan application if you ask it correctly. Knowing these three traits, I went out and searched for people with whom I personally connected; people I would like to have as friends. How many potential referral partners are there in your community? Why are you chasing after Realtors who you would not invite to your home for dinner? Stop thinking of the Realtor or CPA as targets and start thinking about them as friends and find ways to become friends. An easy way to become friends with somebody you just met is to find a common ground. If you visit his or her office, use every opportunity to check out what?s on the walls and their desk. If there is a photo of children, ask about them. Encourage thenew found friend to talk about the children. What are their ages? What do they like? Talk about your children. Is there a bowling trophy? Is there a photo of the elk they killed last year? Is there a picture of his or her classic car? Is there a photo of a sunset over the beach? Find the common ground. However, be careful you do not say you are a great hunter and bagged several elk. You might find your relationship going away when your new found buddy finds out you have never hunted before. What about your own office; what story does it tell of you? My office was my stage. On the wall next to my desk, I hung ten photos each one carefully chosen. I had a photo of my dog at the top of a high wilderness mountain, a photo of my children, a photoof a village in Greece I had visited, and several others I had taken over the years. When clients sat at my desk, they would comment on one of the photos, and our common bond was found. On the opposite wall I hung some of my awards which gave me credibility. On the credenza behind my desk, I had about twenty-three ring binders labeled ?Underwriting Guidelines? that I found in the storeroom. These provided me with an appearance of knowledge to the people sitting across from me. Mortgage professionals have an edge on relationship building with clients that few sales professionals possess. Few sales professions allow you to learn so much about your clients in such a short period of time. From the information on the loan application, you learn much more about your borrower than the Realtor, the CPA, or even the Financial Advisor would know. Finally, human trait number three; the borrower will tell you anything you ask at the loan application if you ask it correctly, seriously! The loan application can give you all the ammunition you need to effectively market to your borrower for the rest of your career. Ask your customer about his or her car. If the customer owns a 1990 minivan, then money may need to be borrowed in the near future to replace it. Ask about the customer?s children and their ages. There may be borrowing needs in the near future when the children go to college. What are the customer?s goals? When would he or she like to retire? Does the customer see his or her income rising in the next five years and if so by how much? How long will the customer live in his or her current home? These are all questions that should be asked at every customer?s loan application. Write the answers down and build a follow up system based on the customer?s answers. Do you want to be a super ninja marketing hero? Ask their children?s birthdates and what month they were married. If you send their children birthday cards and remember their wedding anniversary, they will think you are one of their best friends. People love to see you succeed. Build your relationships and then leverage those relationships on a consistent basis. Ask the Realtor if they know other Realtors in his or her office with whom you should be working. Ask your past borrowers, your friends, your family, and others to remember to mention you anytime the word ?Mortgage? or ?Real Estate? come up in their daily lives. If you get a referral from them, call and personally thank them for that referral. If you do, more will follow. You don?t have to be a great salesperson to win in this market. Find the skills you do have and figure out how to leverage those to cover the skills you don?t have. Be honest with yourself. Are you best at structuring the loan? Are you the analyst, or are you everybody?s friend? Find who you are and then capitalize on those talents! Dan Sullivan is the VP of Sales and a Managing Director for Velma.com, a Virtual Marketing Assistant for Mortgage. Sullivan entered the industry in 1987 and has been a successful originator and a wholesale Account Executive for Countrywide. Sullivan has served on the Board of Directors for the Idaho Association of Mortgage Lenders and the Idaho Mortgage Brokers Association. You can contact Dan at 208-854-7905 or email him at dsullivan@velma.com


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