What You are Really Selling isn't a Mortgage, it's a Relationship by Stewart Mednick

by 02 Jun 2008
You are not selling a unique product; you are selling a unique relationship. You want to create customers from prospects, strangers, acquaintances or cold calls. You are attempting to do this by promoting the same products from the same vendors as thousands of others doing the same thing; trying to make a living. Retention and service should be a focal point of your business plan (do we all have a business plan?). How is this done if you are not offering a unique product or unique services? Offer a unique relationship! Your current and past clients like you for a reason and will do repeat business with you for a reason; what is that reason? When a person contacts you or if you engage a person with a phone call and they start talking mortgage, the sale is made. The only variable that needs to be determined is if that person will do business with you or someone else. That person is talking about mortgages because they are interested. You do not have to sell a mortgage to that person; they want it! You need to sell a relationship so the customer wants to do business with you. To develop sales relationships successfully, you should consider three questions that will help you understand yourself and determine how to approach potential customers. SWOT Analysis First, ask yourself why a customer does business with you. That is, what sets you apart as a unique individual? To answer, you must analyze your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). This is a common tool in marketing and business planning. Strengths and weaknesses are the two categories that focus on you. What attributes and skills did previous customers like about you? What have you not done well? For example, a strength of yours may be your ability to communicate the mortgage process understandably. Perhaps a weakness is your inability to clear loan conditions in a timely manner. I have coached and trained many mortgage professionals over the years. One suggestion I always talked about is a questionnaire that your customers should fill out when the loan closes, so you can have feedback about your performance in serving the customer. Here is a good time to use that information. I will touch on the questionnaire topic a bit further in this article. A weakness most of us have, is the lack of communication with past customers. Even if a good price or the lowest interest rate was the reason a past customer decided to work with you, they stayed working with you because of the relationship you cultivated. Don?t loose that customer base. The customers that have worked with you are your best form of repeat business. Opportunities and threats describe your environment. You have no control over these factors, but you need to know them to perform your services successfully. Opportunities refer to favorable conditions in the environment that could produce rewards if acted upon properly. Low interest rates would be an example. Threats are barriers or conditions that may prevent you from reaching your business goals. Threats can include a weak economy or a saturated market. Opportunities and threats are external conditions that change frequently and must be accepted. Threats, like opportunities, must be acted upon to prevent them from limiting your capabilities. Just because rates are high, for example, does not mean you should stop selling products; just change your product or program offerings to meet the challenges. In the same spirit of acting on a threat, an opportunity also can slip away if not acted upon. When rates dip low enough to refinance that client with whom you have been building a relationship for the past four months, you need to move fast before the rates jump again. You also should understand that not everyone defines the same environmental dynamic the same way. An opportunity to one person might be a threat to another. Still, you can find opportunity in every threat. Ask yourself if customers do business with you because of your strengths. Are you able to convert your weaknesses into strengths and create a value-added proposition for the customer? How do your strengths relate to the opportunities or threats that you are operating within? What I have found to be true through my own experiences is that every weakness can be converted into strength some how and some time. I have also found that the threats that one defines is a parallel to one?s own weaknesses. This is not a literal correlation, but generally it is true. This is because our weaknesses create our fears. Our fears define what threaten us. This correlation is similar for strengths and opportunities. Using a SWOT analysis is great for understanding who you are and where improvements can be made. Let?s get back to that questionnaire. This is a simple document with six or eight simple questions the customer can answer. The choices for answers can be simple and of three choices: positive, neutral, or negative. The scale of one to ten is too pensive for some one who just closed a loan on their house. Keep it simple. The questions can be and should be straight forward; ?Did I meet your expectations in customer service?? ?Would you recommend me to others?? And have one question for a fill-in-the-blank; ?Use three words to describe how you would sum up this experience.? The only way you can improve your business and relationship skills is to know what to improve. A questionnaire is a good tool to aid you. Be Authentic The second question you should ask yourself is: Are you being yourself or someone you think customers want you to be? If you are not authentic, it comes across to customers, and you will not gain their business. This is an important aspect of building new relationships, yet it is seldom talked about. Here is how I believe this works. In short, every living thing emits energy (a.k.a., an aura, a presence, a life force, etc.). A network of sorts is created with all living things in this world that blankets our ?people space? on this earth. As part of this immense network of energy, we can either strengthen the network or disrupt it. This is where I believe gut feelings are derived. Ever meet someone and feel like you have known that person all your life? Ever walk away from a conversation and think to yourself how much your enjoyed being in that person?s presence? On the other hand, ever feel very uncomfortable around someone? Ever wonder why a dog will lick the hand of someone, but growl at another person for no apparent reason? Positive energy is received as a ?feel good? sense. If your energy field resonates with someone else, then the two of you will get along famously. When you try to be someone you are not, you emit a false or negative energy. This causes a rift in the energy sent to your clients, and they subconsciously sense something wrong in who you are, or trying to be. They respond defensively or indecisively, and you will have a difficult time earning the client?s trust. But if you are authentic, others sense positive energy and will feel comfortable around you. This feeling is not necessarily a conscious thought or action, but it is present, nonetheless. It is OK to not be the best in most closed loans, or revenue, or years in business. It is important to be authentic in all you say. ??I am not the most experienced mortgage banker in the area, Mr. and Mrs. Homeowner, but I can authentically say that I have a passion for ensuring that my customers are treated with respect, honesty, and with open communication?.? If you do not know an answer to a question, tell your customer that you do not know the answer, but you will get it to him or her within 24 hours. Then call that person back that evening and impress them with your diligence. Listen to Others Like You Want Them to Listen to You The third question is: Do you listen to customers actively or passively? The difference shows when you answer or respond. When you listen actively, you answer questions based on what you hear. When you listen passively, you respond with affirmations such as, ?I understand,? ?I agree? or ?Good.? This is not a way to engage customers. Often, we respond simply because we subconsciously hear that others stopped talking. The proper way to engage people in conversations is to take notes, repeat what they say and ask open-ended questions that may be as simple as, ?why?? Use the questions to direct the conversation in the direction you want it to go. This is also a great time to listen to the ?mortgage non-specific? information. Take note of the spouse?s name, the children?s names, favorite colors, TV shows, foods, past time activities, etc. The next conversation you have with the customer, toss in a trivial bit of information that you gleaned from the conversation. ?Hi Robert, how is Janie and Billy today? Did his cut knee heal yet? I bet Fido likes to lick Billy?s knee all the time?.? By using personal information that you picked up in the initial conversation, you show that you care and that you have actually listened to what was said. This is also important to drive the conversation so you can learn as much as possible about your customer. Put these simple techniques into action and you have a big piece of the sales relationship-development puzzle in place. These actions will help create a benefit that will equate to added value in your new customers? eyes. Read the ?Tip of the Month? in the May, 2008 issue of The Niche Report for a bit of insight about how the benefit you offer customers will equate to their perceived value of doing business with you. Remember that the environment in which you operate is ever-changing. Your skills and knowledge change as well, so performing a SWOT analysis monthly is a great idea. Be yourself, and show customers you are interested in them. After all, building a relationship is like building a house; you must start with a solid foundation. If you understand your future clients and your own skill sets, then trust and understanding will be the foundation of your business and client relationships. Stewart Mednick is a seasoned mortgage banker and published author. His writing focuses on relationship development, customer satisfaction, marketing and sales techniques. Stewart is available for personal coaching and training sessions. If you have a comment or a question for Stewart, contact him at 651-895-5122 or smednick1@netzero.net


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