What’s in DNA of a Successful Originator?

by Dave Gallegos04 Feb 2020

In 2012 I wrote an article titled Eight Habits and Traits of Successful Mortgage Originators. And over the last seven years, the evidence I've seen has not changed my opinion on those eight habits. But lately, I've been thinking about what it takes as the primary ingredients for a person to reach high levels of success in this business. In other words, what is the in the DNA in every successful originator?

First, let's define "successful." According to the Stratmor Group, the top 40% of loan originators generate 78% of the industry volume. The top 20% average 9.6 loans per month, and the next 20% average 4.8 loans per month. And for these folks, my take is they share three common denominators.

Now, I don’t think you have to be a Mensa member to succeed in this business. I'm sure of it. I'm not talking about IQ. I'm talking about the smarts that it takes to learn this business, learn programs, guidelines, software, scripts, and so on. This business is continually changing, technology is steadily improving, and the competition gets tougher all the time. If you're going to succeed, you've got to keep up.

Having smarts means you like growing and learning. We have a core value here at Zenith Home Loans called “Strive to Grow Personally and Professionally.” It should be an essential core value for anyone, in my opinion. If you are not growing, you are dying. You are either getting better or falling behind. And being smart means you like reading and listening to books, and you go to seminars, you watch the webinars, you study the guidelines and loan programs. You push yourself to grow. Anyone can be an expert in this business. All have to do is learn, and that takes smarts.

I mentioned accountability in my previous article, but now realize it’s an essential ingredient and can be challenging to instill in people that have never had accountability in their lives from past bosses, teachers, coaches, or parents. I did say it can be difficult but not impossible.

What I mean by accountability is a person being accountable to themselves more than to others. If someone isn’t even accountable to themselves, doesn’t ever do the things they say they will do, and has no personal follow-through, then being accountable in their professional lives is going to be a challenge.

I once had a loan officer tell me he wanted me to hold him accountable for making a set number of realtor prospecting calls each week. I asked him to describe for me what “holding him accountable” meant to him. What did he want me to do to hold him accountable? His response was, “I just want you to ask me about it each week.” So, I agreed. After a couple of weeks in a row where he didn't make the agreed number of calls (mind you, it was his number, not mine), we met, and I suggested we try something different to help.

I told him that if he met his call targets each week, he could keep the same comp plan he was on. But the first week he didn't make the calls, we cut the comp plan by 25%. If he didn't make his call targets by the following week, we'd cut it another 25%, and so on.

His reaction was not surprising. “No way,” he said. And that's how I knew he didn’t want any accountability; he knew he wasn’t going to make the calls.

This loan officer was a great guy, and I genuinely wish I could have gotten through. But at the end of the day, without personal Accountability, there is no Accountability. Wanting to be Accountable to your boss or your company is excellent, but it doesn't happen without you being Accountable to yourself first.

Before I talk about drive, I have to talk about ambition because the two are related, and you can’t talk about one without the other.  Most salespeople are ambitious, some more than others. It's fair to say the top people have it in higher doses. What I’ve found is everyone has their version of ambition. It doesn’t matter what it is you are after; it only matters that you are after something you think is "better" or "more" than you currently experience. That's the ambition part of the equation.

But it's their drive that sets them apart. Why do I say that? Because without drive, the ambition or the goal will not be achieved. You might have smarts and the ability to learn, but you won’t push yourself to learn everything you can without drive. You might grasp what it means to be accountable, but without drive, you aren't ever going to put in the extra time and effort it takes to follow through with what you say you will do.

Drive is also about your energy. More and more research has proven that the healthier we are, the more energy we can bring to our work, which will impact our performance.

Can you develop that drive in yourself? That's a question for another article. For now, know this—Regardless of how you define success, being a successful originator takes three essential ingredients: smarts, accountability, and drive.


Dave Gallegos is the president of Zenith Home Loans, LLC a correspondent lender headquartered in Colorado. He is a 22-year industry veteran with offices located in the metro Denver area. You can contact Dave via e-mail at DaveG@ZenithHL.com or 303-347-7575