Barb McHenry has carved out the perfect place for her mortgage business.
Sure, Burlington, Vermont is a picturesque, artsy, and cosmopolitan hub on the eastern shoreline of Lake Champlain. But being in the Green Mountain State has also sheltered McHenry from some of the challenges that other originators have faced nationwide.
“We’ve never really had to compete with a lot of other metropolitan areas that have so many large banks and so many choices for the consumer,” she said.
With the growth of online lenders, however, that buffer zone is eroding somewhat. Borrowers will often be referred to McHenry from a realtor, and tell her that they’ve already shopped rates. She and her team have found that the further they can get into that conversation and explore the offer with the borrower, the higher the conversion.
“We’ve really tried to work on saying, ‘That’s great. Tell me the details, what exactly are they offering you?’ And the more questions you ask, the more you challenge them to explore what they’ve been offered,” McHenry said.
McHenry is a senior loan officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Company, and says that much of her team’s business now comes from their mobile app. Because of this, they’ve become hyper-aware of the tweaks and changes necessary in order to stay front and center for new customers. Borrowers know they can look at a house online, buy without using a realtor, and start their mortgage process online, with the human factor becoming less desirable—at least in the beginning stages.
Consumers soon realize they can’t do everything well themselves, and that’s where McHenry differentiates herself.
“We’ve built a reputation in Vermont: we are the go-to, the reliable source, our core values are our speed to respond to a lead, edifying that realtor, honoring them so the lead stays with that realtor. We’re closing loans in two weeks or less and our closest competition is probably 45 days. So we just really try to push all that information out there to the community so that people know, if you want an easy, predictable process, we’re the place to go.”
McHenry used to do a lot of traditional advertising, but as the prevalence of print media dwindled, so too did that side of her marketing strategy. Today, she doesn’t do too much marketing at all apart from some Zillow leads and social media outreach. In the past couple of years, her 13-person, five-originator team has switched gears to focus at least four hours a day on prospecting.
“Our number one source of generating business is picking up the phone and calling our realtors, past clients, any leads and going deeper with our relationships that we have,” McHenry said.
It’s a little ironic that she’s gotten away from marketing given that she got her start with advertising in the newspaper industry. She did advertising for realtors and had begun soliciting mortgage companies before being invited to try mortgage origination nearly 30 years ago. She couldn’t go much further in the newspaper industry, so she made the switch and found that the mortgage space to be the perfect fit.
McHenry closed $75 million in 2018, but still feels as if she’s behind the curve in some ways, one of them being online lead generation. In general she wants to have more online visibility and a stronger web presence. For 2019, however, more of her team’s focus is on creating channel accounts, and moving swiftly from a prospect doing no business to a partner doing a little bit of business to a partner doing at least one transaction a month.
Conquering fear usually plays some role in an originator’s success, whether it’s a fear of self-promotion, being commission-based or something else entirely. McHenry says that she works on conquering fear every day with her originators, ensuring that the stories in their heads don’t stand in their way.
Another daily goal is getting a head start on everyone else.
“I don’t care who it is I’m emailing or going after, I want to be the first email of the day,” McHenry said. “Getting up early, making sure you’re healthy, working out, so that when you come into work, you have a good, clear mindset, and having a plan: Who am I calling today, who am I going to try to get a lunch with today, who am I going to try to meet one on one? If you work in an atmosphere where it’s just, ‘let me see what emails am I getting today, and I’m going to respond to those,’ you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Believe in the plan, she said, and act as if the end result has already happened. Having a good mindset to start the day is part of that, as well as some kind of coaching.
“Probably the number one fear is, am I going to make enough money to pay my bills? When am I going to break through the clouds and see that consistent business start to come in?” McHenry said. “Act as if you’re already a top producer, get a nice suit, be a professional when you’re meeting with your clients, know what you’re talking about, and assume that you’re going to be doing business with that person, and honoring that relationship. That’s the mindset that we try to have as we walk around here and do our thing every day.”