Bruce Salik doesn’t make a habit of saying no, but when he says it, he means it.
Being upfront with clients and referral partners is an obvious way to do business for Salik, who’s a senior vice president of mortgage lending and branch manager with Guaranteed Rate. He isn’t afraid to say no to a deal, which doesn’t always come easy to some originators.
“Too many originators are afraid to say no because they don’t want their referral partner to hear that, but that is reality: not every deal can be done,” Salik said. “Sometimes things go outside of our control, and we get in front of it, we address it right away, we tell our referral partners what’s going on. Communication is key; where a lot of originators will run away from the problem, let it sit, let it fester, let it get worse, and not attack it, we just kind of jump on any potential issue.”
It’s been a winning strategy for Salik, who’s been a top producer for years, routinely doing between $130 and $150 million in closed loan volume. He’s been in the mortgage industry for almost three decades, and earlier this year, he decided to make the big move to Guaranteed Rate.
“I thought my business was kind of stagnant,” Salik said. “That’s no disrespect to where I’ve been in the past, I just felt that there’s a lot of top producers like myself at Guaranteed Rate. I wanted to be with people like that, that can kind of spark the competitive spirit in me so I can see what they’re doing and also try to compete at the level they’re doing and bring my game up that way. I’m all about competition.”
Although Salik and his team were assisted by a transition team that helped process and structure loans while everyone learned the new ropes, there were still some growing pains, notably the move to Guaranteed Rate’s technology-forward approach. Salik used to do everything by hand and he’s not a big fan of change, but he has been an eager student when it comes to getting in front of a task and learning it. Not only has technology made his workflow more efficient, but access to these new options allows him to better serve certain clientele.
“It’s very efficient for the millennial type of clients that we have now; they just don’t want to talk to you in this day and age. That’s not my way of doing business, but this digital application gives me a new tool to deal with clients that all they want to do is text and email, and just do everything electronically.”
It also allows Salik to be more efficient when it comes to another one of his differentiators, and that’s breaking down the monthly payments and closing costs in different scenarios for clients who have qualified for a mortgage, but don’t necessarily have the funds or aren’t necessarily ready for the payments. Technology allows his team to work smarter with clients and their agents as well.
Salik knows that no matter how big you get, it’s important to keep the core values of the business that led to success. For Salik, that means continuing to emphasize the initial contact, setting expectations and taking time to ask detailed questions upfront. This enables his team to have a complete mortgage application ready to go early on, and there’s no need to keep jumping back into the file because things were missed.
“The most unproductive thing you can do is go back into an application once it’s been submitted for processing. It takes up time [from] bringing in new business and it’s just negative,” Salik said. “Sloppy originations is why people get bad reputations, people lose business, and people can’t close deals. Once we bring in a loan, it’ll close because we’ve asked every question upfront. If there’s chance that the loan can’t get done, we’ll ask an underwriter upfront and if they say this doesn’t work we’ll just say no at the very beginning; we’re never going to take in a loan and just throw it against a wall and try to make it stick.”
Everyone has a short memory, Salik said, and people tend to remember the times that a deal falls through rather than the many times that a deal closes effortlessly. Once an originator loses confidence from a referral source, it’s nearly impossible to regain it, and there are plenty of other originators vying for that business. Salik said that his team gets “a ton” of business stemming from deals that have gone bad in other places, and they have a high success rate of closing deals that have been redirected to them from other places.
In order to improving at anything, whether it’s performance or production, there needs to be a push, and even though he’s been in the business for nearly three decades, Salik is being pushed in new ways, such as with adopting social media and engaging in events with local realtor partners.
It’s been quite a challenge, but Salik took himself off autopilot and has found a better fit for his future.