Top Originator: Jon Lamkin breaks $107 million

by Kimberly Greene25 Feb 2019

Mortgage loan origination is unique in many ways.

One of those ways, according to John Lamkin, senior vice president of mortgage lending at Guaranteed Rate, is that it’s a sales job without most of the typical characteristics of a sales job. Another reason is that many of the sales managers are high-volume producers, not your typical sales manager.

“I think most managers in the mortgage industry are reactive because there’s no quotas in this business, there’s really no territories, it’s kind of like the wild, wild, west. So what I’ve learned is, the best way to manage people is to lead by example and then just inspect what you expect.”

If anyone was going to cast a sheriff in a Mortgage Wild West movie, Lamkin would be a good bet.

As a producing branch manager, Lamkin has personal support staff to take care of the operations related to his personal production as well as helping the other 15 originators on his team reach their goals. He helps them work backward, going from how much money they want to make and what they want to learn, and then figuring out what they need to do to get there: how many loans they have to get on a weekly basis and what activities they need to do to make that happen.

Tracking activity is a useful learning tool. If originators don’t meet their goals, or at the end of the quarter they realize they’re not where they wanted to be from a production standpoint, it’s pretty easy to figure out what went wrong.

“This is an activity-driven business—the more events, the more time you’re talking to real estate agents, the more times you’re networking, going to networking events and getting out in front of the public, the more you do, the more loans you’re going to get. There’s no real secret sauce in this business; it’s just going out there and doing it.”

Lamkin has been in sales management for about 25 years, the last 15 in the mortgage industry and the previous 10 in telecommunications. He appreciates the freedom that Guaranteed Rate gives him; the ability to sell, dictate momentum, and build relationships while using their existing marketing platform and not having to worry about compliance. At a bank where he used to work, he says that that compliance ran the show, and salespeople answered to the needs of the service roles. Now, he said, salespeople inform the service end what's necessary to get the job done.

Lamkin broke $107 million in 2018, closing more than 200 units. His office did more than $300 million in volume, which is a tenfold increase in production since he came to the branch five years ago. A large part of his business comes from realtors who already have long-term partners. He doesn't want to replace those partners, he tells them; instead, he wants a look at the business that those partners can’t do, thereby saving the deal and getting the realtor out of a pinch.

He also is increasingly getting business more organically. He’s always out in the field, educating and advising realtors and other financial and trusted advisors on various trends, explaining where rates are, and what their clients can expect. As a result, even realtors who he hasn’t worked with will refer him.

“I’ll get calls from people and I don’t even know who realtor is that referred them to me; I’ve got to look them up,” Lamkin said. It’s happened that someone will hear him speak at a seminar, grab a card, and send clients his way. “That’s a nice thing when you don’t even know who the person is and they referred you, [they] know your name.”

Lamkin’s team is always looking to improve efficiencies, but truth be told, he don’t really see too many obstacles in the year ahead apart from the usual struggles ofmargin compression, being competitive with pricing, and being creative in offering realtors something new and different.

There are plenty of originators out there, however, who haven’t found that sweet spot. For those originators who can't seem to increase their volume, or for those who are happy with their volume but want to increase the quality of their life overall and spend fewer hours working for that volume, Lamkin has one message.

“Make sure to come and talk to me.”

He laughs, but make no mistake—this sheriff means business.