There’s a common saying that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. As anyone knows who’s worked in an office and looked forward to kitchen treats or walked into an open house and began salivating at the smell of freshly baked cookies, that saying holds some truth.
Top originator Travis Newton knows that cookies in particular are a crowd pleaser, and he’s found a way to use that fact to his advantage. At his Academy Mortgage branch office in Salem, Oregon, he has an Otis Spunkmeyer machine – and he uses it often to send cookies to everyone from realtor partners to clients.
“Food and snacks are the way to anybody’s heart,” Newton said. “I came up with this about a year ago, thinking about ways to increase origination. And I thought, what better way to do that than to recognize their efforts when a real estate agent gets a new listing, when they get an offer accepted, when they close a loan, what’s a great way to congratulate them?”
It doesn’t stop at realtor referral partners. Newton sends a half dozen warm cookies to the workplaces of his borrowers who have been pre-approved, and once a borrower gets an offer accepted, he also send cookies and balloons and thank you cards to both agents, as well as the escrow agent, who Newton says is a great untapped referral source.
It may sound like a hokey shtick, but Newton says it’s been a really big hit.
“I really think that helps me get my offer accepted a lot more than it probably should because these listing agents know my and trust me,” he says. “What I also do when the offer goes out to the agents, I send a quick video to the listing agent, [introducing the buyers and the offer]. So I tend to get more offers accepted than probably my fair share because we do other steps to ensure that they really take a look at our offer.”
Newton is also a supporter of Homes for Heroes, a program that helps get firefighters, law enforcement, military (active, reserves, and veterans), healthcare workers, EMS and teachers into homes with a discount on their mortgage experience. Over the last five years, he’s been one of the top five originators in the country helping heroes. He brought the program to Oregon when he joined Academy Mortgage in 2016, partly because the company aligns with his values and love of service.
“That’s what academy is all about, just helping people and service. And my team and I feel that these people have given so much to all of us – giving a discount on their mortgage experience doesn’t really seem like that’s a big thing to do, but anything we can do to help out, we do.”
But as Newton will tell you, it’s not just about him. He credits his branch co-manager, Mike Wilbur, in helping him “lead from the front and create a positive environment for their loan officers.
“We just want to empower our loan officers to be able to be the best they can, of course. But we try to be there in the thick of it, in the middle of the war zone with them so we’re not just up here, at our desks yelling at them to do stuff, we’re right in the thick of it with them. So that has really helped our growth and helped our retention as well, because people want to work for us,” Newton said. “Everything we do we try to make it enjoyable. We have contests once or twice a month, we award them with gift cards, we have lunches a couple times a month delivered, just to show appreciation for them and let them know how much we do care for them. It’s not about the numbers alone that they bring in or what they do for us, it’s really about just getting to know them as a person.”
From one-on-one conversations about life outside of the office to playing jokes on each other, Newton has strived to create a family environment where people love coming to work.
“If you treat your employees extremely well, they’re going to do the exact same for your clients. You can’t just preach customer service, customer service, customer service all the time, because everybody does that. We want to give them a phenomenal experience as an employee where they love coming to work and they in turn treat our clients that way.”
Sounds like fun.
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