Residential Magazine

Don’t Wait for Referrals

The best way to grow your business is to find your own clients

By Ben Buckwalter

Does it ever feel like there are two camps of mortgage originators? There are the ones who wrack their brains every month trying to close a handful of loans, while there are others who seem to be making money hand over fist — and you can’t figure out how. If you’re in the first camp, it’s possible to learn how to start closing that gap by increasing your closing rate.

When you’re a loan officer, you’re in a sales position. Many loan officers don’t realize they’re actually in the business of sales because they’re taught that their job is to close loans. Here’s why that’s a problem: If you don’t realize you’re in the glorious world of sales, it can be easy to think that your income has a cap — that there are only so many loans you can close each month. The truth is that sales is one of the few professions where your income is actually unlimited. It also shifts how you approach your prospects. 

For example, many mortgage originators are taught to build their business on referrals, which puts them in a consistent state of waiting. When you think about these prospects from a sales perspective, there are many actions to take that can make all the difference in how many loans you close and how much money you bring home every month.

Demonstrate value

When you build your business strictly on a referral basis, you wait for someone to send prospects to you, which is quite unreliable. It puts you in a position of not controlling the accelerator to your own success. Although referrals are helpful and can substantially grow your business, they aren’t the only way to grow.

To close more loans, you want to create leads. When you create leads yourself, you have more control over the process. Are you stumped trying to think of ways to create leads on your own? Don’t sweat it — it’s easier than you think. All you need to do is identify where your prospects are hanging out right before they’re ready to buy a home and find a way to meet them there. 

For some mortgage brokers and loan officers, this might mean teaching a class for first-time homebuyers at a local library or bank. For others, this might mean advertising to people who are following some of the top real estate agents in their area. 

You also can create relationships with homebuilders or home sellers to capture people who are ready to close now. By creating education and awareness, and serving your prospects in a way that preps them to buy a home, you become the trusted adviser they want to do business with. That’s a win.

Monitor reviews

If you want to do something a little more out of the box, try this (no longer secret) strategy that has been increasing loan officer closing rates using Yelp and Google alerts. To close more loans for free, create a Google alert for your competitors. 

Whenever they get a review on Yelp, or on another site such as their Facebook page or Google reviews, you’ll get a notification. If someone leaves a review that says they had a bad experience, you can swoop in to help. It’s important to remember to come from an empathetic standpoint whenever you use this strategy. The client’s experience probably left them upset, frustrated and discouraged, or even heartbroken if they lost the home they were set on buying. It’s all about genuinely taking care of them.

Go the extra mile by being intentional with your reviews, too. Set a Google alert for your reviews to see what your clients are publicly saying about their experience with you. This can help you discover exactly what makes you different from other mortgage originators, according to the people you’ve worked with, so you know where to leverage more of your marketing efforts. 

Make sure you’re directing happy clients to leave testimonials on Yelp, Facebook and Google. This will help other prospects see if you’re a good fit for them, which can help generate even more leads. Review sites have the power of referrals without the constraints of personal conversations or relationships. 

Seventy-six percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from family and friends, according to a survey by marketing company BrightLocal. And 91% of consumers say that positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, the same survey found. Online reviews are a powerful resource and when you intentionally leverage them, you create an additional lead-generation pipeline that’s completely free for you to use.

Frame the conversation

Here’s a bonus strategy that you can leverage right away. Every originator gets shopper calls — the people comparing lenders to find the best interest rate. These are hot leads coming in who are ready to buy now. 

The caller’s primary driver is simply to find the lowest rate, but that’s usually because they don’t know what else is involved in the homebuying process and how you can help them beyond obtaining a good rate. Instead of quoting your rates (and making yourself a commodity), start asking questions and take control of how the call flows.

Take this response, for example: “That depends. We have a lot of options. Can you tell me what you’re looking for so I can give you the best quote?” Now the conversation can flow, you can demonstrate value and you can show your prospect that you actually care about their homebuying experience. 

All of these strategies are simple. You can begin implementing them right away because they aren’t things you need to add to your plate. They simply involve replacing other things that have your attention but don’t yield the same benefits, like swapping out liver for filet mignon. Which strategy are you going to start with?


  • Ben Buckwalter

    Ben Buckwalter is an award-winning sales strategist and co-founder of Loan Pro Nation, helping mortgage professionals close more deals with less effort in record time. Buckwalter has trained hundreds of loan officers, and his team turned $2 million-plus in ads into more than 100,000 leads and millions of dollars in closed loans last year alone.

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