It’s painfully apparent that the mortgage industry is facing a new normal. Skyrocketing interest rates and a slump in sales volumes have brought mortgage lenders down to earth, highlighting many issues that were previously hidden during the recent boom. Clearly, lenders need to pivot if they want to survive.
For wholesale lenders, the need for change, especially regarding their sales processes, is even more critical. Gone are the days when an account executive could drop by an office and build a personal relationship with a mortgage broker. Today, brokers are much more empowered with technology that reduces their reliance on relationships.
Numerous pricing engines are readily available that allow brokers to instantly compare pricing across every lender in the nation. Robust broker portals provide 24/7 access to submit loans and track their status. To top it off, the COVID-19 pandemic has transformed the work environment from the office to the home, from lunch meetings to Zoom sessions.
Luckily, wholesale lenders have technology on their side as well. In a sales context, customer relationship management (CRM) technology is just as useful for account executives working with brokers across multiple companies as they are for brokers working with a multitude of homebuyers.
This technology is easy to implement. Nearly all of these platforms operate in a web browser and the cost model is usually a variable expense per seat. Marketing also is less expensive because, over the years, email costs have gone down dramatically.
There are always high performers and low performers on a sales team, but using only funded volume statistics doesn’t always paint the entire picture.
But CRM technology used in the business-to-consumer world won’t work as effectively as CRM technology built for account executives who live in the business-to-business world. Brokers should understand the types of tools that wholesale lenders are providing to their teams — and what this can mean for your relationships with account executives.
Taking a closer look, it becomes obvious that wholesale lenders have been ignored by the CRM software industry. There are few vendors that offer a wholesale lender-specific platform, whereas retail lenders have a plethora of choices. Why the discrepancy? Retail lenders significantly outnumber wholesale lenders. The economic incentive to develop a retail-based CRM platform is much stronger compared to the wholesale channel.
The unfortunate consequence is that wholesale lender CRM platforms lack the sophistication and efficiency of their retail counterparts. Each wholesale lender basically has to build their own tool from scratch. They might start with a generic product such as Salesforce or HubSpot and spend an obscene amount of money customizing it, or they might attempt to shoehorn their wholesale business into a retail mortgage CRM. Neither option yields an optimal solution and, more importantly, innovation is limited.
Account executives are assigned to entire companies with multiple associated contacts. Mortgage originators are assigned to individual borrowers. From a software perspective, business-to-business communications require another layer of relational data that the business-to-consumer model simply does not have. That’s the reason why retail mortgage CRMs cannot modify their existing platform to work in a wholesale environment. The database architecture is not designed to support data in that manner.
The lack of a wholesale-centric CRM tool isn’t just an inconvenience — it’s a legitimate business risk. Without sustained investment in this technology, it becomes difficult for wholesale lenders to be more competitive or change strategies as they need to do right now.
Without this, sales teams become inefficient and are at a competitive disadvantage. It’s hard enough to defend market share in a down cycle, but when some of the largest mortgage companies in the nation also happen to be a 100% wholesale lender, a high-performing CRM becomes an even bigger part of the business strategy.
What kind of CRM innovation makes a difference for wholesale lenders? Obviously, there’s no silver bullet, but there are three areas — account executive productivity, sales management and marketing — where CRM technology could enhance performance.
It’s hard being an account executive, but a CRM can make their job much easier. Integrating other systems and tools that account executives use can provide a huge boost to productivity.
For instance, integrating a phone system and enabling a click-to-dial feature is a tremendous time-saver. It increases the number of calls that can be made per day while also tracking the outcome of calls, a key metric for account executive productivity.
Integrating a pricing engine can be a game changer because it allows account executives to run scenarios on the spot and more effectively encourage loan submissions. Maybe the most powerful integration is with a lender’s loan origination software. Data can be used to help account executives quickly identify where to put their resources. Using data such as loan submission dates, a CRM can stack and rank accounts based on the recency and volume of loan submissions. These rankings tell account executives which brokers haven’t submitted a loan and need immediate attention versus those who regularly submit loans and need less attention.
There are always high performers and low performers on a sales team, but using only funded volume statistics doesn’t always paint the entire picture. Does the account executive have too many accounts? Is the account executive marketing the wrong products? A CRM should be used to monitor account executive performance and ensure a smooth distribution of accounts, which gives everyone the best opportunity to succeed.
Reports are useful for sales management, but the data must be accurate and indicative of effort. Are your account executives entering data in the CRM that demonstrates activity? Is it difficult to enter the data? Are account executives properly trained or incentivized to record the data?
Certain integrations can solve all of these problems. For example, a pricing engine integration is useful to the account executive because it enhances sales engagement. It’s also a good measure of performance because the more quotes an account executive runs, the more likely a loan will be submitted. As a side effect, pricing engine scenarios tracked in the CRM can now be used to predict the sizes and types of loans that a broker is interested in, making it easier to promote certain products or pricing specials to capture more volume.
A wholesale lender CRM should have email and text message marketing built into the platform. Not only does this allow marketers and account executives to track the success of marketing campaigns in one system, but it drives better and more efficient engagement with brokers.
One example of this is rate-sheet distribution, a key staple of wholesale lender marketing. A rate-sheet email is informational and well received by brokers, but it’s also a great vehicle for incidental marketing on other topics, such as events, webinars or additional products that the wholesale lender offers.
A CRM platform with integrated email allows lenders to have fine-tuned control over the rate-sheet distribution process. It ensures that the recipient list is accurate and that account executive assignments are up to date. Open rates can be directly traced to individual brokers, providing account executives with indicators for further engagement.
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It’s time that wholesale lenders recognize how important a customer relationship management platform can be to the success of their sales and marketing operations. CRMs are not only a database of phone numbers and email addresses — they are powerful tools that can legitimately improve productivity and generate more volume per account executive.
Given the lean mortgage environment the industry is currently facing, wholesale lenders simply can’t afford to use a CRM that doesn’t address their specific needs or costs a fortune to maintain. Be smart and pivot when the opportunity arises. Your survival may depend on it. ●
Linn Cook is vice president of sales at OptifiNow, a customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing automation software company based in Seal Beach, California. Cook has been in the mortgage technology industry for 20 years, managing sales and marketing for credit-reporting systems, mortgage origination software platforms, automated underwriting engines, and CRM and marketing automation technology.
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