How many times have you sent the same introductory email or LinkedIn message to a potential Realtor referral partner, only to be completely ignored or get the runaround? How many coffee dates or Zoom meetings have you taken only to go your separate ways?
It’s time for mortgage originators to get a bit more creative so they can create real connections with potential real estate partners. Here’s how to start building stronger referral relationships.
Top 20 list
The way to be effective with growing and scaling your mortgage business is to be intentional. When you’re clear about what you want, the people you want to connect with and the corresponding actions to take, you can create a simple road map to follow. A top 20 list is a great way for that road map to gain clarity.
Your top 20 list is comprised of the 20 people you most want to develop referral relationships with, including Realtors. When you’re creating your list, fight the urge to write down the biggest, most popular or most successful Realtors. These are the agents every other loan officer goes after, so unless you want to enter the real estate version of “The Bachelor,” it’s in your best interest to develop relationships with other people.
A well-rounded top 20 list includes Realtors who are consistent — some great up-and-comers who haven’t been able to prove themselves just yet, as well as a few dream partners who may be a bit of a stretch but would be great additions to your referral team. By focusing on Realtors who are still hungry or have shown consistency, you set yourself up for referral partnerships in which the work is equally shared.
Once you have your top 20 list, it’s time to reach out and build the relationships. There are several ways to do this, but the trick is to lead with value. That’s why virtual workshops are a great way to connect with Realtors on your top 20 list.
Workshops are a tactic that work both in person and virtually. Due to the current health crisis and social-distancing requirements, however, implement them virtually for now. Virtual workshops give you the opportunity to create short educational events that can serve as a great lead magnet (i.e., something free that entices leads to give you their contact information).
Once you’ve decided to create the virtual workshop, look at your top 20 list and zero in on a Realtor you’d like to connect with. Do some research about the agent to see what kinds of houses or buyers they specialize in, then come up with a list of potential topics for the virtual workshop that would match the Realtor’s expertise.
Once you’ve put these ideas together, reach out to the agent and ask them to partner with you via virtual workshop. Let them know how you plan to promote the workshop and see if they’re interested in having a conversation about a partnership. If you already know the Realtor a bit, you can call them directly to inquire. If this is a cold contact, make sure you state the value for them upfront and demonstrate that you’ve done research to make sure they’re a good fit.
Here’s an example email you could use for a cold Realtor lead: “Hi, Tony. I saw your latest post on Facebook where your client bought and flipped a gorgeous 100-year-old house. That was awesome! Looking through your other posts, it looks like you often work with clients interested in renovating homes. I’m reaching out because I’m about to host a virtual workshop for first-time house flippers. I think that if we partnered together, we could create a win-win. Are you open to a quick call about collaborating so that we can supply you with more leads?”
A simple email like this is enough to lead with value and pique the Realtor’s interest without asking them to commit from the beginning. Another way to build relationships with your top 20 list is to create presence around them.
Have you ever noticed that when a new product drops, you see it everywhere? All of the YouTubers you follow review it in the same three-day span and it fills your Instagram feed with wallet-worthy pictures. This is the type of effect you want to create — you’re organically creating multiple impressions on your top 20 list to spark their curiosity and encourage a conversation.
To do this, start by engaging with their social media content. When you comment on or like the content of these people, they see your picture and name while associating it with positive feelings. To go the extra mile, share their content when it’s appropriate for your audience. This will show a prospective partner that you actually support them (leading with value). Engaging with their social media content also helps your top 20 list to see you as part of their community and support network. This way, when you reach out to speak with them personally via email or phone, they’re already familiar with you.
The more consistently you show up for your top 20, the more you’ll stimulate their reticular activating system (RAS). The RAS is the part of your brain that will constantly see the new black Lexus you just bought driving down the opposite side of the road. It’s not that these other cars weren’t there before, but your brain is now on alert to identify them. Similarly, you can train the RAS of the people on your top 20 list to notice you by consistently creating presence.
Another way to create presence is to show up at the events (especially once social distancing has eased up) that matter to your top 20. These events don’t have to be work-related. Although you’ll definitely make an impression by showing up to their open houses or industry-related networking groups, you can connect even more when you’re able to find common ground at charity events or community-service projects they’re committed to. Whenever you have the chance to break bread or contribute to a meaningful project with someone you want to build a relationship with, jump on it. These moments build bonds faster than cold emails and create real loyalty that you can build upon for a powerful referral relationship.
To learn about the events and organizations your top 20 list is most involved with, check out their social media accounts. On LinkedIn, in particular, they’ll likely list their favorite organizations on their profile. On other social media sites, they’re likely to post pictures of themselves participating as well as links to current events.
There are powerful psychological statements made when you confidently send clients to a Realtor. The first message is, “I don’t need you.” This is one of the best nonverbal statements you can make when networking with Realtors as potential referral partners.
Realtors are used to being chased. They’ve heard all of the promises and canned speeches about how mortgage originators will help grow their business. All of this reeks of desperation and often pushes the agent away because it infers that you need them rather than a desire to build a relationship.
Think about it like dating. When you’re too clingy, the other person is turned off. But when you’re laid-back and confident, the other person is more likely to be drawn to you. The same rules apply here.
The second message this action sends is, “I trust you.” When you refer hot, ready-to-buy leads to a Realtor, you’re entrusting them to take care of these clients. You’re putting your relationship with the client on the line. This isn’t something to take lightly. So, when you send clients to someone on your top 20 list, there’s an understanding that a certain level of trust has been offered to the Realtor. By doing this, you activate the law of reciprocity in which the agent is now more likely to trust you with their clients.
How do you send clients to your top 20? Get to the clients first. If you already have leads coming in and you’re building a consistent flow within your mortgage business, you’ll head into relationship building with your top 20 from a position of confidence and power.
The truth is, your Realtor partners don’t want you to need them. They want you to choose them. From the perspective of the Realtor, a loan officer who relies on their Realtor partners for income is someone who’s more difficult to work with and takes more from the relationship than they contribute. But a mortgage originator who is dedicated to personal growth shows up prepared, grateful and ready to collaborate.