Don’t Stop!

I know Christmas is five days away. I also know that it is a “holiday week” and many people have packed up and gone away until next year. Believe me, I know how many have called it a year and are taking a well-deserved break to enjoy some time off to unwind. To those people, BRAVO! Enjoy!

For those of you that found 2012 not to be all you had hoped, or one where you didn’t have as much success as you would have liked; or just realize that you can do better or NEED to do better, congratulations, you have an opportunity.

The most important four days for your success in 2013 may just be ahead of you. December 26th through 29th could be a very special four days. While many are taking time off, some people are out looking to buy a house. Some are looking to sell those people the house they are looking for. These people are not out looking for decorating tips, or at their desks because they want to be. They are out there because they HAVE TO BE!

This low traffic, low volume time represents a golden opportunity for mortgage professionals who are prepared to make a minor commitment of time and energy can reap huge returns. The key to these returns is VISABILITY! If you plan on working these days, you need to let everyone know about it. Send out an email, pick up the phone, get out of the office and hit the road and visit every potential referral partner and let them know you are working and are there to support them.

If 2012 didn’t meet your expectations, you need to make changes. If your business was less that 20% off where you want it to be, then a few simple tweaks of your systems and procedures will help. If your business is farther off than that, you will require real structural changes to get to where you want to go. You need to start at the beginning.

Plain and simple, you don’t do enough business because you don’t talk to enough people. The mortgage business is really pretty simple. Commissions come from closed loans. Closed loans are a result of taking applications. Applications are taken after we have reviewed documentation and credit reports, and that only comes after you talk to people!

Everyone who wants more business needs to get out from behind a desk, stop hiding behind email, texting, and websites; and get out and go talk to someone. ANYONE!

Most of the people in this country own the place they live. The rest live in a place that is rented. You can make the cost of home ownership lower for most of the owners, and you can help those that rent find a path toward home ownership, which in many cases, is less expensive than renting!

December 26th through 29th it is likely you won’t find many people around, but neither will you find much competition. Those that you find may long remember the fact that you were there long after the end of the year.

Think about this, on either January 2nd or January 7th, a whole new wave of mortgage professionals fresh off vacation, or having read a self-help book, or full of new energy to take on the world, will enter the market trying to secure purchase loan business. Just like every gym in the country, offices will be full of originators soliciting loan business; they will be everywhere! So my question to you is, would you rather get out next week when nobody else is out there, or do you want to wait until next year and be part of the frenzy?

Just a quick update from last week’s post, an actual Comcast® employee arrived at my home at 10am and spent a few hours getting everything up and running. He was very professional, was very apologetic, and acknowledged the challenges with both their customer service centers and the use of contract service providers. He took the time to double check that everything was working as we needed it to.

The technician employed by Comcast® was a professional and did a great job. Too bad his company and his fellow employees aren’t as dedicated to customer satisfaction as he is. We all need to learn from this lesson. No matter whom you work for, or what your position, you need to be that person that understands that without the customer, we have nothing!

Enjoy the holiday season with your families, as I will enjoy having a wonderful Christmas celebration with mine in our new home!

We welcome your questions and comments. Please feel free to go to our website: www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com and share with us.

Diminished Expectations

First let me say thank you to all of you that took the time to comment and share last week’s post. It was the most comments and shares since I began, and it really feels good to know that you are out there reading these every Thursday.

Part of what I was writing about last week and want you to see was how exceptional a simple task can be if you think it through enough to create and execute an exceptional experience. By fully understanding what your customer has come to expect, you can create and execute a plan and install a system that far exceeds those expectations. When you do, your customer feels truly cared for and appreciated. They feel like you value their business, and even more, them as people.

In today’s world, so much focus has been placed on speed and price that service is often lost in the mix. Many businesses feel that customers will put up with really poor treatment if you can deliver the product or service fast enough and cheap enough. And that my friends, is truly a shame, it really doesn’t have to be that way!

I am just in the process of completing a move into a new house. As all moves go, there are always a series of events that add stress to an already stressful situation. With all the things that need to be done, you have to go out and get some professional help, or you are forced to try and do it yourself. Even if you wanted too, some things you have to rely on other people to do. I wanted to share with you my personal experience, so you can relate it to your own lives and maybe reflect on your business and see if there are a few things you might be able to improve upon to make your overall level of service better.

One of the outside “professionals” I have to deal with is the cable company for TV and internet service. In south Florida satellite service is spotty at best during the frequent thunder storms and phone internet and TV here isn’t much better. So, you either use Comcast® or you pretty much have nothing. So a few weeks before the move, we begin to schedule services and compare packages. When we spoke to Comcast®, they said that the new location had never had cable service so they would have to send someone out to check. It took a bit of follow-up, but we were scheduled to have our service connected between 3 & 5pm on Tuesday the 12th.
Well, at 5:15pm we had not heard from our installer so my wife called Comcast® to see what was going on. After more than an hour and two conversations, she was told the installer was going to call her in a few minutes and would soon be on his way. By 7pm, still no call and no installer. Another call to Comcast®, and another hour worth of back and forth, we were told that no installer was coming and that the best they could do was to be at our home between 8 & 10am the next morning. When my wife asked if they were sure this would happen, she was told that the installer would be there between 8 & 10am.

Discouraged and disappointed, our first night in our new home would be without TV and internet service. Not a huge deal if someone would have bothered to call us BEFORE our appointment and told us that service was not going to be provided as promised. The $20 Comcast® guarantee feels like little compensation for waiting four plus hours for nobody to show up. But, we go to bed and get up early so we can be ready to go about our day with the Comcast® installer between 8 & 10.

At 8am we get a call from Comcast® letting us know that our installer would not be coming as promised because every installer in the state of Florida was at a meeting this morning. No worries, we would be compensated $20 for the missed appointment and that our installer would be at our home between 10 & 12 to get the job done. Really, do any of us believe this? If Comcast® had any real competition for my business do you think they would treat people this way? Do you think they care? Do you really think $20 is just compensation for lying to me? Do you think just because you can get away with this kind of poor treatment, you should?

In the mortgage industry we need to look at our process and how we treat our customers. Do we make promises we know we can’t keep? Do we tell people things will get done by a certain time and then miss those deadlines?

All professionals should never promise what they can’t deliver. If you have a deadline and something goes wrong, you need to contact the customer BEFORE you miss the deadline, not hide from them and hope they don’t notice.

Speed and price are great, but never at the cost of professional integrity. Do what you say, when you say you are going to do it. If you are going to miss a deadline, be a professional and tell the truth! Adding lies to a disappointment isn’t the solution. Either is hiding behind voicemail, email, or telling me I should lower my expectations of what professional conduct is. How about the mortgage industry being a profession known for setting high expectations and exceeding them? We all know that hasn’t exactly been the case the last few years. Have we diminished expectations so far in this country that we just accept being lied too and expect that this is just the way it is? I can lie to you as long as I give you $20?

We all need to elevate the customer experience. We need to raise expectations of ourselves and our performance, not lower the customer’s expectation of what they should receive from us.

Your questions or comments are always welcome, please contact us at:

http://www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

Executing the Plan – Average vs. Elite!

I saw a video clip this morning that really made an impact on me that I wanted to share. It brings home a message that clearly defines average and elite. Now while this clip is about a bartender mixing a drink, I think loan originators and those that manage them can take away a really powerful message from this clip if they look at the big picture.

It is obviously a talent contest and the three judges are rather uninspired at the prospect of watching a bartender mix a drink. Watch the expressions on their faces change as they watch the process unfold. Clearly this isn’t what they expected. As each element increases the overall difficulty, and some elements are not what they have expected, they become more and more engaged in the presentation and enjoy the experience. It concludes with a standing ovation and the judges certainly received much more entertainment than they thought possible at the beginning. The people in the crowd were also impressed to the point that I am sure they will share the experience of what they saw with others.

So what does this have to do with the mortgage industry? I think it has a great deal to do with our industry from the aspect of diminished expectations and pretty low regard for what the entire process can be. Most people are just happy if the loan closes near the anticipated closing date and expect a bit of pain and suffering along the way as just part of the process. Does it really have to be this way?

Let’s be honest, many loan originators and the companies they work for don’t set a very high standard of customer service. Many really don’t have a vision of the customer experience, and many can’t even define the process is words the average consumer can understand. Simple things like returning a phone call or email are sometimes highly suspect. Do our customers have any understanding of how and when they can expect a reply or a returned call? Do we have a timeline for the loan process that has simple dates and milestones so everyone involved in the process is clear as to what is going on, what happens next, and who is the one responsible for making sure each action is complete on time and correctly?

You see, the fundamental loan process is really pretty simple. We all know what is going to take place and how long it should take. Unfortunately, we do a really poor job sharing those actions and the time it should take to complete upfront and clearly with the customer and our referral partners. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to be clear and consistent. But just like the bartender in this video, the experience doesn’t have to be what you or your customers expect.

This bartender isn’t just mixing a drink. There are significant areas of “flare” where the bartender elaborates the process or adds an outside element to the process that makes this process go from average to ELITE!

So watch this video and think about your mortgage process. This bartender doesn’t just make this routine up; he clearly has practiced this over and over, bringing in additional elements along the way. This isn’t about just mixing a drink; it’s about bringing together a series well practiced tasks and combining them into an experience! Ask yourself a question, have I developed my skill set and the different elements of my mortgage practice into a well-choreographed performance as this bartender has? Has he thought more about his process then I have mine?

Are you just grabbing a glass and throwing together some ingredients, or are you putting together all the elements of a great finished product in a way that leaves them applauding? Do you deliver “standing ovation” caliber performances? Are you average or elite?

http://www.youtube.com/embed/60GJ0dJ1xmE?rel=0

Please send your questions or comments to www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

The Power of Presence

As a coach and mentor to loan originators all around the country, I am often asked, what are the key differences between those that consistently reach higher levels of production and those that struggle to maintain minimal levels of performance? While there are a number of things that I can identify, one comes to mind this time of year, Presence! Not the kind left under the tree, or the ones we give during this holiday season of good tidings; but rather our physical presence and connection with those we work with and those we are hoping to work with.

I have commented in past blogs about the way to approach the holiday season with all the parties and special events. I have shared my thoughts on specific “do’s and don’ts” about being a professional during the holiday season, today I want to talk about the single most important gift, the gift of your personal time. Your physical presence during the next five to six weeks will help set the tone of your relationships for the upcoming year. Think about it, while most in our industry set their lives on “cruise control” after Thanksgiving, I try to convince my people to be out, active, and engaged.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year Celebration are not just for parties. These weeks can be critical in building new relationships, repairing older issues, and the basic engaged maintenance everyone needs to do in the personal referral industry! Be the mortgage professional out networking and encouraging your referral partners to put together that last transaction for the year. Just one extra transaction can often be a big difference.

The other critical piece of “presence” is just being there when others aren’t. Often as the year rolls down, mortgage professionals and their real estate referral partners get more caught up in where the next party is, instead of where are the potential opportunities just waiting for me to find? For those Realtors® who are in their office this time of year who are seriously working to put together a transaction, they are not there because the want to be there; they are working because they HAVE to be there! Same thing holds true for potential clients. This time of year, nobody is out looking at properties because they are bored or want decorating ideas. People out looking for homes right now are looking because they HAVE to find a home NOW!

I know some of you may doubt that it is worth the effort to be engaged with this kind of effort while others are attending parties and having fun. My point is it’s not mutually exclusive. You can work hard and be social at the same time. But the relationships you can find and build this time of year by getting out and really working with those who really need to put a deal together, are relationships that will reward you all year long. So get out and be engaged. Your presence is often worth more than your present.

One quick note, I wanted to share with you the stories of three originators who last week go involved in their own “Black Friday Sale Event” last week. One originator in Virginia used the concept and put together three new loans thanks to this promotion and was asked by a number of his agents if they could continue the “sale” for another week so that other clients could participate!

Another loan officer got their first deal from a sought after builder on Friday when they couldn’t reach their primary referral partner. Not only did they get that deal, they were asked to meet this week for lunch to discuss future opportunities!

The last originator was able to convert a refinance opportunity into a listing/purchase opportunity for one of their Realtor® referral partners when they explained that buying that “forever home” today was a much better deal than just lowering the payment on their current home!

Congratulations to you three for taking advantage of a simple strategy! If any of you have used any of the strategies shared on this blog to grow your business, or have a success story you would like to share, I would love to hear it. Please reach us at: www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com or email me at Michael@Improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

Black Friday Strategy

Happy Thanksgiving to all my blog followers! We are wrapping up a really special year and we should all be very thankful we have the opportunity to do what we do. With that in mind, all of my originators and Realtor® friends, did you have a “Black Friday Strategy” all set up this year? No, I don’t mean planning what store opens when, or where to get that 50” TV for $99. I mean did you have a strategy to do a loan or sell a home this weekend?

Funny thing is that most in our industry look at Thanksgiving as the end point of the year to put together transactions that will still close in the current year. Most will leave the office today and begin looking for all the holiday parties and think about what next year has in store for us. Well, this is really flawed thinking by a vast majority of those in our industry. In fact, for a few really advanced teams of loan originators and Realtors®, this isn’t the end of anything, it is the beginning.

For those advanced teams, they have a strategy to use this weekend to find any last minute transactions that need to be completed before the end of the year, as well as identifying opportunities that will close early in next year. You see, people who are actually working this holiday weekend are doing so because they have too. While everyone else is shopping or relaxing with their family, a few professionals are engaged in putting together deals that just have to come together. Let’s be honest, not many people out looking at property this time of year are doing so just to look; they are doing so to BUY! They are out looking because they HAVE TO MAKE IT HAPPEN!

So while you are watching football or reaching for that bowl of chips, think about the opportunities there might have been if you had a simple “Black Friday Strategy” like this:

1)    Let all your referring partners know you would be working the weekend and will be available to meet with their clients.

2)    Schedule some time on Black Friday to go out and visit each real estate office you work with and let people know you are around and maybe share a discount on closing costs for those that are preapproved this weekend and close by January 31st with you.

3)    Work with a few Realtors® to identify their listings where we might engage the sellers into offering a special “Black Friday Price” for their currently listed property and hold a special Open House over the weekend for those properties.

Three simple ideas that help you set yourself apart from everyone else. That is a big part of any business plan, differentiation! Always ask these important questions:

1)    How do I help my referral partners do more business?

2)    How do I bring value to them during the process?

3)    How do I create new opportunities from current circumstances?

4)    How do I provide value for my customers?

5)    What action do I need to take to get it done!

Having a strategy is important. You can’t develop much of a business if everything that happens is accidental and not planned. Not everyone wants or needs to work a holiday weekend. But for those that do, they need to put deals together and put them together NOW!

Black Friday is a day that begins on Thursday and has people waiting on long lines to save money on things they may or even may not need. Well for loan originators and Realtors®, Black Friday is an opportunity to close out the year with a few needed transactions and start the next one with people committed to getting a deal done.

I have never come across an originator or Realtor® that had great months in January and February that had a bad year. The best way to start the year off well is to have a head start! Your head start is NOW!

We welcome your questions and comments; please share your thoughts with us at: www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

Working The Room

Hard to believe that next week we see Thanksgiving. Besides Black Friday, we begin the season of holiday parties in the mortgage and real estate industry, along with all the other parties. While certainly a special time of the year to have some fun, please remember that you have a chance to both generate new opportunities, as well as destroy your business! Loan originators, managers, and owners can all profit from properly networking the holiday party scene.

Here are six simple rules to make sure you maximize the opportunities and have a great and healthy holiday season:

1)    Have a plan! What parties and events are a must for you to attend? You never want to miss a key client’s event. Be sure you have an event calendar and get everything scheduled.

2)    Work the room first! Make sure you say hello to all the people in the room before filling your plate or your glass.

3)    Collect cards and make notes of people you meet for the first time and be sure you send a note or a thank you card to the host and any new contacts.

4)    Make at least one introduction of two or more people who haven’t yet met each other.

5)    DO NOT GET DRUNK! Nothing ruins the relationship faster. It is not professional and you will never get past the fact that you were “that drunk at the party”.

6)    Be careful of pictures and stories that hit Social Media. It takes a split second for someone to take a picture and splash it all over the Internet. DON’T BECOME THE LATEST YouTube® sensation!

I have been to more than my share of holiday parties. I share these rules with you because I have personally seen what can happen when you don’t. In the age of instant imaging and the 24-hour information cycle, you really need to pay attention and protect your professional image. One single lapse can leave a lasting result.

Work the room effectively. Establish a rhythm of short three-minute conversations. Pay attention to those you meet and exchange cards with those you are meeting for the first time. If you have a bad memory like me, write a short note on the back of their card about the conversation you had so it is easier to follow up with after the party. It takes just a few seconds but will be very helpful so you don’t confuse the people you are meeting.

Use a circular clockwise or counter-clockwise motion around the room. It makes it easier to work each little group and helps you make sure you don’t miss anyone.

Be sure to notice people as they come in. Don’t rush over to them, just make sure if you know them to make eye contact and then move toward them when you conclude your current conversation. You never want anyone to think you are “better dealing them”. Each conversation is important. Be polite and respectful, complete the conversation and move on. If you need to move on and the person you are speaking with won’t allow the conversation to end, introduce them to someone else, or even bring them with you to the next group you need to speak with. It never hurts to introduce people to each other. Also, you never want to leave someone alone as you exit the conversation. Again, if you must, take them with you!

Be sure you say goodbye and thank the host. If you can’t, be sure to send an email or leave a voicemail to apologize for moving on without doing so.

Holiday parties are great. I want you to have fun and enjoy the season with the people you work with and those that are happy to refer you. Just follow these simple rules and not only will you have a good time, but you will see long term rewards by being a true professional!

For questions or comments, please go to my website:

www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

The Election is Over!

So here we are; what seemed like years of campaigning, debates, and commercials (especially if you live in a “swing state”) and the result is nothing. We are exactly where we were. Right track, wrong track, doesn’t matter, we are where we are and we will go where we will go and have been going. To put it all into perspective, all the money spent by both presidential campaigns during this entire process amounts to about what the Federal Reserve buys in mortgage backed securities every business day! All of that said; here is the plan!

The ElecetioLoan originators, managers, owners, and others; we have just two weeks before Thanksgiving! Your plan for how to deal with the work and closing schedules for the balance of the year needs to be addressed and done so soon! What days are we going to be open? What days will you conduct business and closings? Have you even thought about your professional holiday cards and gifts yet?

I ask this because many companies based in the north east will be challenged to fill orders. Some companies have already alerted their customers about this situation. Please do not assume your items can be ordered and delivered as they once were, one of the companies my wife likes to order from has a warehouse in New Jersey that still has no power and has standing water in it!

You also need to set your target dates as to when you will stop accepting loans for closing in 2012. With some critical legislation set to expire by the end of the year, be certain if you promise to close a loan in 2012, you can deliver on that promise!

With less than sixty days to go before the year ends, most of you should be pretty clear as to what your final numbers will look like. Are we better this year than we thought? Did we reach our goals, exceed them, or fall short? Now is the time to take a quick look to see where you are and what you need to be doing to secure 2012, but more importantly, look at 2013 and set a plan in motion to be ready to hit the ground running.

As I have said before, 2013 will be a better year for most mortgage professionals. With a clear picture of the policies we will live within, we need to make any adjustments to our systems to be ready to do better! You need to ask yourself a few basic questions:

1)    Will the systems I have been using get me to the level of production I desire in 2013?

2)    What am I doing now that I need to improve upon?

3)    Specifically, what are my goals for 2013?

4)    What will I have to do differently in 2013 so that I reach those goals?

5)    Do I need to learn or incorporate any new systems and technologies in 2013, and when will I do this?

6)    Looking are all the sources of business I have, am I confident I have what I need to reach my goal, and if not, what is the plan?

Business planning is critical for loan originators, managers, and owners so that they have the focus and direction needed to succeed. Having a realistic conversation with yourself and others about where you are is the first step in finding the path to where you want to go.

2013 holds vast opportunities in the mortgage industry for those that can focus on what they want and how they will get there. Unfortunately, the industry is also changing and some of these changes will require a higher level of professionalism and competency for those that wish to stay. Old standards are gone. The “casual” loan originator is on the way out the door. Higher levels of production and proficiency are the new “normal”. We have to require higher standards from the “average” originator. More units, better quality submissions, and a higher degree of customer satisfaction will be required. All the new regulations require us to do better. Higher standards are the reality of our industry. For those that see this and adapt, the opportunities are endless. For those that fight the change, your days are numbered. It is far too easy to get it right. Step up and succeed, the rewards are worth it!

I do offer a monthly coaching program that will keep you up to date on the newest regulations and systems that are available. For more information on the monthly program visit my website or contact me.

For any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at my website: www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com or email Michael@improvemytomorrowcoaching.com