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.

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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?


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

Thirty Days to Greater Prosperity as a Loan Originator or Mortgage Broker

What I want to share with you today is something I believe is the single best way to save you time so you can earn more money! If you are already earning enough money, then this will allow you the time to go enjoy the money you are earning with your family and friends! This is a section of a “White Paper” I wrote called “Thirty Days”.

I have never met a loan originator that hasn’t told me that they were busy. My response to that is often, “are you busy or are you productive?” There is a huge difference. I have seen loan originators and managers working twelve to eighteen hour days to close a few loans and not make all that much money. All because they are constantly trying to “remember” what they need to do next or they have a closing deadline in a few days. This causes them to act reactively instead of proactively.

Most loan “drama” comes from three places: 1)Improper loan submission. 2)Bad communication. 3)Unrealistic expectations.

Master these three areas and you will find your life, and the lives of your clients, processors, underwriters, managers, even your friends and family members will become less stressful and more profitable!

So let’s take a look at a few things I have been working on with some of my more successful, high loan volume clients. Since the average loan originator closes less than three loans per month, we need to get past how they do business and focus on those that do seven, nine, or even twelve loans a month or more on a regular basis working thirty to fifty hour work weeks.

One common thread amongst those in this arena is some very clear habits and systems. Those loan originators do a great job knowing what to do and when to do it. It all starts with a crisp and clean application. An application your processor feels comfortable with and can see all your notes about the transaction. If the loan has ANY quirks or questions, address them early with your processor! All the questions asked and answered, all the boxes filled in. A clear understanding of what the client wants and needs, and the time frame in which it all gets done. More than that, the client and originator have had a complete conversation about what is going to happen, and when it is likely to occur. Good loan originators explain the entire process, complete with dates, times, and requirements the borrower has to the process so the loan will close at the time desired and at the price promised. The client has a real interest in knowing they have obligations to perform in a timely manner that might have real financial consequences.

The conversation with that client goes something like this:

“During the loan process there are certain milestones that we need to be aware of so you close on time at the price promised. It is very important that we take a look at the next thirty days so I can share with you what will take place and how your participation and timely responses are critical to a smooth and hassle free transaction.” Here is a simple timeline for your thirty day closing:

Day 1: We take a complete loan application.

Day 2: I submit a completed loan application into processing.

Day 6: We will review disclosures, loan findings and requested documentation. You will have 48 hours to return signed disclosures and any documentation requested.

Day 9: We will review your submission and appraisal.

Day 12: Your file will be submitted to underwriting.

Day 15: We will review underwriting findings and any additional documentation requested. You have 48 hours to supply any additional documentation requested.

Day 20: We make a final submission to underwriting.

Day 23: We have the “clear to close”; we will review the closing process and set a time to review your HUD-1.

Day 28: We review the final HUD-1.

Day 30: We close your loan.

Now obviously you have to take into consideration weekends, holidays, and your own company’s turn-around time. Also, it is imperative that your processing and underwriting teams are on the same page by providing accurate information. It is the loan originator’s job to track these deadlines and schedule time accordingly.  Just like with the client, you need the same type schedule to track processing and underwriting to be sure you meet all dates.

I am sure if you follow these steps, you will reduce the stress in your life, and provide a better quality of service for your clients and referral partners. If you would like a copy of the entire “White Paper” please just email me and I will be happy to send it to you.

If you have any questions or comments, please just let me know.  Email me at michael@improvemytomorrowcoaching.com or you can visit me on the web at www.improvemytomorrowcoaching.com

Origination Systems are critical to productivity in the Loan Origination Business

The July 4th holiday is behind us and the heat of the summer buying season is in full swing. Any professional loan originator who isn’t busy right now closing loans has only one person to blame, himself. All areas of loan opportunities are bursting at the seams with activity, rates are at all-time lows, and the ability to get loans closed couldn’t be more specific. So why are some mortgage originators dealing with full pipelines and multiple closings and others are not? Simple, they don’t have a system by which they identify and work on the business that will really close.


As a business coach to some of the best loan originators in the country, I get to see on a daily basis what the best of the best do, that the others don’t. The difference isn’t as big as the numbers would indicate. Here are five very simple things you can do that will improve your ability to work on the deals that will close, instead of wasting time on rate shoppers and wannabe buyers.


1)    Utilize the ten minute rule. If you spend more than ten minutes speaking with a potential client without seeing qualifying documentation, you are wasting your time.

2)    Set clear and specific expectations about what can be done and how long it will take.

3)    Do NOT lock-in a rate or terms of a loan, until you have a deal you know is going to close.

4)    Make sure all your file submissions into processing are “bullet proof” when you submit them.

5)    Keep consistent and scheduled communication with all parties and hold everyone accountable for their obligation to the loan time line.


If you don’t set the value of your time, others will set it for you. You must accept the fact that people want to go at their pace of events, and that you need to lead them toward the path that tracks the result we all want; a closed loan transaction. All the loan scenarios in the world are meaningless without knowing if the people you are talking too can qualify for the money.


Simple Loan Strategy #1 is to be sure you spend no more than ten minutes or so with a prospective borrower until you have seen the five key items:

1)    Tri-merge credit report on all borrowers

2)    W-2s on all borrowers last two years

3)    Paystubs on all borrowers last month minimum

4)    Bank statements showing all funds, even those not needed for the transaction.

5)    Last two years tax returns for all borrowers, all schedules


Why engage in a conversation without know the facts? Some borrowers may want to shop from place to place before they commit to supplying this information. It is up to you to share the wisdom of having a real factual conversation about what they can really do, verses a hypothetical conversation about thing that may, or may not happen. You may “lose” a few opportunities in this process, but the time you save in working “real deals” will far outweigh any you might “lose”.


Simple Strategy #2 is to be very clear about time expectations. All markets and companies are experiencing different time lines to close both purchase and refinance transactions. Between appraisals times, processing times, underwriting times, and the ability to get a closing scheduled, all need to be clear and well within a predetermined set of reasonable expectations. The phrase “under promise and over deliver” comes to mind. If you get a purchase contract into your office for 15 days for a firm commitment, you need to be very clear with ALL PARTIES as to what will be needed and BY WHEN to meet this time frame. If you get a purchase contract calling for a 21 day closing on an RDA loan, and your RDA region is running 9 day turnaround time, you need to get the contract changed on day one, not day 20!


Simple Strategy #3 is to be very careful about when you lock the terms of your deal. Once you tell the customer their deal is “locked”, you lose all leverage in getting that client to supply any additional materials you may need. Also, once you have “locked” the terms of the deal, the client now has full ability to “shop” your terms in a fluctuating rate market. You need to have a clear and specific conversation about rate locks and lock extensions before making the commitment on your terms, if the borrower isn’t as committed as you are.


Simple Strategy #4 is to get your loan files “bullet proof” before submission. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than chasing conditions and documentation. Know what you need and get it before it goes into processing. Create a checklist with your processor as to what they need from you to make the file flow smoother. Solid and complete files take a little more time upfront, but are well worth it down the road. Be a professional and turn in great files!

Simple Strategy #5 is to have a clear and specific communication schedule with everyone in the process. Certain specific points of communication are required and easy to schedule. A few things you want to include would be:


1)    Connecting with both Realtors® on a purchase transaction within 24 hours of file submission to be sure about appraisal issues.

2)    Appraisal review with the client and obtaining all need insurance information so the policy provided meets the requirements set in the application.

3)    Commitment conditions and clear to close dates to be certain everything is tracking the schedule.

4)    HUD-1 review prior to closing.

5)    Wire receipt confirmation with Realtors®

Five simple steps that take you from being busy, to becoming productive!

You can learn more by visiting http://www.ImproveMyTomorrowCoaching.com