TAKING THE MORTGAGE APPLICATION— WHERE ARE YOU?
“You will find no one willing to share out his money; but to how many does each of us divide up his life! People are frugal in guarding their personal property; but as soon as it comes to squandering time they are most wasteful of the one thing in which it is right to be stingy.”
Ring, ring: “Hi, there. We were told to contact you to discuss mortgage financing, what’s your best rate?”
Ideally, this phone call will end in roughly 45 minutes with a complete mortgage application filled out in the system used to transfer client data to a lender. In about 70% of cases, this is exactly how it goes in our office. Often the call ends with the file built and no specific rate-commitment made; instead
the clients understand that they will get the best rate as it applies to the best product, policy, and lender fit for their specific scenario.
If you make an effort to keep a similar structure to each open- ing call, you will master converting first-time callers into long-time clients. This approach leads to maximum efficiency. Effective use of time is everything in Brokering.
The Email Intro
A skilled referral source will always cc the clients and yourself on an email introduction to their clients. Often the clients will be quick to follow up with an email inquiry directly, which will, in many cases, contain a variety of requests for different sorts of information—current rates, mortgage amounts based on income, various payment scenarios, and so on.
Resist responding to these inquiries with anything other than the briefest of emails designed specifically to get the client onto the telephone. All too often, your email will be taken as a definitive response and simply used as a tool that the client returns to their current institution with, leaving the client feeling like they got a better deal, when in fact they are structuring their mortgage in a truly risky or inefficient way, which the client remains oblivious to because you answered their question with a number, rather than a series of questions.
Yes, this is in fact the time to answer a question with a question. Always get clients onto a call.
My standard email inquiry response template is along the lines of the following:
John, thanks again for the referral. It is always a pleasure to work with you and your clients. I will connect with Susan and Greg for an opening call as soon as possible.
Susan and Greg,
Pleased to meet you. I look forward to discussing whether there is an opportunity for us to work together.
Much can be determined during an opening telephone conver- sation of 15−20 minutes.
Often during this initial call we can determine the maximum mortgage amount, discuss interest rate options, and calculate potential monthly (*or bi-weekly*) payment amounts.
We try to schedule opening calls on the hour between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., Mon−Fri.
Although tomorrow is heavily booked, Thursday and Friday are wide open. In any event, please let me know the time that works best for you, and if we can make it happen today or tomorrow, we will.
Please find my complete contact card attached as well. Kind regards,
An email like this sets tone for the process. You are not open- ing the door for an in-person meeting from the start. Instead, you are guiding the initial conversation to the telephone in order to get some pre-qualification work done in advance, work that is always best done via a live conversation so that you can get a sense of what the client is all about.
Little data about who these people really are can be gained from an email, and not much more can be determined via an online application for that matter. But much can be gleaned from just a few verbal sentences. In fact, I seem to have devel- oped an ability to peg an applicant’s beacon score to within 25 points 99% of the time within just a few sentences of their speaking—and I mean speaking on any topic at all. Tone, pitch, sentence structure, grammar, and slang will all tell you a lot of what you want to know up front.
Get the client on the phone.
There is a reason that online leads have a conversion rate in the very low single digits, and why my own conversion rate by telephone exceeds 60%.
Taking an application in person is almost always a rite of pas- sage for a new Broker. You’re so eager to please, so anxious about losing that first client, that when the client says jump, you’re already on the way up and asking “how high?” In the early days you would meet them at 3:00 a.m. if they asked,
driving three hours each way in a blizzard—whatever the client wants. Bad idea.
In responding this way you give the client complete power over yourself and the process from the start, it sets a tone—a dangerous tone. This is your first mistake and often it is fatal to the file.
You happily drive an hour across town at 8:00 p.m., a con- venient time for the client, and then spend (not invest) one and a half to two hours taking what is effectively a 20-minute application, coupled with a 20- to 25-minute fact find—yet in person this simple process will take hours longer.
The added 45 to 90 minutes of “stuff” is happening because you gave up control. Control over the environment and the format of communication. The client is now letting the dog out, brewing a cup of tea, putting the kids to bed, changing a load of laundry, answering a few calls, answering the door, tucking the kids back into bed and so on—stuff that has nothing to do with you or your skill set. Meanwhile you are missing other calls, failing to respond timely to emails or texts, not good.
But you really want these clients. They may well be your only clients, and you believe part of your job is doing everything in your power to make this as smooth and simple for the clients as possible. Which it is, but this is not that. I understand you want to meet every client in person, which is fine, but perhaps you could meet them in person at your office? Let’s not get confused about the where, a professional office space is best 99% of the time.
Think about how you may have come to conclude you were meant to be all things to all people. Was it from processing hundreds of mortgages over the past year? Or perhaps it is based on very little real-world Brokering experience. Or even worse it is based on the experienced wise old Broker in your office that has been running their business this way for 20 years or more—y’know, the Broker with a flip phone who still has his pager in the top drawer of his desk just in case he can re-activate it. Times are changing, and our ability and the expectation to respond not just quickly, but efficiently, has as well. Especially for clients under 40.
Challenge Your Beliefs, or They Will Challenge You
Back to your home visit, you then spend another hour driving back across town. Three or four hours after leaving your office, you return and log in to your computer (although you likely don’t have an actual office because if you are driving all over the place to meet clients, you “just don’t see the need for the expense”—never mind fuel, maintenance and depreciation costs of the vehicle, and more importantly, the cost of (or failure to assign value to) your own time.
Time being the most precious commodity in life and in business.
You enter the client’s details into the system—because either your laptop (which you should not own) battery died while you were at the client’s home, or you could not get onto their Wi-Fi (which you should never do)—and you soon discovered that you’re working with a client who is currently in the middle of a bankruptcy, something they failed to mention during the two hours you spent together. You then pull title (as you should on 100% of refinance files) and discover pending litigation and/or a lien placed by CRA – also topics that did not come up during the meeting.
There is no possible way you’re going to be able to help this client anytime soon. Those three, four, maybe five hours of your life are now gone forever. Dinner with your own family, movie night, story time, time spent working your database, building a referral partner relationship or any number of other opportunities—lost. You will never get those hours back. Will you learn from this experience?
The good news is, yes, you will.
The entire evening could have been saved by asking one open- ing question: “Would you mind if I just asked you a few questions right now to get the high points of what you are wanting to achieve?”
Are You Busy Being Busy?
I could write an entire book on the use of the telephone alone. In Volume 1, I mentioned driving 1,000 km per week during my first six months or so in this business. This was not the highest and best use of my time.
Learn from the errors of my ways.
Yes, there was a benefit to being out there in the world in the very early days. It made me feel like I was doing something; it gave me a sense of confidence. But what I was doing was little more than simply being busy with busyness—something not to be confused with actual business. A certain percentage of what I did was little more than driving around in circles crossing off overly easy to-dos on a weak yet long “to-do” list; it created an illusion (or delusion) of productivity. It was a waste of precious time most days. Get focused.
This stemmed from being told when I started in the busi- ness that meeting with each and every potential applicant in person was vital. I was advised not to press clients for details too quickly on that first call, that all I should be trying to do was lock down a time to get in front of them, in person, and then all could be revealed. What a crock of—um—stuff found in crockery.
Question everything you are told.
Question everything you read—even these pages.
Better still, question every caller thoroughly. This is one of the keys to efficiency.
An Old-School Cool Tool
The epiphany came on a day that I simply could not be in two places at once, and thanks to a client questioning me as to whether it was truly vital that we meet in person, I actually made the effort to get the factual answer to this question.
No, we did not have to meet in person.
Most of the old-school Brokers around me were adamant that I would never get a referral from the client unless I met with them in person, or worse, that the client would just rate-shop me and would not stick with me through the process. The holy grail was the mythologized and over-hyped in-person meeting.
The Times They Are A-Changin’
People don’t have a spare minute, except for the one they just made to call you. We struggle to find time to exercise, to socialize, to entertain. We struggle with time to fit it all in. And for the vast majority of clients, it comes as a relief when they learn we can make it the mortgage process happen via telephone and email.
That client’s question, “do we have to meet at all?” was put to me within my first few months of Brokering, and it changed the trajectory of my business. There is no question of the ben- efits, increased efficiency, and increased capacity it gave me.
I do still put myself out there as available for in-person meet- ings, but it is on my own turf and my own terms. There are two options to proceeding: the telephone or the client driving to my office. Here’s the language I use:
“No problem at all if you prefer to meet in person. I am a suit- and-tie guy and am here in my office from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. weekdays, and happy to schedule a time to meet with you. If you feel compelled to see the whites of my eyes, I respect that.”
“Actually, we do not make house calls. I know that when we are deep into working your file and you need an answer fast, the last thing you want is for me to be spending hours of each day driving around to meet prospective clients; you want me in my office ready with answers, working hard on your file.”
“I like to limit the (drive) time lost in my days to the 18 minutes between my home and my office. Otherwise, I can be found planted here in my office working on active client files all day in order to be most effective, something you will be happy about when I am working on your file.”
“Not to mention that aside from the drive time, we can in fact accomplish in 20 minutes by phone what 99% of the time some- how takes closer to 60 minutes in person.”
A mix of some or all of these comments sprinkled into the opening call tends to get us where we want to be, which is taking the application right away.
The power of a professional office should not be ignored. Always mention it if you do have one. You want the client picturing you as professionally dressed in a professional space.
And when clients do pop in to see you, there is no doubt in their minds that they made the right choice as they enter a professional workspace and are possibly even greeted by a pleasant receptionist.
I get very little pushback on not meeting clients on their terms once I explain that I do not own a laptop, as I will not be storing their very sensitive personal data in a device that is subsequently logged in to random Wi-Fi networks at three different homes in one evening which might expose their data to easy theft.
Instead, their personal information is stored securely in an alarmed and heavily fortified building, a law firm in fact, in which my office is based—an office that does not have a Wi-Fi network. It has a desktop computer without a Wi-Fi card installed in it.
The key is to guide the opening conversation, and thus the clients, through the steps of explaining what a Broker does (independent advice), how we do it (no charge) and where we do this. All while weaving into the conversation information that no other Broker or banker has offered.
All of this will unfold over the next few chapters.
chapter tip: Take charge of the opening call and its direc- tion: “As it happens, we do not actually have to meet in person. In fact, 99% of clients prefer to set up the initial application by telephone. But first let’s spend a few minutes speaking about your goals. Let’s start at 40,000 feet and work our way down.”
“Have you ever worked with a Broker before?”
chapter tip: Always quote a “rate band, not rate brand,” meaning do not lock a hard number into a client’s mind before you know their entire story. Don’t let rate be the differentiator between you and the competition; make it a matter of knowledge and courtesy.