Who Are Originators’ Priority Customers?

At a recent leadership conference, I asked who makes up an originator’s customer base. It might seem obvious that producers know who their priority customers are, but you would be surprised at the answers I received when speaking on this topic. Most originators think it is borrowers while top producers view referral sources as their priority customers.

Marketing guru Seth Godin addressed this issue in a great blog post:

“Zappos is a classic customer service company and their customer is the person who buys the shoes. Nike, on the other hand, doesn\’t care very much at all about the people who buy the shoes, or even the retailers. They care about the athletes (often famous) that wear the shoes, sometimes for money. They name buildings after these athletes, court them, erect statues etc. Many manufacturers have retailers as their customer. If Wal-Mart is happy, they\’re happy.”

The point Godin makes is that every company (or salesperson) must determine who their customer is before selling their products and services. Certainly, there is not one right solution for everyone. Godin further reminds us that a decision needs to be made on the customer issue that matches to a company or salesperson’s business model.

What I find interesting is that top producers are consistently clear that their referral sources are their priority customers and borrowers are second place. I do hear objections about this line of thinking, especially from bank sales personnel who believe that borrowers are the primary customers. Let’s take a closer look at the issue from a volume standpoint:

A borrower might purchase a home or refinance seven to 10 times in his or her lifetime. They might also refer friends and family two to three times or more to an originator. In total, an originator has the opportunity to do a loan with borrowers or their friends a total of 15 times over a number of years.

There is no doubt that a happy customer is a critical concern for any originator and shows the benefits of delivering an extraordinary customer experience. But very few customers can match the value of having happy referral sources. Top producers know this and focus their attention on wowing their referral sources first. Top producers understand that a referral source can easily match the volume of business each year that a borrower can provide over a lifetime.

So when originators miss an appointment with a referral source or don’t promptly return phone calls to update on the status of a borrower, they are taking a tremendous risk with a customer who is essential for long-term success. If salespeople don’t take care of their referral sources, they will rarely move into the higher production ranks.

The big question managers need to ask their originators: “How are you handling your referral sources?” I think you may be surprised by their answers.