There is no question that the back office in mortgage banking is rapidly changing with the rollout of e-mortgages and Day 1 certainty products. Faster loan processing is becoming an important competitive differentiator with firms promising closing times of two weeks or less. Lenders who do not respond to consumer demand for speed of services will quite simply be left behind.
Unfortunately, on the sales side, many originators are still conducting business as they always have with little change in the status quo. This does not bode well for their future success. In my view, the reason why originators are only generating on average a couple of units per month is their failure to adopt more effective selling activities in today’s marketplace. So what works? A digital branding strategy is essential if originators are going to succeed in the long run.
Traditionally, selling has always been thought of as a numbers game. The premise is that when originators reach out to a large number of prospects, a certain percentage will be interested in their offer. In the past, that small percentage was enough to enable the salesperson to make a decent income and generate a profit for the company. The numbers game strategy worked for a long time for industries across the board, but this was before the digital revolution.
Today, technological filters have made it harder for sales reps to access potential customers. In addition, referral sources, brokers and consumers get their information about products and services differently. Many turn to websites, blogs, forums, review sites and social media platforms well before having any contact with a sales professional.
Buying decisions are made every day based on information outside of a prospect’s network of friends and family. Online performance ratings have fundamentally changed how consumers choose restaurants, cars and yes, even lenders. This is a monumental problem for producers who have not embraced digital selling methods to establish their personal brand or reputation.
Too often, originators do not recognize that the name of the company on their business card doesn’t carry the clout it once did. In general, prospects have a negative view of financial service firms due to the constant revelations of company scandals that demonstrate greed and untrustworthiness to the public. Consequently, originators are tasked more than ever with managing their own personal brand in the marketplace.
While personal branding as a concept has been around since Napoleon Hill discussed it in his classic book Think and Grow Rich (1937), today it has risen to a new level where all sales professionals must establish a certain perception of who they are before meeting potential prospects. In 2017, personal branding is about establishing an online reputation that sets expectations for working with an originator.
In his excellent book Digital Selling, Grant Leboff says that “by looking at the pictures you post, the connections you have, the information you disseminate and the comments you make, people will formulate an opinion about you. An expectation of what you are like. In marketing terms this would be your brand promise.”
Originators who refuse to engage and leverage the power of social media (and for that matter, companies who do not permit it) will be on the losing end of this equation. As we move forward, this skill-set will become mandatory for originators. In essence, it is about a willingness to make use of the digital channels that are available to be where your customers are.
As Leboff states, “salespeople are responsible for augmenting their own credibility and creating a presence in the places their prospects and customers frequent by offering valuable insights. The differentiator is not the product’s benefits and features. In a world where products and services are often the same, it is the experience that is distinct. In a sales situation, this experience is delivered by the salesperson. By delivering real insight, the salesperson is not a supplier but a real partner who can add genuine value to the customer. By doing this, the salesperson can earn ‘mindshare’ by creating content of value that enables the salesperson to get into the buying set of their prospects before they are ready to buy. By engaging prospects in this way at the beginning of their buying journey, the sales person is in a powerful position to be the supplier that will be chosen to do business with.”
Cultivating a digital personal branding strategy is not only a smart way for producers to separate themselves from others but a core selling technique that will establish a foundation for success.