It is Never the Right Time . . .

There is never a perfect time to make changes to your sales process. In the current marketplace, where volume is overwhelming and many lenders are turning away business, it may seem counterintuitive to discuss what it will take to succeed in a 2021 purchase money environment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the MBA’s recent volume forecast, the purchase market will dominate with refinance loans projected to make up only 33% of total volume in the year ahead. Mortgage managers must take action now to prevent reduced profitability and loss of originators’ income.

While most lenders and originators are “making hay while the sun shines,” before they know it, business will inevitably shift to a more difficult environment. This is the reality of the boom or bust cycle of mortgage banking. We are only six months out from 2021. Here are some of the factors mortgage managers will need to consider when assessing how to adjust their sales strategies for optimum results:

• Demographics. Between 1980 and 2009, annual growth in the working age population — workers between the ages of 25 and 64 — was consistently between 1% and 2%, but the pace has slowed to an average of 0.6. This means hiring originators will be more challenging and more expensive if a lender’s strategy is to hire only those sales candidates with a book of business. A lender’s growth strategy that is dependent on finding “unhappy” employees will need to change.

• Remote working. Working from home will be the new normal. While remote working has risen over the years, COVID-19 precautions have forced many companies to adopt this strategy and I believe there will be no turning back. This raises essential questions about 1) whether we are hiring candidates with the discipline to work on their own; and 2) how can a company or team establish a culture in a decentralized working environment.

In the future, will employees be freelancers or independent contractors with a particular skill set to accomplish a company’s goals? The entertainment industry is structured this way and in my opinion, this model is migrating to other industries. As a result, when hiring sales candidates, it is important to understand that not every person is suited to work on his or her own. This requires discipline and the ability to be a self-starter, characteristics that are often not evaluated during an interview or reflected in a W-2 statement.

• Human-to-human connection. In countless customer satisfaction surveys, consumers note three conditions for excellent service: fast; solves my problem; and friendly. Speed and problem resolution can be driven by technology but friendly takes human interaction.

Yet, corporate management teams often view technology as a way to reduce personnel and employ digital solutions with the hope that mobile apps and chat boxes will deliver a better customer experience. According to Accenture, banks have invested more than $1 trillion in digital solutions over the past four years trying to align their services with consumers’ increasing expectations. Amid this shift, what has been left out of the equation is an investment in improving the quality of the sales team’s interactions with prospects and customers.

Technological solutions can be a wonderful asset but when there is a problem or question, customers want to speak to another person. Mortgage lending can be complicated and while technology can improve loan processing, there are times when a well-trained employee can make all the difference in the world.

Right now, it is more important than ever to improve the human connection in mortgage lending. Consumers are demanding a better customer experience. Are your originators ready to meet that challenge?