Loan officers share how they acquire and work with referral partners for more leads
Referrals are the lifeblood of the mortgage originator.
We’ve spoken with some big producers about how they connect with new referral partners, and how they go about reinforcing those relationships to get more business sent their way.
Making connections with new referral partners
We found that loan officers have a few routes they can take in order to make connections with new referral partners.
- Passive approach – provide great service and use word-of-mouth marketing
- Active approach – direct marketing campaigns
- Niche – provide a niche skill or expertise they can access
“I just built a great name in the market and built upon it over time. I have a pretty big team so I am able to service my agents better than the competition”, said Scott Evans of Cross Country Mortgage.
As Scott mentions, this approach takes time. A reputation is not earned in a day. With that being said, these relationships tend to be the most productive and long lasting as well.
Linda Rudd of Legacy Mutual uses all three strategies, but here’s what she said about how to guide the word-of-mouth conversation:
“I think it’s working your client contacts and your agents backwards. For example, if we’re working on a transaction and that client’s CPA is who we have to go to for documentation and that client loves that CPA, it’s a matter of working backwards like, ‘Hey, if you love your CPA can I call them and introduce myself?’ It’s working it backwards from the other angle to their centers-of-influence and who are the people that are important to them”, said Rudd.
This is the approach for the originator that wants to get their name out and try to capture some new business. It can take an up front investment of time and/or money, but can lead to more immediate results.
“We have a full time marketing person who stays in the field and hands out our business cards and marketing material and tells people who we are. Her primary role is to help spread awareness of who we are and to sponsor open houses and events and lunch-and-learns and help keep our calendar filled with events. Her job is not to get us applications, her job is to get us connections. Realtors, referral sources”, said Don Owens of Hamilton Group Funding.
This approach gets results for Don, but he also stresses that it’s not something that an originator can do themselves if they are still busy closing loans:
“In a good month we might meet 100+ realtors face-to-face. That really helps a lot, but you have to have somebody out in the field making that happen while the loan officers are managing the files”, Owens said.
This approach isn’t for everyone. MLOs we spoke with didn’t advocate for acquiring a skill just for this purpose, but instead emphasizing and bringing attention to something that you already do that is niche like.
For Jen Hernandez, of Legacy Mutual, she gets about 10% of her loan volume by being known in the community as the MLO to go to with Spanish speaking clients.
“Agents know that I’m the bi-lingual loan officer and there’s not a lot of good bi-lingual people out there. I have 2 bi-lingual people on my team both on the front end and the back end because it is important and it’s something I know that we need. We actually just brought on a big realtor account where they’re going to have a lot of Spanish speaking people. It definitely gives me an edge that is very helpful in this market“, Hernandez said.
Instead of a specific skill, such as a second language, Linda Rudd takes advantage of her past career to give her an edge.
“I also work with a lot of bankers, so banks that don’t have mortgage companies are great for me because I am a former banker. I speak their language and am very comfortable with it. That’s a great opportunity for me to develop those relationships“, said Rudd.
Do you have a skill or a background in a related field? It won’t be your whole business, but can provide a nice boost to an MLOs overall referral partner book.
Maintaining and leveraging referral relationships
Similar to how these successful originators have acquired their referral partners, they also have leaned on multiple approaches to work the relationship once it’s acquired.
Provide education and business strategies
Jen Hernandez’s top duty for her team is managing referral partner relationships. She believes that educating her partners and helping them build their own business is the key to a successful relationship, not coffee and bagels.
“I have to manage the relationships and go deeper and go more profoundly with the referral partners to show them that I care about them. I need to educate them, educate their teams, I need to help them with tactics to improve their business. It’s not just about buying them coffee and taking them to a play, that’s all the fluffy stuff. But what am I doing to help them grow their business?” said Hernandez.
Organized traditional marketing
Linda Rudd breaks down her referral business into lists, so that her team can stay on top of the different types of referral sources.
“I break it all down in to lists. Agent list and how we’re following up with them. Past clients and what we’re doing for them. Business partners, like financial planners, attorneys, and CPAs, and how we’re staying in front of them. We do monthly mailings, monthly video newsletters, client events twice a year, and phone calls on a consistent basis”, said Rudd.
Never stop communicating
We have found that this is the best tool in an MLO’s arsenal to impress their referral partners and keep the business coming.
Andrew Soss, of Guaranteed Rate, has steadily increased how often he communicates with his borrowers and partners, and isn’t sure there is a “too much” ceiling.
“I have slowly ramped up the number of email updates that I provide in the transaction and haven’t yet hit a point where someone says that it’s too much. The twice-weekly-plus milestones seem to be a sweet spot. It’s been a huge differentiator with clients and agents. We have seen significant agent retention since we instituted updates in a systematic way“, said Soss.
Don Owens has built his business upon his speed of service, and the high level of communication he provides.
“I went to a lunch the other day with four members of my team, and there were 25-30 realtors at the lunch and we were the only lenders. I was having a conversation with some of the realtors at our table and 4-5 of those people I’d done business with recently including three of them this month. They were all talking about how we are their favorite lender because we communicate so well“, said Owens.
“A huge part of our business is communication”, he continued.
This strategy can be explained with one statement we were given from Scott Evans:
“All real estate agents want is communication, service, and someone closing the loan on time.”