There's no such thing as an overnight sensation in mortgage lending. There's no magic bullet for being a successful loan officer, and no fast track to success. In this industry, it's all about habit.
When we establish beneficial habits, we teach ourselves how to do our best without thinking about it. If you're looking at how to become the best loan officer you can be, start with these 10 practices.
1. Create and stick to a business plan.
Creating a business plan is a time investment, no question. By taking the time to strategize now, you make it possible to spend less time on individual decisions later.
- 71 percent of fast-growing companies – businesses that experience growth of more than 92 percent year-over-year – have business plans.
- Companies with plans grow 30 percent faster than non-planners.
- Entrepreneurs who plan are 152 percent more likely to get their businesses off the ground and 129 percent more likely to last beyond the startup phase.
Keep revitalizing your plan as your business grows, but in the meantime, get in the habit of following it. You'll stay on track and won't waste time second-guessing yourself.
2. Use KPIs to track your performance.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) give you specific feedback on how you're doing. They measure trends like:
- Average cycle time, from application to funding
- Application conversion rate: loans funded vs. applications processed
- Average origination value per loan
- Cost per loan originated
Statistics like “number of loans processed annually” can be helpful in comparing you to others or tracking your performance year-over-year, but KPIs help you more in the short term. They also help you to focus specifically on where you shine and where you can improve. The more you check them, the more you can refine your performance.
3. Follow systems and checklists.
Systems and checklists are the tangible siblings of habits. They give us task-specific frameworks to follow and make sure that we don't skip any steps.
A decade ago, Dr. Peter Provonost of Johns Hopkins Hospital created a five-step checklist for infection reduction during central venous catheter placement. Before the checklist, doctors missed at least one of the five steps in 33 percent of patients. After he created it, the infection rate fell from 11 percent to zero.
You may not literally be saving lives as a loan officer, but like doctors, you do depend on properly executed procedures. By creating checklists for these processes, you minimize your risk of error when you record applications, submit documents, and follow up with your customers.
4. Learn something new every day.
Your success depends on your ability to put together complete application packages and help clients navigate the mortgage process. The more you learn, the more value you can provide.
Work professional education into your daily to-do list. This doesn't have to take a lot of time and you can work it into your regular day.
- Subscribe to a mortgage industry magazine, like National Mortgage Professional or National Mortgage News.
- Log on to HousingWire a few times a day.
- Discuss stories from these sources with colleagues.
In addition to these daily learning moments, make time periodically for continuing education courses. There are many that you can take online.
5. Update your social media daily.
More than 33 percent of web users say they turn to social media to learn more about companies and service providers. This percentage is highest among customers under the age of 35, a group that also makes up the largest group of home buyers.
To make sure your potential clients see you on social media, you have to post on a regular basis. Industry experts recommend publishing one Facebook post, one LinkedIn post, and 15 Tweets per day. If you have Instagram, post once or twice a day on there.
6. Schedule follow-ups with connections and prospects.
Making time to follow up with people can be challenging. In fact:
- 48 percent of sales professionals never follow up
- Only 10 percent make contact more than three times
- And yet, 80 percent of sales happen on the fifth to 12th contact.
If you're thinking, “Wait a second, I’m not a salesperson,” think again. You're selling your own services, and you need to cultivate one-on-one connections if you want to be the best loan officer possible.
Schedule follow-up time every day and call or email at least one lead. Develop a system – remember systems? – so you always know how to word subsequent contacts.
7. Respond to inquiries immediately.
A set follow-up time can help you remember to stay in touch, but don't wait until then to return a phone call from a new customer if you can help it.
Research indicates that if you respond to a call within a minute, your chances of closing that loan increase by 400 percent. That won't always be feasible, but getting into the habit of calling someone right back can improve your closing rate significantly.
8. Ask questions.
You have more knowledge of lending than your client does, but don't forget that the client knows more about his or her personal circumstances.
When you sit down across from a new client, have a list of mostly open-ended questions that will help you understand what they need. For example,
- How long do you plan to stay in the home you're buying?
- Are you anticipating any major financial changes coming up?
- From what sources do you get your income?
More information will let you provide better service. Also, people love working with someone who's interested in them!
9. Be a proactive problem-solver.
Some loan applications go perfectly smoothly. Others don't. It's tempting to put off chasing down that missing document or calling a borrower to fix an error, but prioritizing what's easy doesn’t make the difficult elements go away. It just means you’ll have to sort them out later.
Get into the habit of addressing small problems (or big ones) when they happen. If you don't, the whole process will be harder.
10. Maintain a strong referral network.
Close to 88 percent of loan officers name referrals as their most lucrative marketing channel. The second-place source, networking, doesn’t even come close at 38 percent.
Past clients and real estate agents are the most likely to give you a referral, but don't neglect alternative networks.
A Unique Alternative
For example, at some point, you're going to have a client apply for a HELOC or home equity loan and get turned down. More than 20 percent of homeowners who apply for these loans can't get them.
Think about sending your declined or credit-challenged second mortgage borrowers to EasyKnock, developers of the Sell and Stay program that lets homeowners sell their property and remain in place as a tenant until they're ready to buy it back or move.
Sell and Stay has a strong referral program, and they pay a referral fee. You get not only income but a happy and relieved client who will tell others about you. Contact EasyKnock today to find out how to get started.
Thinking about how to be a good loan officer can help you set goals, but don't stop there. Build proactive habits, make good connections, and explore alternative programs like Sell and Stay. Watch how much easier growing your business becomes!