Getting the Ball to the Right Player

MAR 5, 2014 4:05pm ET

Everyone knows the expression, "there is no 'I' in team." But anyone who follows team sports also knows that success often boils down to individual performances.

For example, in basketball, a team that is down by three points with seconds left on the clock is going to try to get the ball to its best three-point shooter, because that player has the best chance to score. If you're familiar with what Ray Allen of the Miami Heat did in Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

Every mortgage lender has specialists, too. While loan officers are often good at many things, some are simply better at working with certain types of products and with certain borrowers. For example, some loan officers are superb with first-time buyers. They like working with these customers, seem to know instinctively what is going through their minds, and are patient, confidence-building coaches in the loan process. Some loan officers, on the other hand, specialize in more affluent, move-up borrowers, and use their knowledge of alternative loan products to find those clients the best options.

From the lender’s point of view, it makes sense to have first-time buyer leads and affluent buyer leads go to the right experts on your team, because they have the best shot at "winning" the borrower’s business. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes loan officers and borrowers just aren't a good fit, a situation that can lead to a lost sale or—what might actually be worse—a poor customer experience.

And yet, I have seen companies who are able to get the "ball" to the right players all of the time. How are they doing it, you ask?

They take an active role in generating and distributing quality leads for loan officers. Most lenders give loan officers the freedom to generate business any way they like. And most loan officers don't seem to mind, either; no one likes to be told how to get business, particularly if they have a system that works. But companies that supplement a loan officer's own lead generation strategies with quality leads are helping loan officers stay productive and ensuring the sales pipeline never runs dry.

They use business intelligence to identify their specialists. Many traditional lenders and even consumer direct lenders spend good money on quality leads, yet pass them out round-robin style, with no regard to the receiving loan officer's experience or credentials or the borrower’s particular need. Smart companies, on the other hand, use technology to analyze the performances of their "players" and learn their strengths and weaknesses. This lets them know, for example, who is most successful with VA loans and who their go-to loan officer should be for rehab loans based on key performance metrics, such as qualification and closing rates with those types of leads.

They get the "ball" to the right specialist fast. Unlike basketball, the mortgage business has no shot clock. Yet speed is still critical. Over and over, research has proven what we already know—the first lender to reach a motivated buyer has the best chance to close the sale. Lenders who take that lesson one step further and respond to borrowers quickly with the loan officer best equipped to serve them are ahead of the game.

I encourage anyone reading this to pay attention this spring. With an improving market and the likelihood of more diverse mortgage products down the line, I believe the lenders who "get" the concept of specialization will also be making more game-winning shots and separating themselves from the pack.

Kelly Booth is the director of the mortgage unit at Velocify, bringing more than 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, management, strategic planning and product design in the financial software industry. She possesses a solid understanding of the mortgage and banking industries, the overall mortgage lifecycle and the technologies that support the loan process.

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