The highly successful loan officer knows that business depends on referrals which in turn come from successful partnerships. To emphasize the idea of mutually rewarding collaboration, we always use the term “referral partners” for the people with whom we share clients. We have to empathize with our referral partners and help them do business. We have to speak their language and win their hearts.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart,” said the recently deceased former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela.
We advocate a simple approach to attracting business with referral sources: help them accomplish their goals. Inevitably, they will reciprocate, almost without asking. Why? Because of the Law of Reciprocity: people feel obligated to help those who help them.
To empathize, you must visualize yourself in your partner’s situation. What are the challenges, goals, and aspirations? What can you do to help achieve them?
The first step in developing a win-win solution for a referral partner involves asking questions. In your initial meeting and then periodically, you must learn the partner’s needs and then make suggestions. Just ask:
1. What goals have you set for your business this year? Are you on track? Why not?
2. What strategies and plans will you use to achieve your goals? Are they written down and detailed? Do you need help doing this?
3. What types of clients do you most like to work with? What types do you hate?
4. Where do you need help?
5. How do you stay in touch with past clients? Have you automated this?
6. What would save you time, reduce stress, or make things go more smoothly?
The answers expose critical needs, and allow you to customize your assistance.
Solving those needs will create a win-win situation for your referral partner. He wins because he does more business and you win because you get referrals.
In this “all about me” world, showing a genuine interest in someone else will yield positive results if coupled with powerful information that helps someone succeed. Then you will be the person they first think of when the opportunity to refer business arises.
To provide such information, you must have a quiver of arrows, each representing a single concept or idea that will help a referral source do more business. Then target the arrow at the problem. It’s that simple. Learn all you can about real estate, personal finance, time and priority management, negotiation, and sales. The loan officers who just discuss interest rates, points, programs, fees and service will consistently fail to get referrals. Such loan officers have no clue that changing the message will bring better results.
Can you have a 15-minute conversation with a referral source and never use those words? For most of you, the exercise is almost impossible. A highly successful loan officer, however, just needs to ask some good questions and offer concrete ideas, strategies and tactics, instead of delivering a lame sales pitch. Suppose you ask a busy, but not-quite-well-organized real estate agent, the following question: “Would it help you if someone could return all your phone calls and complete a profile for every one of your prospects?” Then offer to do it or find someone to get it done.
Have we done this? Yes! Has it worked? Yes! Why? Because we offered to help someone who needed help and they appreciated it. Should the loan officer actually take the calls? Sometimes, but actually this can easily be done by an assistant. The concept and the offer of help is what counts.
How about setting up a customer relationship management system for a partner to send information regularly to their database? Why not propose a joint marketing scheme where you and the partner use the same database? In exchange for your help, you’ll get a whole new set of prospects.
Finally, we must emphasize that you must also send business to your referral partners. If a client comes to you for a prequalification, ask the client if she’s working with a real estate agent. This provides the golden opportunity for you to present a real estate agent with a prequalified, motivated client.
As part of his mortgage consultation, Kabir would also ask his clients to rate their other financial service providers such as accountants, financial advisers, and attorneys. This opened the door to send referrals to other financial professionals, who then reciprocated. If you give people what they want, they will give you what you want. When you encounter someone who doesn’t reciprocate, they will never be a good partner, so don’t work with them.
Ralph LoVuolo has been coaching mortgage originators for almost 25 years. Kabir Mahadeva conducts sales training seminars and coaches financial professionals in marketing and client management. They can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.