Building a referral-based mortgage business is not as intuitive as one might believe. The owner of Home Town Mortgage in Alpharetta, Ga., Steve Beecham, discovered this after showing some well-experienced colleagues a draft of a paper he wrote on the topic and seeing their reactions.
Referral marketing is taking on new importance for originators as the market shifts from a refinance environment to a purchase one.
The paper and subsequent self-published book gives a practical knowledge base for loan officers to create referral relationships.
Beecham has been in the mortgage business since 1991. The owner of the company he went to get a loan from asked him to work there. Prior to getting in the mortgage business, Beecham had owned several businesses of his own.
But Beecham was very reluctant, telling the owner he did not want to wear a coat and tie. Ironically, that same evening a friend came up to Beecham at a party saying he was looking for a job and wanted to work at company where they like to hunt and fish.
The owner of the company which tried to hire Beecham had a deer head and fish on the wall and suggested that his friend call him.
The friend went to work at the mortgage company and was bringing large amounts of money because of a refinance boom. “I have never taken a job because of the money, but I think I have to go check this out,” he recalls.
So Beecham joins the mortgage company and the refi boom as well as the easy money ended. Although times were very slow, he discovered he liked many aspects of the business, including working with consumers and so he hung with it.
Home Town Mortgage was started in 1997. The company Beecham worked for was closer to downtown Atlanta, where as he is from the northern suburbs of the city in the Alpharetta area. At first, his former employer let him operate a branch in Alpharetta, but he decided to go out on his own.
He is also a former president of the Georgia Association of Mortgage Brokers (which subsequently merged with the state’s mortgage banker trade group). During a GAMB annual convention held at the Atlantis in the Bahamas, he realized it was much of the same old, same old going on. Meanwhile, at the same time, Home Town Mortgage had grown to over 30 employees and was about to add more people.
Beecham had never done any advertising, preferring to get all of his business by referral marketing. With the new people coming on board, he felt he had to do a sales meeting to explain to them his philosophy and methodology in developing a referral-based business.
So at the Atlantis, he sat down and for two days worked on a white paper about what he does and how he does it. He showed it to some of the attendees as the group was leaving the hotel. The groups’ response (including two other former GAMB presidents) is that they have never thought of doing these things, it was awesome and Beecham should write a book.
He thought about that and realized the book could be a “high-dollar business card and maybe it will help me build my real estate business.”
With the help of a ghost author, Beecham wrote and self-published the book. Needing to bring in some cash, he called organizations like the Rotary Club to come in to speak and sell books.
That turned into an opportunity to do sales training for some of the people who purchased the book. The amazing thing is, almost none of these organizations are in mortgage or real estate (he is also a real estate agent) although quite a few were financial or insurance companies, he says.
Since then, Beecham has shrunk his business down to himself, one loan officer and one processor and they work out of his house in Milton.
Much of his time is spent traveling, speaking and training people on how to get more referral business and how to build better relationships.
In any sales situation, you need trust and the quickest, fastest way to build that trust is to hold a real “deeper conversation” with the potential partner. You need to concentrate on learning as much about the other person as you can by asking questions and thoroughly understanding what it is they do, Beecham says. But this is not just on the professional level, but on the personal level as well.
The goal of every conversation he has with a potential referral partner is to leave them with the impression that he is their “national sales manager.”
The discussion includes who does the partner need to sell to and what people can help them grow their business. “I want to become an advocate for you and really help you and promote you and try and help your business grow,” he tells them. Getting to know the person helps to build the trust factor.
This philosophy is called “Bass Ackward Business.” Rather than talking to the referral source about the rules or how great he is, the conversation is aimed at what the referral partner’s concerns are, how their family is doing, etc.
Having the deeper conversation allows you to discover both things which are positive and things which are painful. Beecham takes the information and goes back into “his village” or sphere of influence and then tries to match the person up with someone in a similar situation or who can help.
But the deeper conversation is not just a one-way street. The people who want to help us as originators just don’t know how, he says.
To get that help, the originator has to give more than just the canned response of the mortgage business is good. Originators need to give more information so when these people are interacting with their own “village,” they are attune to triggers that allow recalls the loan officer and creates a referral.
Beecham teaches loan officers that in the business there are five kinds of clients: the first-time buyer, the second-time buyer, the move-up buyer, an investment or second home purchaser, and the move-down buyer.
In each conversation he has, he looks to classify the consumer into one of those groups and tailors the conversation appropriately. But loan officers need to get better at painting the picture to those people of what it is he or she is looking for.
Beecham doesn’t directly ask for business, but he wants the consumer or referral partner to leave the conversation knowing what it is that he is looking for. This feels more natural than the more direct approach, and people are not put on the spot.
Beecham is working on a new book to be called “What is Your Buzz.” He is trying to get people to be more conscious of what they say when they introduce one person to another. If one isn’t saying the things that create an impression with the other person that this is someone they should do business with, it is a lost opportunity.
“The buzz about you has to start with you and most people don’t do that because they see it as bragging. What you have to learn to do is how to drip into a conversation that allows the person across from you to understand you are a player in your professional world,” Beecham says.
Beecham puts this into to practice with the email newsletter he sends to potential customers. If he would send out a newsletter just on mortgage information and the person wasn’t looking to do anything with his or her loan, the email is likely to get trashed.
But if the newsletter includes topics of interest to a wide range of people in his area, people are apt to keep the newsletter and not delete or unsubscribe. Right now there are 6,500 or so people in his database which get the newsletter.
The newsletter has community events, fundraisers, etc., with just a small amount of mortgage information (as reminder of what it is that he does). He goes out into the community and looks for events to be in the newsletter, but it has gotten to the point where event holders are seeking him out.
Beecham suggests creating different newsletters with different themes to send them to the various groups in the community.
Every week, he gets three to four calls from consumers and at least one loan application from the newsletter.