Finally, a Serious Question

Let’s say, hypothetically, that I have a loan that I’m working on. It’s a complicated one, involving four different lenders being asked to perform different roles in the transaction, and a couple dozen other things. It’s going to take a couple of months to do, and that is if the appraisal isn’t horrible, if the loan can even be done.

We start to work. Over and over we hit hurdles, and over and over we jump them. We resolve concerns. We deal with lenders and underwriters and processors and appraisal people and title people. This all takes time.

Two months go by. Three months. We are working on the file every single day. EVERY day. We hit snags and we figure out how to get them loose and keep moving forward. The deal is on the point of being approved.

Then one of the lenders changes its mind and backs out. We can find a replacement, but in order to get that replacement to play ball, I have to give up all my compensation, and even write a check to bribe the new lender. The negotiations on how to do this take about twelve, thirteen hours. All told, I’m now into this deal a hundred hours or more, hours that in order to save the deal, I cannot get paid for.

Boo hoo. This stuff happens. That’s not the point.

What I want to know (here’s the serious question) is this: how do I let the client know what I’ve done?

I don’t ask this because I want the credit. I ask this because I want the reputation I deserve, which is that I will do whatever it takes, including acting as the Red Cross, to get a deal done. I need that reputation for my business to thrive. I have earned that reputation. How do I go about making sure that I have it?

If I were in the position my clients are in, I would darn well want to know what Hell my loan officer had to go through to get my loan done. I would want to know that the deal was inches from falling apart after 100 days of work, and that to save it, he is doing the deal for nothing. When people go above and beyond the call of duty for me, I like to know it, because those are the people I want to do business with.

And yet, I cannot get past the “tooting my own horn” of the process. It feels vaguely pathetic to go to the borrower and say, “let me tell you the unshirted Hell I have had to go through to get this loan done for you, on top of which I am doing this as a compassionate service.”

Probably I will say nothing, or not very much. That’s my usual MO. But I depend for my livelihood on the goodwill of my clients, and their willingness to tell their friends about me. This is a story that would be worth telling.

Help me figure out how to tell it.

P.S. Don’t say, “well, you already did, right here in your blog.” Seriously? You’re going to be at a party this weekend, and you’re going to say “hey, you should talk to this guy whose blog I read. He blogged about doing this amazing thing to keep a deal alive. I’m sure he wasn’t making it up. You should call him.” That’s going to be a real referral? The best referrals – almost the ONLY mortgage referrals – come from the personal experience of the person doing the referring. The only people that can make a good referral to me out of this experience are the clients themselves. And they don’t read blogs (or I would never have posted this).

8 Responses to “Finally, a Serious Question”

  • Kevin says:

    Chris, I love you man! Once you get my refinance done (since Wells Fargo attempted and failed, which I should have known and gone with you like I have in the past), I want to know all the hellacious and gory details.

    • chrisjones says:

      I promise them to you. And just so you know, the loan I am hypothetically referring to shares a large number of similarities with yours. Fortunately, it isn’t identical, though, so with luck and foresight (every train wreck teaches me one more way to stay away from trouble), we won’t have that kind of thing happen to you. Or me.

  • Richard K. Jones says:

    If this happens often enough, just advertise it as part of your service. When you get right down to it, all advertising is “tooting your own horn.” If this is part of the effort you’re willing to expend on behalf of a client then don’t be afraid to let them know. The actual content of that advertising could take any number of forms. Certainly if you have done this for clients in the past, a testimonial from them would be appropriate.

    You might also wish to consider consulting someone competent in real estate or lending law to see if you can get a liquidated damages provision written into any preliminary agreements that you enter with lenders, in order to offset your personal losses in the event of a walkout.

    • chrisjones says:

      It doesn’t happen OFTEN, not what you’d call often, because if it did, I’d be working at WalMart instead, or anywhere they’d hire me. Ultimately, of course, I have to get paid to do loans, or I can’t do them.

      But it happens. Four-five times a year. And I guess that is something I could mention.

  • I encountered this same problem not too long ago although not nearly to that extent and my solution was about the same as yours usually is. I didn’t say anything. That bugged me for a while but then I just figured that if I’m consistently the kind of person who does more than the bare minimum then I’ll get the reputation for being the kind of person who does more than the bare minimum. (We all know people who have the opposite reputation.)

    It’s a slow process and it doesn’t result in getting the credit for ALL your good deeds but … well, you also don’t want to be the guy who has to tell everyone about every good thing that you did. No one likes that guy.

    In this particular situation I would say nothing. It may be that someone else in your office will say something, it may be that I will say something (and you’re a little more than some guy whose blog I read) and it may be that this particular story goes untold but if you’re that kind of guy they won’t all go untold.

  • Rich Wiltbank says:

    Chris,

    I think that most people, myself included, have NO idea what a mortgage broker does during this process. We drop our paperwork in the black box, wait 4-10 weeks (or however long the broker says), phone nervously every 2-3 weeks (or days?) wondering what’s happening, and sign on the bottom line when the paperwork pops out of the black box. And since we don’t know what one broker does differently than another, we choose our mortgage broker based on 1) the interest rate, 2) the fees charged, and/or 3) a recommendation from a friend.

    Those 3 things are important, but if I make a decision on those 3 criteria alone, I’m making a price-based decision (although #3 starts to move us away from that). However, I believe that YOU want YOUR clients to make a value-based decision. In other words, if I know what you are going to do differently from the mortgage broker down the street, I can make a smarter decision about wanting to work with you. I may even be willing to pay more for the privilege of getting that extra value (think BMW vs Hyundai).

    So, how do you show that value? Part of it is marketing, which is referred to as advertising above, although I think you currently do a pretty good job touting that value in your Rate Watch email, Potty Post, theChrisJonesGroup.com website and PerfectHome website.

    However, I think that communication DURING the process does MUCH more in proving that value than anything your marketing could say. And I, for one, would welcome more info on what is exactly happening, and the value you’re adding, during those 4-10 weeks that my loan is in that black box. So it comes down to a communication plan, which probably is just standardizing some of the things you already do:

    1. On the client’s first visit, you have to keep your sales hat on and emphasize (repeatedly) your value: “I’ll do WHATEVER it takes to get your loan through. Here are some examples:….” Then, demonstrate that value by giving them a printed step-by-step overview of the mortgage process (application to move-in) that clearly shows what you do differently during that process. Let them know that this process will be different for each of your clients, so when they decide to move forward, you will work with them to make a customized version of that process document.

    2. On their next visit (or phone call), spend the time creating that customized process document. This will show the few things that they do (submit application, financial docs, sign papers) and the MANY things you do. It will set expectations correctly and it will make future “where are we?” conversations easier because it will establish clear milestones that can be identified during the process. Most importantly, however, it will clearly show the MANY things you do during the loan process, all of which add up to CLEAR value to the client. Keep in mind that this “customized” document is based on a template (Excel?) that is modified according to the small number of variables that you know really impact the process/timeline.

    3. After they have started the process, send out a regular email (weekly at first moving to daily as signing date approaches?) that tells them which milestone they’re on (referring back to their customized process doc), all of the actions you took that week in their behalf, what you will be doing the next week, any action they need to take, and any change to the timeline/process because of your work that week. Again, these emails can probably be based on templates for each stage/milestone with small areas of customized content for each client.

    4. At signing or right before (right after?), send out a new version of the customized process document that highlights all of the “extra” stuff that you did for their loan – some of this will be stuff that you do for all your clients (but other brokers probably don’t or that other brokers don’t tell the client they do) and some will be specific to this loan. Again, this should be based on a template, populated (automatically?) with additional content from the emails you send during the process and a little customized content based on the client.

    5. After the loan has closed, ask the client (in writing and/or in person) for a written recommendation that you can use in future marketing efforts and, of course, for the names of their friends who want this same amazing service. Again, this is templated for ease and consistency.

    Keep in mind that if you do this with all of your clients (which I think you currently do most of it), you are not “tooting your own horn.” You are, simply, explaining to people how you do business. And, by standardizing this communication plan (using templates and a process), you are ensuring that each client will actually receive this same superior service. In other words, you are demonstrating your value by communicating that value before, during and after the loan process.

    Sorry for the long comment. As always, feel free to ignore anything that you want to. Hopefully, one or two ideas will be good enough to keep me on your pie list for next year!

  • Catherine says:

    Listen to Rich! As the wife of a sometimes neurotic husband, I can testify that there is nothing more frustrating than not knowing where we are in the loan process. Increased, clear information is always helpful. You and I were raised by the same people so I trust you completely and know that things are happening and I don’t need to worry. But my husband (and probably most people) want to be told over and over again that the process is progressing. Outlining the milestones is a great idea. Scott’s #1 question during this whole process is “What’s next?”

  • Melanee says:

    I absolutely agree with Rich on effectively and consistently communicating throughout the loan process on precisely what you are doing to help your client. Not only do they receive the information on what’s happening with the possible transaction, they are able to witness first hand your standard of service.

    Think of it as giving a speech. In a basic speech, you tell your audience what you are going to share/give them. You then make good on your promise. And you conclude by telling them what you did.

    Matter-of-fact. This is what I am going to do. This is what I am doing. This is what I did.

    I have long believed that the same exact statement or sentiment can be shared with entirely different motivations and hence, different outcomes. Connecting with a motivation that is sincere and true for you, will help you to state your case more easily.

    For example, my husband is a District Court judge. The past election opened up a Superior Court position, and many of his colleagues repeatedly asked him whether he wanted to throw his hat in the ring. He told them he really wasn’t interested.

    One afternoon, he had the impression that he should put himself forward for Superior Court. This requires a tooting of the horn, which is not his forte by any stretch, and because his personal motivation was nearly zilch, he asked for my advice.

    I suggested to him that he identify the “bigger picture” of why he wanted this position. If it wasn’t for himself, then why? With every response, I would ask, “Well if that happens as a result of this, then what?”

    It didn’t take long to discover the real “why” that would motivate him to speak up for himself, because ultimately, his “why” had nothing to do with himself, and everything to do with serving others.

    Play this game with yourself.

    “If I continue to gain and build a stellar reputation for xyz, then what?”

    With every answer, ask yourself again, “If I attain (that thing) then what?” Do this again and again until you finally land in that place that is home for you. You’ll know it when you arrive.

    I can guarantee you that not only will your landing place include how you want to bless your family, but also how you want to bless your community, and ripple into the world. Once you arrive there, you can state whatever you need from that place with no concern for tooting your own horn, because it won’t be about that.

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