Sue Woodard, Mortgage Industry Expert
Thriving in a hot housing market is one thing, but it’s not as easy to find success in a cooling housing market. For a surprisingly apt analogy, look no further than NASA’s space-faring honey bees: In 1984, NASA sent honey bees up in a space shuttle to see how they’d react to weightlessness. At the start of their space voyage, some bees attempted brief flights, colliding with the chamber walls. By the end of their mission, they had completely adapted to microgravity.
This presents a great analogy for our shifting housing climate. Where we were once comfortable and familiar in an environment full of opportunity and lacking major challenges, we’re now caught off guard and feel weak, unprepared and even fearful for our future when the housing market becomes difficult.
The good news is – as with the astro-bees – there’s still time to adapt, strengthen your business as a loan officer and put plans in place that will spell success in any market. Here are 3 exercises you can do right now to succeed in a cooling housing market.
Audit your personal brand
In a cooling housing market your personal brand is more important than ever, as it is how you will stand out from the competition. People don’t do business with companies – they do business with people. And you want them to choose you!
Your personal brand is not simply who you are, but what other people believe and say about you as well. Your brand is a result of your actions, attitudes, behaviors and words. While you cannot control what others say or think, you certainly can influence and manage it. In a time suffering from “sameness” and information overload, it’s critical to be very clear and deliberate about developing and promoting your own personal brand in the professional world.
Evaluate yourself honestly. What words would you use to describe yourself? How do you feel you are unique as a person and as a loan officer? What situations are you in when you are totally “in your element” and feel completely fulfilled? What differentiates you from other loan officers – your competition in the job market? What do you offer that no one else does?
Now how do you think others see you? Without prompting, ask 3 people who will be brutally honest with you the same questions: What words would they use to describe you? What areas do they feel you are particularly competent in? In what ways do you stand out uniquely from others?
Next, evaluate your online presence, and determine whether you like what you see. This is where most clients and prospects will learn about you. A great start is simply to Google your name and see what shows up. As you invest more time and intent in aligning and showcasing your personal brand, you should start to see improvements in how your personal brand represents you.
Evaluate your customer experience
How long has it been since you have really mapped out the experience a customer or referral partner has when working with you? The mortgage and financial services industries are finally paying more attention to customer experience – and typically finding great room for improvement.
Grab a whiteboard, and start mapping out each phase your customers experience: finding you in the first place; expressing interest; applying and becoming preapproved; entering and completing the loan process; closing; and becoming a customer for life, doing repeat business and making referrals.
A cooling housing market is a great opportunity to be be brutally honest about what the experience is like for your customers right now – and consider contacting some folks you’ve worked with over the past year to gain their feedback on the process, including where you could have improved their experience. Don’t assume you know. For example, many loan officers are resistant to the idea of using a point of sale for an online application as they feel completing the loan application or interview process with their clients is critical to building rapport. However, some clients may prefer to enter their information themselves, and then consult with the loan officer to get recommendations and guidance. Other clients may not want to fill out forms and prefer to talk it through with someone who can fill out the information for them. An ideal customer experience might mean letting customers choose which path is most comfortable for them.
Go through each step and phase – for a customer and a referral partner, such as a real estate agent – and outline the experience during each stage as it exists currently and then again as your ideal experience. Where are the gaps, and where do you need to improve?
Remember – if we don’t take care of our customers and provide the experience they want, someone else assuredly will.
In a cooling housing market, it’s even more important to take a good hard look at the technologies you use on a day-to-day basis. Do you insist on doing certain things manually that technology could be doing for you? Are you doing the same tasks multiple times without automating them? Are there gaps in your customer experience that could be enhanced with smart tools and systems?
If so – stop fighting it, and embrace change. Technology will not replace the loan officer, but the loan officer correctly using technology will replace the loan officer who does not. Let technology automate and operationalize all the things it can to free you up to make the human, personal connection that your customers and partners desire.
We are in a purchase housing market, and a purchase transaction is very personal. When someone buys a home, it often represents a major life change – could be a job change, a marriage or divorce, a baby being born, becoming empty nesters, a relocation to a new part of the world. People need you – and if you’re spending your time doing repetitive or unnecessary tasks that technology should be doing for you, you could be missing the most important moments.
Evaluate where you may be short on technology solutions – are you communicating with your past clients regularly? Are you staying in contact with leads in your pipeline? Are you adding value to your referral partnerships with compliant co-marketing systems? Are you providing the experience your customers want, with the right message, at the right time, through the right channel?
Most companies have done a great deal of work and investment to provide their loan officers with tremendous tech platforms that can accomplish all the above and more. Be wise, invest the time that you might need to learn and embrace technology for what it is – an essential element to your successful future.
Now is the time – even in a cooling housing market. Be like the NASA honey bees – dig into these exercises, flex your muscles, spread those wings and soar!
The opinions and insights expressed in this blog are solely those of its author, Sue Woodard, and do not necessarily represent the views of either Mortgage Guaranty Insurance Corporation or any of its parent, affiliates, or subsidiaries (collectively, “MGIC”). Neither MGIC nor any of its officers, directors, employees or agents makes any representations or warranties of any kind regarding the soundness, reliability, accuracy or completeness of any opinion, insight, recommendation, data, or other information contained in this blog, or its suitability for any intended purpose.
Mortgage Industry Expert
Sue Woodard brings nearly 30 years of financial services and mortgage industry experience, strategic vision and leadership to her roles in the mortgage industry – her focus is always on helping customers achieve greater productivity and long-term success. Sue can be reached via LinkedIn.