Strong relationships with homebuilders and real estate agents and other referral partners are like a delicious, stacked lasagna—they include multiple, deep layers of key ingredients that create overall goodness.
Building relationships with referral partners requires the tried-and-true recipe of time, hard work, and commitment. But developing solid, loyal partnerships, where your partners refer business to you and you only, demands extra effort.
This can be difficult—especially if you are new to an area. As you are introduced to a local market, the real estate agents and homebuilders in your area are simply faces in the crowd. These individuals can be considered the base layer of a business relationship, and you should begin to interact with them as potential prospects.
After interacting with prospects a few times, you will feel comfortable enough to approach them in a crowd and shake hands and say hello, as your relationship has grown since your initial interaction.
With diligence and hard work, these relationships become partnerships. You are now doing multiple deals a month together. You know them well and are mindful of what they value in a lending partner, what their goals are, and what they like to do in their free time—you likely even know their families. If you were to see these people in a crowd, you might even hug them and introduce them to your family. These are the kind of meaningful relationships we all aspire to have with our referral partners. These deep relationships can be achieved by incorporating the following key ingredients
WIN AT HOME
It’s no secret that the home team in any sporting event has the advantage, from the crowd to familiarity with the field. When a team is playing on the road, however, it has less control of its environment.
You are also at your best when on your home court, and you should utilize this advantage. It is here that you are surrounded by your “fans” (or co-workers), have resources and tools at your disposal, and are comfortable in your space.
Your goal should be to have every one of your prospects, referral partners, and clients visit your office. Don’t offer to meet them on the road at a coffee house, restaurant, or other “neutral” location. Capitalize on the home court advantage yourself.
That being said, you need to ensure your office space is dressed to impress. Effective staging can go a long way in giving you a professional edge. Make sure your lobby or entryway has ambiance and is welcoming and aesthetically pleasing.
Within your personal office, display pictures of your children and of you participating in your favorite sports, activities, or hobbies on your desk. This will give your prospects, referral partners, and clients a chance to get to know and see a different side of you and will invite conversations that deepen relationships. Doing this can also be a conversation starter as you can discuss interests and families while identifying common ground.
Finally, pick an office location that is easily accessible for your prospects, referral partners, and clients in an area they know or recognize. You can be strategic in your location decision by choosing an office near a title company or popular real estate firm. Also make sure that your office space includes a room large enough to hold group meetings or host events with your referral partners.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
There are numerous resources and tools in the mortgage industry to help you identify all of the active real estate agents and home-builders in your community. Through simple analytics and research, you can identify how they are performing and who they are using for lending in the marketplace. This will give you confidence and help you to be prepared when you contact them about establishing a relationship.
REACH OUT TO THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK
A common tactic for many would be to focus their efforts on partnering with the top real estate agents and homebuilders in their area. But repeated calls to these busy and often well-established top performers can yield few results. So why not focus your time and energy on those prospects that fall in the middle of the pack—those who may be looking for additional support and resources? After all, there are far more “average” real estate professionals and homebuilders looking to partner than top producers. When you narrow in on prospects to contact, dedicate a lot of time to talking with them. Learn about their needs, and don’t be afraid to ask them what they like about working with their current lending partner. With this information, you can highlight unique services or products you have to offer that they are not currently utilizing. Tell them you respect their reasons for choosing their current lending partner, but try to get them to commit to you as their second choice. As a back-up lender, you can then save the day when things don’t go as planned with their current lending partner.
LOOK BEYOND TRADITIONAL SOURCES FOR PROSPECTS
Have you ever considered a title company a source of potential business? The title company is often overlooked as a key player in the home buying process; but in reality, they are a very important part of the equation. Title companies know when real estate agents are unhappy with their lenders.
CPAs and divorce attorneys may also be good yet non-traditional sources for referral business. CPAs write mortgage interest off on their clients’ tax returns, and divorce attorneys split up assets. Each of these sources can provide invaluable information about prospective partners and clients.
GET OUT INTO YOUR COMMUNITY
Opportunities to volunteer side-by-side are a meaningful way to deepen your relationships with your referral partners. Stock shelves at your local food bank, run or walk in a 5K for a good cause, or help build a home for Habitat for Humanity—opportunities to serve are everywhere. Serving your community together will create a lasting bond while introducing you to the unique needs of the geographic areas that you serve.
You can also show interest in your referral partners’ industries by joining and supporting your local real estate and homebuilder associations. Participating in their meetings will keep you educated about what your prospects and referral partners are doing and about their plans for future growth. Membership in industry and referral partner associations also gets your name and face out in the community.
Another tactic with a big impact is sponsoring activities that satisfy continuing education (CE) hours, like panel roundtable discussions, which are required for your real estate partners to keep their licenses current. Remember the value that comes with hosting these events on your home turf and be sure to post event notices in your office to reach as many referral partners as you can.
Other ways to get involved and build contacts in your business community are to become a member of your local Chamber of Commerce and to join your local BNI chapter, where members make an oath to refer business to one another.
Exposure is everything.
IMMERSE YOUR PARTNERS IN YOUR COMPANY CULTURE
Invite your prospects and referral partners to not only participate in community events but in your corporate events as well. This will give you a chance to introduce them to your management team, processors, underwriters, and closers, which will make working with you and your team through the loan process even more personal for them.
Immersing your partners in your company culture will also show your confidence in your company. Be proud of what you do and who you work for! When prospects, referral partners, clients, and even your employees can see your pride in your company and in your products, they will be more likely to buy in to what you are proposing.
Set up a business plan with your prospects to show how you and your company will bring value to their business. Make sure this plan includes unique details of your operations and sales platforms and the elite marketing services you can provide. Discuss ways that your partnership will help both of your businesses to grow. Most importantly, be a great listener. Your role is to support your partners’ needs.
STAY IN TOUCH
While your prospects may not be ready to turn your relationship into a partnership today, they may consider a new lending partner in the near future. Stay top of mind with them through frequent contact by phone, mail, and email. It is critical to have a good Client Relationship Management (CRM) system and to ensure that all information is current and entered correctly.
Connect with your prospects via social media and then keep your accounts and profiles up to date. Maintain fresh content on your website that your prospects (and referral partners and clients) can turn to for useful information.
Always be consistent in your efforts to generate new referral business. A majority of people (including your competitors) fail to go into each week with a business plan outlining non-negotiable behaviors that are the backbone for success. All of the activities outlined in this article should be considered non-negotiable behaviors that you must incorporate into your routine every day. Others include: 1. Always close on time because if you don’t, your competitors will be smiling; 2. Schedule a minimum of one appointment per day to meet with a referral partner; and 3. Block out two hours per day for prospecting.
Develop and maintain consistent work habits. When you under-promise and over-deliver, your discipline, dedication, and hard work will pay off.
Lasagna isn’t delicious and feels incomplete when even one crucial ingredient is missing. It is the layers that give this rich dish its reputation for excellence. Similarly, your prospecting won’t be successful if it isn’t authentic and if it doesn’t build consistently from the bottom up. Only you can make this happen!