This post is continuation of a column I wrote titled ‘Being a Trust Agent in the business of fatherhood’ over at my fatherhood blog, Real Men Drive Minivans. ‘Trust Agents’ provoked a lot of thoughts and ideas and not all of them fit over there, so I’m wrapping things up over here.
As I read Trust Agents it touched on a lot of things that I think might have helped me transform my career in the mortgage business by using tools like blogs and Twitter to continue to educate and share, as well as increase customer satisfaction and the awareness of my company.
About half way through the book I actually stopped to draw out a workflow for how I would have utilized certain social media channels. Still, despite this thought exercise, I don’t regret a single decision that led me to walking away. I was miserable and had become so disenchanted very little would have motivated me to alter the path I was on. I think that it is much more likely I would have dismissed all this social media stuff as garbage.
If you had known me back when I was slinging mortgages you would not confuse me for a character in Glengarry Glen Ross, as I didn’t really sell anyone. I took a more laid back approach where I spent more time educating my customers on how mortgages worked than dealing with things like rates, points and closing costs.
The reality of the situation is that all those things depended on quantifiable information – credit score, debt ratio and loan to value. Mortgages are essentially a commodity product, especially in today’s credit market with the drastic overhaul to product guidelines and eligibility.
No matter whether you get your mortgage from a bank or a broker, the money is pretty much coming from the same set number of places. The only thing that changes is who you deal with and how far down the food chain they are from the actual funding source.
As a result, there is very little one bank or broker can do for you to create any real value except educate and provide guidance. As I used to preach to my loan officers, guidelines are guidelines, so spend your time adding value by making them understand their loan.
I made a point of taking the time to let a customer know exactly what they were getting, why they were getting it and, if they had time in the case of a home purchase, how to fix what might be wrong to get something better. My approach, while successful for me, drove my boss nuts. Yet, somehow it got me promoted into management.
When customers would ask for a good faith estimate so they could see what it was going to cost them to get the loan I would always send two. One would show a higher interest rate with no fees and the other would show a lower interest rate with what I would charge for that type of a loan. Unlike many in my industry I was disclosing to the customer what I was going to make on the loan, the only difference was who was going to pay me – the bank or the customer.
I knew how much time I would have to spend to get their loan through underwriting and what I felt my time was worth, so I set my mark and stuck to it. If the customer walked because they thought they could do better, then that was the cost of doing business. Still, many stuck around because I was willing to show them the whole picture.
Why did I do this? To establish trust. Our firm did business entirely on the web and were at the time a very highly ranked LendingTree lender. As a result, I was unknowingly acting as a trust agent due to the fact that I met only a handful of customers in person. It was important to develop a measure of trust considering I was involved in one of the largest financial decisions these people would ever make.
After having read Trust Agents and taking time to reflect on its concepts, I believe that the knowledge I’ve gained will certainly help me since at some point I will need to return to the workforce. And while I started my fatherhood blog to connect with dads and moms to share in the life altering experience that is parenting, it also in many ways can be considered on the job training for a potential career transition.