It’s a hard time being a loan officer. Refinancing activity has disappeared, housing inventories remain at record lows and interest rates continue to rise. This is the type of perfect storm that will show the industry who the real survivors are and who has ridden the wave of refs in the last two years.
Amidst all the chaos, loan officers may be forced to be creative when it comes to starting a new business. Some have targeted to become niche lenders, focusing on specific product offerings, such as reverse mortgages or QM-free loans. Some went to TikTok to make funny videos about why they are the best loan officer in the country. Others have decided to just pack up and change careers.
For those who want to continue the course and stay on top, it’s time to get back to basics.
The best loan officers are those who are not loan officers. Why? Because they don’t sell anything. They offer a service and they unequivocally believe in that service. There is a saying that “when you believe in what you sell, you don’t sell at all.” If you think you need to sell something, focus on selling yourself. There are thousands of loan officers. What makes you the best loan officer? Is your knowledge of different products? Is it your passion to help first time buyers? Are you involved in your community? Whatever makes you special, say it! If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, and you don’t feel good about it at the end of the day, then you may just be in the wrong business.
Your customer is more than just another unit or commission. They are probably your friend, neighbor, pastor, mother or even your children. Some of the best loan officers do not have to spend money on marketing because they have focused their business on building relationships with their customers. They spend their time getting to know them, understanding their needs, desires, hopes and dreams. Through this process, the client develops a relationship with you and sees you as more than a loan officer. You are partly a financial advisor and partly a dream creator. You helped them realize their dream and you will be the one they direct to their friends and family. You will be the first person to be called when it comes time to upgrade, reduce or move. All because you took the time to build the relationship.
This industry is in a state of constant change, and if you are not up to date, you will be left behind. Stay up to date with changes in trends, hottest products, hottest markets and the overall financial landscape. Spend some time with the insurer and really delve into how they view the loan file or assessment. Open your mind to loans that may not fit in the agency’s instruction box.
Know your pipeline
As the saying goes, garbage inside, garbage outside! If you fly to the seat of your pants and have no idea what’s going on with your potential customers, you’ll quickly learn that you’ve lost all control of the story. Keep your CRM up to date, cultivate your pipeline and lay the groundwork for loans that will be realized in the next few months or even years. Remove the wrist and feed the shark!
Embrace social media
Let’s face it – if you haven’t jumped on the social media train yet, you’re fighting a losing battle. Even if you learned early on that social media is the wave of the future, you need to keep up with the latest trends. Some of these trends are here in the long run, while some may be just a flash in the pan (think Clubhouse), but at the end of the day you need to know how to connect with your potential customers. Social media should be a constant element in your marketing strategies and above all you should know your audience. What works on Facebook may not work on YouTube!
Being a successful loan officer will never be a “mood and forget” endeavor – it requires constant nourishment and evaluation. Although you may need to change your position from time to time to move with the market, the core of your process must remain constant. Stick to the basics and you will be able to manage every market wave that comes your way!
Leora Ruzin, CMB, AMP is Senior Vice President of Lending at the Colorado Federal Credit Union.