When top producers at mortgage conferences are asked for the secret to their success, they have a simple answer: “I call people.”
Loan officers may be dismayed by the idea of adding more calls to their crammed to-do list — especially since calling prospects is widely considered the least pleasant part of a salesperson’s job. But in today’s overcrowded world of spam emails and robo-texts, the old-fashioned phone call has reemerged as a powerful marketing tool that loan officers shouldn’t overlook.
And with new communications challenges rippling across the industry due to the coronavirus pandemic, it’s crucial that businesses adapt in working with their customers when face-to-face meetings aren’t possible.
In the era of modern automation, well-timed personal calls and texts are easier and more effective than ever, giving loan officers a real advantage in forging a stronger, lasting connection with customers.
Communicate with intention
It’s understandable why LOs often default to email, as it’s considered less intrusive than a call or a direct message — but it’s also far easier to ignore.
Unlike email, very few people have hundreds of unread texts. Research shows that SMS open and response rates are as high as 98%, compared to just 20% of all emails. Today, texting is a leading form of communication among Americans younger than 50, but older generations are swiftly adopting SMS communication as well. Texting also takes less time: It takes about 90 seconds for someone to respond to a text, but 90 minutes to respond to an email, according to marketing experts.
Multichannel marketing is a big topic in the mortgage space, but often that plethora of channels excludes phone communications. These conversations are not the much-dreaded cold calls. However, these are strategically timed calls and direct messages to warm leads that anticipate the recipient’s unspoken needs.
After 25 years of marketing in the mortgage industry, I know from experience that any form of outreach works exponentially better when personalized. For example, cold emails sent to a cold list achieve open rates of roughly 10%. Emails acknowledging birthdays increase to a 50% open rate. For loan-in-progress customers, that open rate grows to 75%.
These numbers show that people respond to thoughtful, intentional outreach.
Automation conquers reluctance
Choosing the right moment to contact a customer is essential. Call reluctance is a huge issue in sales. Almost every salesperson has it, and I empathize fully, having worked five years as a loan officer — hang-ups and angry responses are hard to shake off, and so is fumbling one’s way through a voicemail, which is the default for contact these days.
Many LOs don’t prioritize calls in their daily routine because they feel cumbersome and awkward — but they really don’t have to be. I would, however, argue that call management systems are a requirement for LOs to succeed. With potentially thousands of names and numbers in their databases, they simply cannot be asked to sift through those long lists to figure out who, when and why to call.
Automation technology can do that heavy lifting for LOs, and also make the interaction seamless when top opportunities are delivered via push notifications, along with relevant customer information. Data intelligence tech determines the ideal timing of a call by combing the customer database to find high-payoff opportunities, whether that’s birthdays, loan checkups, purchase or sale anniversaries.
A mortgage company’s customer database can yield many more meaningful opportunities for repeat and referral business when today’s technological capabilities and impeccable timing are melded with an authentic human touch.
In any relationship, whether it’s a marriage, a friendship or a business partnership, communication breeds trust. Robocalls and texts don’t build trust; if anything, these generic mass messages make prospects feel like marks. Customers want to hear updates about their loans from the LO directly, not from a computer.
The one thing that can’t be automated and differentiates LOs from competitors is picking up the phone and making a call.
The power of voice pays dividends later for repeats and referrals, when customers recall how helpful and attentive the LO was in past interactions. To win in this noisy space, contacting people directly and personally is the smart play.
Of course, because this is multichannel marketing, customers are also receiving emails and postcards. LOs are still posting regularly to social media. Calls and texts don’t replace these other channels; they complement them.
The human advantage
Some have argued that artificial intelligence could replace LOs altogether — but the power of the human voice and one-on-one interaction can’t be replicated.
A salesperson’s authentic engagement is the secret sauce of success. Tapping into the power of voice is a matter of providing LOs with the right tools and motivation to connect the old-fashioned way. With crucial assistance from technology, a loan officer can be a top producer and still have a life.