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The Right Way To Win The Deal

Regardless of who you’re selling to, lenders, servicers or the borrower, you have to have a clear strategy and you have to execute. That’s essential. But even before that, famed consultant Jill Konrath challenges people in her article “The Experience of You” that you should start by asking yourself: Would you buy something from yourself?

Konrath goes further to say that you should imagine yourself as someone who’s always involved in the buying decision for your product/service. Here’s the scenario: You’re busy. Really busy. You’ve been in meetings all morning and by lunchtime you’re already two hours behind schedule.

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Grabbing a quick sandwich and chips at the vending machine, you sit down at your desk to try to catch up while you eat. Forty-two new emails sit in your inbox awaiting your response. A quick scan shows nothing requiring an immediate reply.

Checking voicemail, you hear that you have seven messages piled up. Since you’re expecting an important call, you’re forced to listen to each one. But your attention span is short. If the caller doesn’t pique your interest right away, they’re bleeped.

Right after lunch, you’re meeting with a salesperson that somehow managed to get on your calendar. You look at the work piled on your desk. There’s enough there to keep you busy for two weeks if you had nothing else to do but finish it.

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Your stomach wretches with the dread of another non-productive meeting. You have no patience for sellers who ask trite questions to which they should already know the answer.

You don’t want to hear about their products or service. Nor do you want to add any more complexity or change to what you’re already doing—even for just a short while. You can’t keep up as it is.

That’s the reality facing most buyers today.

If you’re like most sellers, your approach is creating your own problems. If you’ve been in sales for a long time, you’re likely using the same strategies and techniques you learned long ago. If you’re new to sales, you’re likely being trained on skills that worked just a few short years ago but are no longer effective.

Sales success today requires you to be distinct or face becoming extinct. In The Experience Economy, authors Pine and Gilmore write that future economic growth lies in the value of experiences and transformations. An interesting thought to ponder. What relevance could it possibly have for people who sell?

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The truth is that every interaction you have with prospective customers is either a positive or a negative experience—never neutral. If your prospect feels they received value from your interaction, you get a second chance. If not, you’re out.

Sharing information about your product or service contributes virtually nothing to the value equation. It’s assumed that you will say only good things about your offering.

Additionally, buyers perceive that what you sell is nearly identical to your competitors – whether you think it is or not. As far as they’re concerned, everything is a commodity or soon will be.

Rich and compelling experiences are created by sellers who recognize the shift that’s taken place in the market. They study their prospect’s business problems and goals. They constantly search for information that their prospects would find valuable.

When they talk with their prospects, they bring along ideas and insights into what’s happening in the marketplace, with their prospect’s customers or with their competitors. They challenge their customer’s paradigm of what it takes to be successful and get them thinking.

These “experiences” don’t just happen serendipitously. You have to immerse yourself in your prospect’s business, market segment, industry and more. You need to continually be asking, “How can I help my customers achieve their goals or solve their problems?”

As a person who sells, your job is to orchestrate this rich and compelling experience. You can’t leave it up to happenstance.

Authors Pine and Ginsmore further advocate that customers should pay for this “experience.” With that in mind, I’ll leave you with one final thought:

Would your prospects willingly pay $500 for an hour of your time?

Think about that each time you meet with a potential buyer and make it happen. Your competitors won’t stand a chance.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Mortgage Marketing Trends For 2018

At this time of year there are a number of articles that focus on the key trends in a certain discipline or industry for the coming year. I found some interesting articles on marketing trends for 2018. Here is what some of the predictions included.

In an article entitled “5 Trends Marketers Need to Prepare For In 2018” by AJ Agrawal, CONTRIBUTOR to Forbes, he states.

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1.) Establishing A Conversation

In 2018, look for marketers who are doing more than ever before to generate high-quality, relevant content and optimize their sites to encourage users to participate in the content they share. Marketers will need to find ways to connect more authentically and leverage social listening to strategize successfully in the new year.

2.) Short Planning Cycles

When it comes to marketing strategy, it’s important not to get too far ahead of yourself. Consumer tastes change frequently, so businesses can’t put all their advertising eggs in one basket. Kate Sayre, global head of consumer goods strategy at Facebook, explains that when it comes to marketing, the only real constant is change: “We do six-month planning cycles at Facebook because we don’t know the future. A lot of it is driven by the consumer.”

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3.) Contextual Marketing

Contextual marketing is driven by the insights afforded by big data, including market and customer analysis and predictive analytics; understanding the context in which consumers seek to engage with your brand can help you determine customer intent and drive conversions. Contextual marketing is the future of marketing, as consumers continue to demand greater personalization online.

4.) Purpose Driven Purchasing

As much as 79 percent of consumers would prefer to purchase products from a company that operates with a social purpose, and high-performing marketers are more than two times more likely to be leveraging purpose-driven marketing methods.

5.) Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

“In 2018, chatbots will become a far more common solution for brands wishing to serve their customers in a smarter and more cost-effective way,” explains Matt Navarra, director of social media at TheNextWeb. “With AI now being easier to integrate into various tools and services, chatbots will become far more useful and personalized with each interaction it has with users.” Artificial intelligence will also help to power big data interpretation and analysis, making it possible for startups to glean greater insight from the information collected.

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AJ’s predictions got me thinking about what which marketing trends the mortgage industry will see in 2018.

>>Content is Still King. You must be able to create and deliver highly relevant content when and where your potential borrower is ready to consume it. The content must be specific to that individual and help them along their specific home buying journey.

>>Big Data and Analytics. There is an enormous amount of data available about your potential borrowers. The lenders that can best utilize this data and turn it into meaningful content can engage with potential borrowers before they begin shopping around for the best mortgage rates.

>>Mobile. Mobile is not just important in delivering on the digital mortgage, it actually begins when the potential borrower begins their housing search. This usually starts on mobile devices; therefore, your mortgage marketing must be mobile and highly engaging to capture their attention and to keep them engaged.

>>The Need for Print & Digital. While more and more of today’s borrowers are starting their searches online and looking for a digital mortgage experience, what we have found is that the most engaging mortgage marketing campaigns combine both print materials that are highly personalized to that specific borrower and digital marketing. Because so many people are getting inundated with emails and digital ads, combining strategically placed print with your digital campaigns truly captures the attention of the borrower.

>>Marketing Automation. The days of lenders using their outdated CRM or email marketing tools to drive business are long gone. With big data, analytics, the need for personalization, and the need for event triggers to send highly targeted marketing materials at the exact time the potential borrower will consume them requires sophisticated marketing automation.

 What mortgage marketing trends do you think lenders are looking to incorporate in 2018?

About The Author

Brandon Perry

Brandon Perry is President at The Turning Point. Brandon oversees all operational and administrative activities of TTP. Brandon brings over 16 years of experience in various financial services industries to TTP which enhances the Company’s ability to maintain it’s position as industry leader in providing customers with an advanced marketing solution.

Attracting New Borrowers

In today’s hyper-competitive mortgage market with fluctuating rates, low inventories, and changing borrower expectations, it is vital for lenders to truly understand their target audience if they want to attract new borrowers.

In an article entitled “How to Define Your Target Market” by Mandy Porta from Inc.com, Porta addresses this topic and states, “To build a solid foundation for your business, you must first identify your typical customer and tailor your marketing pitch accordingly.”

“Given the current state of the economy, having a well-defined target market is more important than ever. No one can afford to target everyone. Small businesses can effectively compete with large companies by targeting a niche market.”

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“Many businesses say they target “anyone interested in my services.” Some say they target small-business owners, homeowners, or stay-at-home moms. All of these targets are too general.”

The mistake a number of lenders make is trying to appease every possible potential borrower instead of focusing their marketing message and materials to a specific or a limited number of target audiences.

In addition, Porta says, “Targeting a specific market does not mean that you are excluding people who do not fit your criteria. Rather, target marketing allows you to focus your marketing dollars and brand message on a specific market that is more likely to buy from you than other markets. This is a much more affordable, efficient, and effective way to reach potential clients and generate business.”

For example, “an interior design company could choose to market to homeowners between the ages of 35 and 65 with incomes of $150,000-plus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. To define the market even further, the company could choose to target only those interested in kitchen and bath remodeling and traditional styles. This market could be broken down into two niches: parents on the go and retiring baby boomers.”

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By clearly defining your target audience, your marketing materials and value propositions can be much more specific, personalized, and meaningful to your prospective borrowers.

Porta goes on to state, “With a clearly defined target audience, it is much easier to determine where and how to market your company.” Here are some tips she provides to help you define your target market.

“Look at your current customer base.

Who are your current customers, and why do they buy from you? Look for common characteristics and interests. Which ones bring in the most business? It is very likely that other people like them could also benefit from your product/service.

Check out your competition.

Who are your competitors targeting? Who are their current customers? Don’t go after the same market. You may find a niche market that they are overlooking.

Analyze your product/service.

Write out a list of each feature of your product or service. Next to each feature, list the benefits it provides (and the benefits of those benefits). For example, a graphic designer offers high-quality design services. The benefit is a professional company image. A professional image will attract more customers because they see the company as professional and trustworthy. So ultimately, the benefit of high-quality design is gaining more customers and making more money.

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Once you have your benefits listed, make a list of people who have a need that your benefit fulfills. For example, a graphic designer could choose to target businesses interested in increasing their client base. While this is still too general, you now have a base to start from.

Choose specific demographics to target.

Figure out not only who has a need for your product or service, but also who is most likely to buy it. Think about the following factors:

>>Age

>>Location

>>Gender

>>Income level

>>Education level

>>Marital or family status

>>Occupation

>>Ethnic background

Consider the psychographics of your target.

Psychographics are the more personal characteristics of a person, including:

>>Personality

>>Attitudes

>>Values

>>Interests/hobbies

>>Lifestyles

>>Behavior

Determine how your product or service will fit into your target’s lifestyle. How and when will your target use the product? What features are most appealing to your target? What media does your target turn to for information? Does your target read the newspaper, search online, or attend particular events?

Evaluate your decision.

Once you’ve decided on a target market, be sure to consider these questions:

>>Are there enough people who fit my criteria?

>>Will my target really benefit from my product/service? Will they see a need for it?

>>Do I understand what drives my target to make decisions?

>>Can they afford my product/service?

>>Can I reach them with my message? Are they easily accessible?

While targeting is a very powerful tool to help maximize marketing dollars and results, it is important to prudently carve out your niche. Companies can get too narrow with their focus and have a very limited number of prospects to market to.

Porta’s tip, “If you can reach both niches effectively with the same message, then maybe you have broken down your market too far. Also, if you find there are only 50 people that fit all of your criteria, maybe you should reevaluate your target. The trick is to find that perfect balance.”

She concludes with, “Defining your target market is the hard part. Once you know who you are targeting, it is much easier to figure out which media you can use to reach them and what marketing messages will resonate with them. Instead of sending direct mail to everyone in your ZIP code, you can send it only to those who fit your criteria. Save money and get a better return on investment by defining your target audience.”

Knowing your target audience will not only save you money on your marketing but it will also deliver greater results as you look to attract more new borrowers in today’s highly competitive mortgage market.

About The Author

Brandon Perry

Brandon Perry is President at The Turning Point. Brandon oversees all operational and administrative activities of TTP. Brandon brings over 16 years of experience in various financial services industries to TTP which enhances the Company’s ability to maintain it’s position as industry leader in providing customers with an advanced marketing solution.

Get The Most Out Of 2017!

Believe it or not, we’re in 2017. So, you have to do everything possible to make this a banner year for your company. In the article entitled, “Want to Make 2017 Your Best Year Ever? This Olympic Coach Has a Super Simple Solution” by Chris Winfield, he asks if you ever had parts of your business or personal life that never change, despite your best efforts.

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Of course you have. According to Herman, everyone has. He’s helped Olympians, billionaires and professional athletes make those changes and break-through to new levels of performance.

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And he says it always starts with “game film” — regardless of if his client is a professional athlete, a movie star or an entrepreneur.

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In professional sports, athletes and coaches watch game film to review their performances and find ways to improve. It’s no coincidence that many of the greatest players and coaches of all-time have also been the greatest “film students”.

For example, Kobe Bryant watched so much game film that he was affectionately referred to as a “video friend.”

Legendary NFL coach, Bill Belichick, has watched so much film that he’s developed an almost encyclopedic knowledge of the game. He’s even been known to spend up to 20 minutes dissecting one single play!

So, how do you break down your game? There are five simple questions to ask yourself when looking back at the previous twelve months. When doing this, Herman says it’s important to pay attention to the “unexpected” things that happened and not just your “wins”.

  1. Is there anything you want to START doing?

A new year is all about starting something new, right? So when you look back at 2016, ask yourself if there’s anything you could have done that would have helped make it a more successful year. How can you start doing these things in 2017?

  1. Is there anything you want to STOP doing?

What held you back this year? What would you like to eliminate from your life? Whether it’s eating too many brownies or spending too much time on social media — figure out how you can stop doing the things that aren’t helping you.

  1. Is there anything that you want to CONTINUE doing?

What are the things that you are already doing that you’d like to keep doing in 2017?

With the next two questions, apply the 80/20 rule to what you spent the most time on during the year. You want to focus on the 20 percent of tasks that generate 80 percent of the benefit.

  1. Is there something you want to do LESS of?

This your “eighty percent.” Decide how to eliminate, delegate or cut down on these activities.

  1. Is there something that you want to do MORE of?

Figure out how you can spend more time on these activities.

Spend some quiet time to ask yourselves these simple questions and really break down what happened for you in 2016. Treat it like your own film session and have some fun with this.

This simple exercise will enable you to adjust your plans accordingly and drastically improve your performance in 2017!

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Three Steps To Winning New Customers

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The mortgage industry has had a long run of good luck thanks to the low interest rate environment and consumer demand for homes. With rates remaining near historic lows and home prices rising, lenders have been handed a great growth opportunity. But not all lenders have chosen to or been able to take advantage of this opportunity.

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We only have to look at the rankings of the industry’s top lenders, which used to be dominated by the big commercial banks. Now there are a lot of new names on the list, such as Quicken Loans and loanDepot, which either didn’t exist 15 years ago or were just a fraction of their current size. Not coincidentally, they happen to be the most innovative lenders in the business.

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How have these lenders been able to make this jump without the benefit of a large servicing portfolio or wide brand-name recognition? The answer, simply put, is technology. These lenders have embraced the latest automated systems to make the mortgage process easier and faster for their customers and more economically efficient, which has paid off in increased volume that has pushed them to the top of the league tables.

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But these lenders don’t have a monopoly on this technology. In this article we will review three strategies that any lender can easily employ with what’s available from today’s technology providers.

Consumer habits have changed …

First of all, we need to appreciate how consumer buying habits and expectations have changed drastically over the last 15 or so years. Most consumers now shop online for everyday goods, while many prospective home owners search for a home online without the help of real estate agents. Borrowers seeking to refinance a mortgage either apply for a loan online or call a lender’s 800 number.

Today’s consumers want to be able to shop on their terms and on their own schedule. Many home searches take place after regular business hours and on weekends. How do lenders respond to this? The companies we’ve mentioned have adjusted to these changes in consumer buying habits by leveraging technology in all aspects of their processes.

On the other hand, many lenders have not adapted to this new reality and have failed to take full advantage of increased originations fueled by low interest rates. They have not realized the substantial ROI yielded by new technologies that help them adapt to this new reality.

… and so has financial technology

Financial technology vendors are now offering all lenders what used to be only available in costly proprietary systems. Now any lender can simply pay a monthly fee to access the same technology that the top lenders have deployed. It’s both easy to use and has a huge return on investment.

How can lenders leverage this technology to grow their business?

One way technology can help is by creating customers for life. Lenders work hard to find each borrower and to close each loan. If you deliver good service and stay in contact with your clients going forward, they will likely come back to you when they need to refinance or when they purchase their next home, even if you don’t have the lowest rates. It’s all about having the best service and staying connected.

Automated marketing

How do you keep your name in front of them? The easiest way is to use a system that allows for lifetime automated marketing, whether through email, direct mail or a phone call from the loan officer. Technology can you help you do this by ensuring that your customers get the message you want to send, when you want to send it, automatically.

But the message is just as important as the medium. Lenders must communicate compelling, relevant content at the right time. Fortunately, there are many technology providers who can help with this. They have the content and a system that will automate the communication. Many can also help with your communications strategy, providing guidance on when and what to send to customers. This can seem like a daunting task if you try to do it yourself, but today’s technology providers and their pre-built campaigns and collateral can help you get started.

An additional benefit to using an automated system is compliance. With compliance being so important with today’s lenders, having uniform material and messaging can help ensure you are being compliant in your communications with consumers.

Credit triggers

Another tactic employed by many top lenders in holding onto existing customers is by using credit triggers. This involves monitoring all of your closed-loan customers to see if and when their credit report is pulled for a loan application. This can help ensure that when your customer is in need of a new loan, you are there to help.

Monitoring past customers is actually fairly simple. Several technology providers can monitor credit inquiries for you. Simply send them your customer list, and then anytime a credit inquiry is made, they will alert you, usually within 24 hours. It’s important to note, however, that if you monitor credit reports and get alerted of an inquiry, you must make a firm offer of credit to the consumer. So when setting up your program, make sure you outline your credit criteria, so only those customers who meet your requirements will be sent to you.

But you also must to be able to respond promptly. Using this data and integrating it into your customer relationship management (CRM) system can alert your loan officers when customers are in the market so they can quickly respond with an appropriate offer.

Getting new customers

So far we have focused on how to get more business from your past customers. You may now be asking, how can you win new customers? There is good news on that front, too.

One of the largest growth areas is in consumer direct lending. Today 50 percent of all refinances and 20 percent of all purchase transactions come through a call center. Purchase mortgage volume alone has grown 10-20 percent through this channel in just the past five years. What’s driving it? Consumer buying behavior has changed. Most people are very comfortable with buying things online or from a remote business. And that includes getting a mortgage.

What’s needed to take advantage of that change is adopting technology that can offer a better customer experience. It starts from the initial contact. It’s imperative to reach your prospect quickly and have a compelling script the sales agent can use. Once that’s accomplished, the process then moves to getting the application from the prospect. But whether it’s done online or over the phone, creating a great user experience is critical. An easy-to-use CRM can help you capture the application easily and painlessly.

Once you have the application, you will need to provide and collect disclosures and borrower financials. This, too, is an area that demands a better consumer experience and where technology eases the process. There are several vendors that can obtain the applicant’s paystubs, W-2s, tax returns, bank statements and many other required financial documents online instantly.

Whether you are trying to retain more of your past customers or grow new business, there are many technology options for lenders that provide the experience consumers demand and expect today. The fact is, though, that many lenders aren’t responding to this demand. Instead, they are sitting back and letting their competitors steal their business. That’s good news if you’re one of those companies that is embracing this change. Not only will you see your volume and profitability grow, but you’ll be eliminating a lot of the competition.

About The Author

Josh Friend

Josh Friend is founder and CEO of InSellerate, a specialized customer relationship management system that enables lenders to instantly connect to leads, manage their sales team in real-time and build strong long-term customer relationships through automated marketing campaigns.

The Power Of E-Mail

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When you talk about e-mail, you usually don’t equate it to a way of bringing in more revenue. That’s a mistake In the article entitled “A Guide to Cold E-Mailing” published in the Harvard Business Review, the author notes that cold e-mailing is harder than most communication for two reasons. You have no relationship with your audience yet, and you lack non-verbal feedback, so you can’t modify your approach in real time. As a result, most cold e-mails fail.

But they can work well. In this article it is noted that people have built careers and launched start-ups with little more than cold e-mails.

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There isn’t much research on cold e-mail, though Shane Snow did an interesting experiment for his book entitled Smatcuts. He sent 1,000 cold e-mails to executives and got almost no response. So, he tried again with a smaller slice of the same group and got better results by applying a few principles that line up with my extensive cold e-mail experience and some great advice.

An effective cold -mail does five things. It should:

1.) Tailor the message to the recipient. You need to do your research. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to do that.

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You have to personalize your e-mail. Personalization means that you’ve thought about who this person is, how they see the world, what interests them, and what they like. This shows them you have put work into understanding them.

It’s also important to make sure your request isn’t easily fulfilled another way.

2.) Validate yourself. When we meet a stranger or get an e-mail from one, we want to know who that person is and why that person matters to us.

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Remember that when you’re the stranger. You’ve already done a bunch of research on the people you’re e-mailing, but they don’t know anything about you. You need to show them you’re credible and they can trust you.

Knowing someone in common is the strongest form of social proof you can offer. If you have any direct connections, mention them. A mutual friend means you are no longer a stranger.

Lacking that, if you have any authority, credibility, or social status that is relevant to this person and your request, mention it quickly — a line or two should do it. The more “important” you are, the more likely you are to get a response.

If you have no real status, that’s fine. Find a commonality. Being part of the same group, especially if it’s a personal group, is a core human attraction. Look for unexpected connections, like hometowns and unusual hobbies.

The point is, you want to find a way to go from “stranger” to part of the recipient’s group.

3.) Alleviate your audience’s pain or give them something they want. Why should the recipient care about your e-mail? Why should this busy person take time to respond to it? What’s in it for them?

If you’ve done your research and found a major pain point for the recipient, and you can offer relief, highlight that. If you can’t solve a problem, give people something they want. Offer to connect them with someone they’d like to meet — that stands out, since almost no one gives before they ask. But your gift needs to feel appropriate, from one stranger to another. An Amazon gift card would be super awkward and weird.

4.) Keep it short, easy, and actionable. The opportunity to help someone is very enjoyable for a lot of people — it may even qualify as a “want.” By asking for help, you are giving them the chance to feel good about themselves. But make it easy for them.

You probably know this, but short e-mails are more likely to be read than long ones. And e-mails that request clear, specific action get a much higher response rate. Long-winded, rambling cold e-mails suck.

One of the best ways to keep things short and direct is to write the way you’d talk. If you met this person at a cocktail party, you wouldn’t just walk up and start pitching them. You’d introduce yourself, say something nice, connect with them over a shared friend or interest, and then make a request that makes sense.

I would recommend reading your e-mail out loud before you send it. If it sounds natural, then it will read well.

To make your “ask” easy and actionable, do as much work for your audience as you can. “Let me know if you want to meet up” is terrible. This forces someone to exert mental energy to make a decision for both of you, and it puts the onus on them to sort out the details. It’s short, but not easy or actionable.

Compare that with this: “I can meet on Monday or Tuesday between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. at Compass Coffee on 8th. If that doesn’t work, tell me what does, and I’ll make it happen.” That gives them a clear, easy action to take, with specific bounded options.

But there’s more to a good “ask” than just telling people what you want. How you tell them matters a lot.

5.) Be appreciative — and a little vulnerable. I would even go so far as to say you should be slightly submissive.

By expressing gratitude and some vulnerability, you give them the feeling that they are a good person if they choose to help. You also give them a little rush of power and status, because you’re approaching them.

This gets results. Even just saying, “Thank you so much! I am really grateful” to a request doubles response rates. And tell people it’s fine if they are too busy. Giving them a way out actually makes them more likely to help you.

All this may sound obvious, but again, very few people do it. I’d say about half the people who have cold emailed me expressed no appreciation beyond a perfunctory “thanks.” And the other half either sounded brusque or entitled. Really — strangers asking for huge favors say things like “Lemme know how quickly I can expect you to get this done.” Clearly, they don’t feel like waiting around. But that tone has repercussions: I don’t feel like helping them.

Finally, don’t use a template. If you Google “cold e-mail template” you will find a LOT of them. I looked through dozens, and though some were very good for mass email and sales, I could not find a good template for a personalized cold email.

Which makes sense. By definition, if something is personalized, it doesn’t come from a template. That’s why this article lays out principles but has no scripts.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

The New World Of Lead Generation

Hard-sell tactics no longer have a strong effect on consumers. Today, customers want user-friendly interactions with brands.

“Cross-channel marketing is quickly making aggressive, hard sales tactics a thing of the past,” states DirectBuy in its infographic.

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Customers react more positively to softer tactics. “Soft-selling focuses on building relationships and creating a positive brand impression across various consumer touchpoints,” states DirectBuy.

Accordingly, the once-popular sales maxim “Always Be Closing” has become “Always Be Connecting.”

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To find out more about the best sales tactics for the digital age, check out this infographic:

tactics-in-the-digital-age-infographic

About The Author

Tony Garritano

Tony Garritano is chairman and founder at PROGRESS in Lending Association. As a speaker Tony has worked hard to inform executives about how technology should be a tool used to further business objectives. For over 10 years he has worked as a journalist, researcher and speaker in the mortgage technology space. Starting this association was the next step for someone like Tony, who has dedicated his career to providing mortgage executives with the information needed to make informed technology decisions. He can be reached via e-mail at tony@progressinlending.com.

Getting That Big Customer

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Every mortgage technology company is looking to get that big customer. They want a top 50 lender. This doesn’t have to be a fantasy. There is a way, but you can’t become comfortable.

Many small business owners have developed a comfort level with the clients they serve. They’ve found the “goldilocks” position of “not too big; not too small.”

But what if you could double your company by securing one new customer? Let’s call this customer your whale.

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Who are 5 potential customers you could court that if you won their business would double your business over the next 12-24 months?

Who are they currently buying from and how do you stack up relative to this other party?

How do you stack up on:

>>Value?

>>Experience / track record?

>>Price?

>>Flexibility?

>>Reputation?

>>Quality?

Why do they buy from their existing vendor or supplier that you want to replace? What are their areas of dissatisfaction? What are the most important criteria that they use to make a buying decision? Who on their team is the decision maker? Who are the influencers?

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As you can see, gathering this information will take an investment of time and effort. But once you have it, you can craft your strategy to get in the door.

In an article entitled “4 Strategies to Land a Whale and Double Your Business” written by David Finkel, he offers up some tips. Here are 4 strategies to land your new whale:

Strategy One: Come In Through the Side Door

Look at the list of influencers in the buying decision process for your potential whale. How can you build a relationship with one or more of the key influencers? Can you arrange to meet them at a trade show or industry gathering? Can you get someone in your LinkedIn world to introduce you? Can you reach out to them with something of great value, for example, a great idea to solve a tough challenge he or she is dealing with? Sometimes the easiest door to come into to land a whale is the side door your key influencer can open for you. As we all know, the mortgage industry is about relationships. You have to get out there and “know” the people in this space. Find out who they are and how their business works. Lenders don’t want a blanket pitch, they want something more personal and tailored to their specific needs.

Strategy Two: Offer a Pilot Project on Extreme Terms

In essence this strategy says you are willing to put your company’s product or service on the line through a pilot project where you prove your ability to add massive value to your prospective whale’s world. Frame the pilot project offer as your way to earn the right to either take on some of their business, or to at the very least, to be their “Plan B” partner (see below.)

This strategy worked for Windswept Marketing, a specialty branded products company based in the southeastern USA. Just over 4 years ago they kicked off a pilot project for a key customer for a new product they created called “Indirect Embroidery” and that program lead to them landing hundreds of thousands in annual sales from Home Depot, the NFL, and other marque “whales.” And it all started with a small pilot program that was a massive success. How can this work in the mortgage industry? Some vendors have a lab where they invite lenders to come in and try the software with their data already in the system. The lender gets to test it out.

Strategy Three: Ask to Be Their Plan B

Find the right person at your whale to ask permission to earn the right to be their “plan B”. Say something like, “Mike, I know you’ve been using STR, Inc. for over 4 years now as your main vendor. I respect your loyalty to them. In fact, it’s that very loyalty that has me so hungry to earn the right to be your plan b should anything ever happen in that relationship. I know that if you ever did shift to work with us that would be because you’d have reached a point that you just were no longer getting the value you’d expect from STR, am I right? Of course. May I ask you Mike, what do I need to do to earn the right to be your back up plan just in case?”

Of course, hearing them out you need to invest the energy to be their perfectly situated plan B. Over time your perseverance and contact will go a long way to giving you an opening to pounce on to win the business. When that opening comes, you just need to seize it. In my experience, most lenders are willing to listen if you know what you’re talking about.

Strategy Four: Find the Whale that No One Knows Is in the Market

Remember that boy or girl everyone assumed was going to prom so no one asked them to go, only to later find out that they stayed home? Well right now there is likely a whale in your world who would be a great customer, and to whom you could bring extraordinary value if only you reached out to them. From a practical standpoint, this is usually a whale who is doing what your product or service does in house or with an inferior indirect competitor.

For example, STS, a software company based in Arizona, serves hospital blood banks, selling validation tools that automate the testing of their tests. Most of their “whale” customers (large hospitals and hospital groups) were doing their own validation work internally as a manual process, or hiring an outside consultant to come in and manually validate. Both of these solutions (manually doing it themselves or hiring an outside consultant) were “indirect competitors.” Well for the almost the same cost of one manual validation the hospital could get a software solution to do it faster and for almost the same price, with each subsequent automated validation being a huge net savings for the hospital. Over the past several years STS has grown rapidly landing multiple whales their competitors were overlooking because they assumed they were “going to the prom already.”

So, you need to stop being comfortable with your existing clients and really ask yourself who are your potential whales? And which of the above strategies will be your best way of landing them? You can get that top 50 lender if you try.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.

Ask Yourself: What Makes You Stand Out?

Every financial services provider these days is “best in class” and every new offering is “leading edge.” Some vendors think they have to hit on these phrases in order to succeed, but success will really come when you can define how you’re different and unique.

In an article entitle “4 Ways to Stand Out and Grow Your Business” written by Jon Gordon, he shares 4 tips of how to stand out in the crowd. Here they are:

Create a Great Culture – Whether you are a Fortune 500 company or five-person company it’s never too early to decide the kind of culture you want to create and determine what your culture stands for. For example, even when Apple was just a two-person company consisting of the two Steves it was clear their company culture challenged the status quo and as they grew they attracted and hired those that fit their culture. While it’s difficult to quantify the benefits of a strong culture, we can all agree that there is something about culture that speaks volumes to the marketplace. When you focus on your culture you create a strong foundation of values, beliefs, expectations and habits that cause you to stand out in the marketplace and ultimately grow your business.

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Lead with Optimism – Now, more than ever, optimism is a competitive advantage. Bob Iger, the CEO of Disney, was asked the most important characteristic of a leader and he said “Optimism.” After all, it’s not the pessimists who will grow this economy. It’s the optimists who believe in a brighter future that will take the actions necessary to create it. Optimism will also help you navigate the setbacks, challenges, naysayers and Energy Vampires as you seek to grow your business. You have a choice. You can believe success is impossible or you can believe that with faith, hard work and an optimistic attitude all things are possible. To grow your business, choose the latter.

Show your Customers you Care – I am convinced that the most successful companies find unique ways to show their customers they care about them. Les Schwab Tire Center employees run outside to greet their customers when they pull up in their cars. Zappos offers free shipping and free return shipping. My local cleaner replaces buttons on my suit if they notice they are missing and provides free pick-up and delivery service. Rosenblums, the place where I buy a lot of my clothes, sends a gift certificate on my birthday. I can’t tell you how you should stand out without knowing more about your business but I can tell you, if you want to stand out and grow you must create your own signature way to show your customers that you care about them. When you show your customers you care they will talk about you to everyone (even write about you) and you’ll stand out in a crowded and competitive marketplace.

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Pursue Excellence – They can blame the economy, the market and the competition all they want but these are not the reasons people and businesses are unsuccessful. These factors merely expose those with weak business models, bad cultures, poor leadership, toxic work environments, apathetic sales forces and mediocre products and services. On the contrary those who pursue excellence are thriving. From the carpenter who is in demand because everyone knows he’s on time, works hard and always satisfies the customer to the graphic designer who strives to make each project her masterpiece, to the realtor who is passionate about helping her customers find the right home, to Apple iPads and iPhones, to restaurants that are jam packed… it’s clear that those who passionately pursue excellence will stand out and grow high above the competition. The economy no longer will support mediocrity but if you can find your niche, share your passion and work hard to be great then growth will be inevitable.

Now use these strategies to prove that you’re the best technology company around today.

About The Author

Michael Hammond

Michael Hammond is chief strategy officer at PROGRESS in Lending Association and is the founder and president of NexLevel Advisors. They provide solutions in business development, strategic selling, marketing, public relations and social media. He has close to two decades of leadership, management, marketing, sales and technical product experience. Michael held prior executive positions such as CEO, CMO, VP of Business Strategy, Director of Sales and Marketing and Director of Marketing for a number of leading companies. He is also only one of about 60 individuals to earn the Certified Mortgage Technologist (CMT) designation. Michael can be contacted via e-mail at mhammond@nexleveladvisors.com.