Being a mortgage loan originator requires more people skills than you think. In this episode, Jen Du Plessis talks to Senior Mortgage Loan Originator at Affordable Financial Services, Inc., Ben Lavender, about what he does best at work – soliciting potential borrowers. His strategies, specifically increasing content and creating videos, can be useful not only in his field but also in other areas involving sales and client acquisition. Tune in to today’s show to discover Ben’s secrets to reaching his level of success in a short period and his learnings from Brian Stephen’s Mile High.
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Mortgage Lending Origination: How To Draw People To Lend From You With Ben Lavender
If this is your first time, thank you. Please subscribe. Please give us a five-star rating and please write us a review. That’s important for our success and I appreciate all of you that have done that and continue to do that. If it’s your 3rd, 4th, 100th time, thank you again for all of your support. We appreciate it and I love the feedback that we’re getting about what you want to know. When we put this out several years ago, it was the first one that got traction for lenders and we continue to morph into different things, but it’s all about your personal and your professional development. I have the wonderful privilege of having Ben Lavender with me. He is with Affordable Financial Services. He is a loan originator and we’re going to talk about his practice and how he has reached his level of success in a very short period of time. Maybe pick up some nuggets from him on what you could do to move your business forward. Ben, welcome.
Jen, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.
Let’s get started by having you tell us a little bit about you. How did you get into mortgage lending? How long have you been? Give us a synopsis of what your practice looks like from a unit and dollar perspective as well as a team if you have one.
I started early when I was 22. It was my first job out of college. To be completely honest, I had zero sales abilities, zero sales training. I was taught everything from the ground up and had good mentors that were good to me, who I still talk to. I spent the first couple of years in business learning how to structure deals and how everything works. When I say I had no idea, Jen, I’m not exaggerating.
I don’t think any of us do. You and I had the wonderful opportunity of sharing an Uber from Mile High Mastermind in Denver. I recall when you said that you were everybody’s beck and call guy, every loan officer that you could get your hands on you were learning from them.
Knowledge is power as they say. There are two parts to it. One part of it is the most motivational aspect because I’m not a huge fan of masterminds in general because it’s typically something to upsell you into coaching or whatever, and they don’t give you anything real to implement. However, Mile High was different. We know the crew. I’ve known them for a long time. That’s one part of it, having the information to implement and then getting to know like-minded people or even better people that are far higher than you are. That’s the way that I always see the business. Even if I’m the top 1, top 2, top 3, whatever in my company. It doesn’t matter because there’s always someone else out there who’s producing more than I am. That’s the person I need to look at, not who’s around me here or the mortgage company next door. It’s how can we always grow to the next level.
How’s 2019 been for you? We all started off worried. We have a ton of businesses, it’s my best year ever.
I like to think that I had such a fantastic year because I’m amazing, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think it’s a combination of a couple of things. Jen, I switched to the broken platform. I was in retail for several years. I don’t want to turn this into a broker’s conversation, but for me, it was a couple of things that I have a big competitive advantage over my competitors. That’s part of it. In addition to that, the purchase and the refi market going on at the same time. For me, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of my videos. Once a week, I do some educational videos that I push out to consumers and to realtors. They get quite a bit of business from it. My mindset going into it was to do them for fun and not expect anything from it. If I got business from it, great. It was a whole like, “Ben, don’t expect to see results for at least nine months.” I’ve only been doing it for a few weeks and I’ve already gotten not only deals that I’ve already closed from it, but relationships with realtors who are sending me business as well. They’ve proven to be powerful. For me in 2019, that’s been the game-changer.Do something for fun and don’t expect anything from it. If you got business from it, that’s a bonus. Click To Tweet
I want to dive deeper into that. One of the things that I had talked about is a short-term gain for long-term pain. It’s the opposite of what everyone else is talking about. It always concerns me because in my career I have seen many ups and downs. My ups and downs started with rates being at 18%, coming down to 14% and the days that we had at 12.95%. They were funny how they were released that way. Finally, walking into single digits instead of double digits. I’ve seen a lot of ups and downs. One of the things that I see that happens is that realtors who read this, loan officers do well when the market is good and then they don’t do well. That was the whining and complaining that we had. I want to know what are you doing, Ben, to plant the seeds so that you don’t have long-term pain when this market does shift from us?
Something that I neglected for a long time is my customer database, past clients because I was focused on generating business with realtors. As time went on, I was getting business from my clients without even doing anything. Using stuff like Homebot, which over here in New York, no one uses that. It’s made a dramatic difference. What I’ll also do for every single client, whether it’s a birthday or some occasion to touch base, I’m big on video. I’ll send them a video Happy Birthday message, personalized always. It is a little bit exhausting, I do admit, but I think it’s important. Honestly, I do enjoy my clients but not all of them. You’ve got those that drive you a little crazy, but the majority.
You don’t have to send a birthday video to them.
Even those I do because you don’t want them to run into someone, “I didn’t get mine.” For the most part, I do enjoy them. A cool aspect of this business is relationship building. It is getting to know people. I’ve got some relationships that I’m still doing business from my first year in the business. Even though I didn’t do anything special other than providing good customer service and listen to them, I’m still getting business from them. With that said, if you’re a loan originator trying to think, “If I send videos and enrolled them in Homebot or CRM post-closing, that’s cool.” It’s good to do. If you didn’t have that initial bond with the client, it’s not going to mean much. They’re going to feel like they were on some list that you closed. For all of them, it’s like how many conversations are going back and forth and going through the process. That’s what built the connection. All the follow up after that is secondary to that.
Let’s talk about that as it relates to the process and then we’ll get to the leads. What are you doing that’s different during the process that creates that strong bond with your clients, not just another transaction for you or that you’re not some other mortgage broker guy for them?
It all goes back to the video. It’s the same thing. In the very beginning, we’re doing the whole preapproval stage. I also don’t mind giving away the secret because the truth is if someone had the tenacity to do it, they would have done it already. Nine times out of ten, if they listen, they wouldn’t do it anyway. The first client, even sending them a preapproval documentation checklist. We send them a video greeting and then, “How do you prefer to communicate?” We go over everything and then I’ll enroll them in what I call a fifteen-day blitz of how the process works from start to finish. Most of my clients are first time home buyers and they’re intimidated by what’s going on. Even the thought of an appraisal, because it’s unexpected, it freaks them out. If you prep them for it, it’s like, “It’s time to do the appraisal. It’s time to find my home insurance.” They’re more ready to do it and the process is smoother. That’s the beginning. When we go into the contract, we send them their disclosures. “I know we went over this before, but a reminder, your processor is going to reach out to you. If you have any questions, I’m always here. Once the appraisal comes in, once we get a commitment. Once it’s closed, rate locked.” Every touch-point of the transaction, they’re getting either a video email, text email or both.
Are they generic in nature or are you specifically doing that? That’s time-consuming.
They are generic. Those aren’t individualized.
How are you creating a bond with them if it’s generic in nature? Is it through the video only? Are there taps or sprinkles in there of personal touches?
I also don’t want to overdo it and drive them insane. What typically happens every time I send a video, there’s always some response. “This was cool. Thank you, Ben. I appreciate it. Ben, I have another question.” It’s like, “Let’s get on the phone quickly.”
It’s like partnering with them. It’s a partnership.
I feel like the difference is that if I didn’t do it, they would not ask those questions and stop those additional conversations with me. Some loan officers may view that as inefficient, but for me, it’s another opportunity to build a bond with my client. If I can answer enough questions and talk to them for five minutes, that’s another opportunity.
It’s proactive rather than a reactive move. I travel a lot and I was always in the long line and I would see the TSA line and go, “I have to do that.” It required that I made an appointment, drove to the airport, parked, went in and got all the requirements. You have to go to the airport to get your TSA and I didn’t want to do that. I’d get in that long line again. Finally, I said, “This is crazy.” All the time that I’m wasting in this line, I could have spent getting the TSA approval and I can go through the fast line. It’s my favorite thing in the world. Les Brown said, “If you do what’s hard, your life will be easy. If you do what’s easy, your life will be hard.”
Put the effort on the front side so that the backside of this can be much more pleasurable for both you and the experience for the client as well. I absolutely love that. Thank you for sharing that. Let’s move on to getting the lead. From a marketing perspective. You and I were at Mile High and one of the things that we heard from Brian Stephens. He talked to us about video. I’m curious without going into detail about that because I’m going to have Brian on, but maybe you can tell us what you’re doing that’s different. Tell us how you do everything, including what you did differently and what you incorporated perhaps from what you heard from Brian Stephens?
What I took from Brian, which I have not implemented yet is doing Facebook Live. I find live videos to be more fun. I was thinking about how you can make it entertaining? I’ve spoken to some other guys and gals as well. They say, “Don’t just talk about mortgages, talk about everything and anything to keep it interesting.” Regarding how to make my mortgage videos different, what I do, or at least what I think I do well is make a lot of them entertaining. I put a lot of humor in there because the reality is the mortgages are boring from a consumer’s perspective.
At the end of the day, they want a house. They don’t want a mortgage and they don’t want to deal with a bank or lender. It’s throwing in humor in there. I have one of my videos that did quite well. It was a video on how lots of consumers go to Credit Karma or CreditWise to check their credit. As lenders, we know that’s not accurate. I spent half the video hitting people with steel chairs literally throughout it. It got, I don’t how many shares and how many views, but it did well. It’s throwing in funny stuff like that to keep it interesting. The setup is I have a videographer come in once a week and then the whole thing takes maybe 40, 50 minutes, not even an hour to shoot. It’s scheduled. Every Thursday you come in at 4:00, you come in at 2:00, whatever we have at that for that month. This way, it keeps me accountable.There's always someone else out there who's producing more than you do whom you can learn from. Click To Tweet
You have to have your content available. You have to know what you want to talk about.
To be honest, the content is quite easy. For those of you thinking about, “What type of content can I come up with?” it’s quite simple. Think of the top twenty questions that your clients asked you. That’s your content. It’s not that difficult. The other thing that I will say as well is not to overthink the content of the video. Especially given the nature of our business with compliance, we have to be careful with what we say. Obviously, think about that carefully. I never talk about interest rates ever. Not one time, unless I’m talking about the market in general, but I won’t say a specific number to stay compliant. The New York banking department is very strict, so I don’t mess with that. What I was getting into is you don’t want to overthink video because at the end of the day, even though I put so much effort into my video, I understand the reality is that mortgages are boring and people aren’t going to watch the whole thing. On average, the videos are anywhere from 50 to 130 seconds. People will do another thing. The main thing that you want to get across is that you’re in the mortgage business and that you’re an expert. Make sure that each video looks different to capture their attention because otherwise, it’s just the same thing from week to week. The content honestly is not that important, in my opinion, at least.
What they want to do is know who you are. We know in sales it’s the know, like and trust. They know what we do. They like us generally, but they don’t trust us enough to send us business because they don’t know who we are. What video does is it allows us to highlight and shine a spotlight on our personality. That’s what’s going to attract and draw people to us. It’s not just a goofy personality. You do have to thread in there the fact that you are a lender, that you are an expert in your marketplace and that you have that credibility. It’s getting them to like you and want to follow you and feel that they know you as a person. I think that is the key. In your case, you’ve taken the funny route and that’s great, like the more humorous route. For others, it might be a passion they have that they’re sharing with others. They’re going on because of the passion that they have for whatever it is. We know Katie Parsons.
One of the things that she does is she takes pictures of birds and things like that. That’s something that other people are drawn to. She doesn’t usually go with the humor route. Make sure that it’s true to you and that you’re aligned with who you are. I want to ask you a follow-up on this, Ben. It’s one thing to put a bunch of videos out and we all do. We put it out and then we go, “I hope I get 1,000 views and I hope people like it.” What are you doing to amplify it? Are you paying for ads? Are you boosting it? Are you tagging people? Are you posting in groups? What are you doing that gets the attention so that we get business?
It’s quite specific and simple because it’s all on autopilot. All I have to do is click two buttons and it’s done. All the videos, I will boost them on Facebook and on Instagram. I target realtors, real estate attorneys and home inspectors. Sometimes I’ll target other loan officers but not all the time. It depends on the video because it’s nice for recruiting purposes to bring people in for the company. It’s happened quite a few times. I’ve got a random email from a realtor saying, “Ben, you don’t know me. We’ve never spoken. I’ve referred my clients to reach out to you. I don’t know if she’s reached out yet, but I saw all your videos on Instagram and I love all the content that you put out there. Thank you so much.”
If the content is consumer-based, are you doing this from your personal page or from your business page? How are consumers consuming this?
The funny thing is that I don’t talk to consumers directly with those videos because I feel that you can’t narrow it down enough. At least locally here, it might be different for whoever else is reading this. I’ve tried doing it especially the style of video is not good for consumer lead generation. I’m not doing any hard selling in the video. All I’m doing is educating and demonstrating that I do mortgages in a funny, playful way. There’s no specific call to action other than all I do is say my tagline, which is, “I’m your favorite British mortgage broker.” It’s funny because I run into people at networking events and that’s like, “You’re the British mortgage broker.” I’m like, “Yes, I am.”
There’s a friend or colleague of mine who works at AnnieMac and he’s Tran, The Mortgage Man. He does videos and does that thing. They’re like, “You’re Tran.” Find that angle that’s cool. I imagine that helps you a lot. I hired a loan officer many years ago that was a Marine and he was a mechanic also. We had a lot of fun with him being the loan mechanic, the Marine who you can trust. There is another guy who was a skydiver and he was a skydiving loan officer. He always was sharing pictures at that time because we didn’t have video. It was pictures he would have in his old-fashioned folder that we used when we met with clients.
He would show it to them when he met with the client?
When he met with them, he would have a collage of pictures of him skydiving and have it in his folder saying, “This is our company and this is me.” This is way before digital, but the concept is still there. It’s something that highlights you that becomes a magnet rather than something that you have to chase. I think that when you market to everybody, you end up marketing to nobody. You want to be able to market to those people. You mentioned Brian Stephens. You’re probably going to try to do some Facebook Live to local community, restaurants and yoga instructors, whatever the case may be. Try to expand that a little bit more. What else is on the docket for you for 2020?
Basically, everything needs to go up. I thought, “I’m doing one video a week. That’s cool.” I was like, “No.” We have the AIME Fuse event in Las Vegas, which was massive. Gary Vee is like, “You guys should be putting out 50 pieces of content a day.” I was like, “That’s a bit much for me.” Even if I don’t do 50 a day, I could do one or two as opposed to just doing one a week. I always thought to myself, “It’s too much. You’re going to drive people crazy.” At the end of the day, I always say this to myself. I’m not that special. All of the loan officers, neither are you, you’re not that special. Whereas if you post one thing a day, you’re going to ruin someone’s day. If you do, that person is crazy and you don’t want to work with them anymore. That’s what I’m telling myself. How can I increase the content? Another thing I want to do is start podcasting locally. I want to bring in a local yoga studio to showcase them and get to know businesses around.
I’m doing that type of stuff and quadrupling all the types of content and diversifying it. Also, LinkedIn is huge. That’s what I learned from Mile High. I never posted on LinkedIn and that’s something I’m going to start doing a lot as well. I’m pushing myself out there like an absolute mad man. It’s a great way to get business to come to you as opposed to you going to it, which for me, I like that. I don’t like doing cold calls or any of that stuff. That’s not who I am or it’s my style. I like to put myself out there and if you want to work with me and you like what I’m putting out there, great. If you don’t, no problem. There are tons of excellent loan officers in the business, so it’s all good.
It’s efficient too. Of course, it aligns with everything that I do in my coaching, the lifestyle. Lifestyle is not about having all the fancy cars and whatnot. That’s part of it. Lifestyle is being fulfilled, having that freedom to do what you want. When you can attract business rather than have to chase it, that will save time and allow you to enjoy all the work that you put in by being able to do the things that you don’t want to do that make you happy. I love that thought process. When we talk about this, this reminds me and I talk about it all the time, but it’s the jab and hook. We’re putting information out there that is funny, entertaining and social. Keeping social media social, keeping LinkedIn professional, and then the hook. The hook is fun and, “By the way, I’m a lender.” I love that you’ve done it in a humorous way because then it doesn’t become that dry aspect of it. One of the things I love to ask everybody is the name of a book that you’re reading that you’d like to share with someone. If you’re in the midst of it and you’re not sure about it, then maybe a book you’ve already read, perhaps a quote or a mantra that you live by.
I am reading Jordan Belfort’s The Wolf of Wall Street, which is good. One book that I love is Selling with Noble Purpose. What I found, at least with me at one stage of my career, I was focused on the units and the numbers. I haven’t talked about it because it’s not something that I actively think about. The reason is that if I do, I find that that’s what I focus on. Whereas what I need to focus on is customer experience, which is something that I took away from that book, Selling with Noble Purpose. I think I’ve read it 3, 4 times already. It gets way more specific than that. It’s doing the right thing by your client, the consumer and going above and beyond creates an experience. That is the foundation of everything. That’s how I was like, “My clients are always asking this question. They have anxiety about this. It’s keeping them up until midnight. Why don’t I make a video about it and send it to them before they even think of it?”
That’s where the client experiences blossoms, anticipating their needs.
The other one is Tim Grover’s Relentless. I’ve read that probably another 5, 6 times. I read that at least twice a year. That’s pure tenacity and competition. I love it because it drives and it tells me. A lot of people in my life say, “Ben, relax. You’re working too hard.” In my mind, I’m not working hard enough. I read Relentless and I was like, “I’m doing the right thing.”
Prioritizing things that are most important to you, I love that. Ben, it’s been a pleasure. I’m happy that I met you at Mile High and hopefully, I’ll meet you again there next time. I loved it. It was a pleasure meeting you. I look forward to us having a nice long business relationship and I wish you the best. Thank you so much.
I appreciate it. Thank you, Jen.
- Affordable Financial Services
- AIME Fuse
- The Wolf of Wall Street
- Selling with Noble Purpose
About Ben Lavender
Ben Lavender, also known as “Your Favorite British Mortgage Broker” is a consistently ranked Top 5 Producing Mortgage Broker in all of New York State.
Ben has been in the mortgage business for 8 years and serves Long Island, Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn markets mostly.
Ben strives to create a stress-free mortgage process through client education, which is provided through countless video sessions & consultations, going over every step of the process with his borrowers”