Rapport: You Don’t Matter. You Are Here To Add Value

First the X broker has a post about how to run a mortgage company, then I see a Blown Mortgage post about how mortgage shoppers lie.

I’ll say this: those people that say ethics and integrity don’t enhance your business are wrong.

Those people that say they are at a competitive disadvantage when facing down with the used money shills are wrong.

The people that say that you have to lie to be truly successful are wrong.

It’s easy to say, “oh, poor salesman” the buyer lied. It’s easy to say, “yup, they went with another provider because that provider lied.

But look: when you lose the game it’s because of selling skills. On every single call, I tell people that they have many options for doing this, and it’s all a matter of preference. I gain a commitment to use me, and tell them that I have all the programs. I rarely offer quotes, and I have never worked with a lead. You’re whining because someone offered a program you didn’t.

Make it part of the pitch. Learn that this is what buyers want, and this is what is needed to…win the game. Don’t give your power to the shills and chop shops. Claim it for yourself. Win with a better process, which INCLUDES a sales process that makes people comfortable, AND makes them committed to using you (in part by touching quickly on every product).

Anyone Who Relies On Rapport Alone is Disconnected From Reality.

Write that five times. Sure, people DO buy the product because they like you, but seriously, as Matthew Ferry says: if people could swallow a pill and be done with us, they would. Nobody has recreational conversations with accountants, mortgage brokers, Realtors (oh, God, Realtors!).

That’s why the Xbroker says that sales monkeys are worthless. Because it’s tedious.

We are paid handsomely to perform a specific service. We have enough friends, our clients have enough friends. Sure, we want relationships, but we have to achieve basic competence first.

In the time it takes to build rapport, you can be halfway done with the work that you’re doing, and it’s a more authentic experience that customers will like more.

There’s a REASON for the saying: familiarity breeds contempt. If you are preternaturally competent, there is no chance that a shill can get you, over the long haul.

Salespeople Are Morons!

Salespeople, get over yourselves. Especially you mortgage brokers. You don’t matter! You are facilitating the process, and tellin’ em about your cat, your education is no more relevant to their mortgage needs than what you watched on TV last night.

It’s imbecilic and ego centric.

It’s insulting to your customers and dishonors their intentions.

For every second you spend spewing bile about yourself, you’re NOT LISTENING TO YOUR CUSTOMER.

Let’s consider something: Does every 3 toothed hillbilly that applies with you have a lot of common ground? Heck no. Should they be served by you? Heck yes. Do you owe it to them to honor their intentions? Abso-friggin-lutely. You sure as heck do. But do they care about your personal preferences?

In life, you’re truly lucky if your wife gives a shit, why presume that some stranger will.

This does not mean that you don’t seek relationships and real connection.

But it’s in the context of your buyer’s intended purpose.

Rapport comes throughout process as the people realize how good you are at what you do.

Rapport comes by demontrating your intent to serve, and using that as a common ground.

Rapport comes after you help.

So what do I do instead?

I’ll get after the Xbroker’s new business model in a minute. He’s on to something that makes a ton of sense–especially getting rid of the low value salespeople.

  1. Plan- We do the same 7 or 8 things over and over again (in my business: take an ap, prepare a package, present program options, choose a lender, submit a package, meet conditions, and close). Be world class at the tasks that matter, and every nuance to best case scenario.
  2. Rehearse and Practice: Rather than checking bloglines or reader.google.com, why not practice with a buddy taking an application, or look over the loan file that we did. What went right? What went wrong? When you take an application, what do do right? What do you do wrong?
  3. Document: It goes with #1, but write down what you’re going to say, write down the information that the customer needs. Listen to what the cusotmer says, and handle the same ten or so questions to the best of your abilities. Have what you need handy, at your fingertips.
  4. Gain a commitment: If you’re a professional you’re either working with a client, or you’re not. Not a lot of in between there. Even if they say they are shopping, gain a commitment to come back to you BEFORE you quote them.
  5. Explain the process: In my business, the price is an hourly concern. If you get a quote at 10 in the morning, it may be better or worse at 3pm. It’s like asking how much a particular stock is. People can beat me due to timing, and offer a deal I can lock people in at.
  6. Stop caring if they like you. The money talks. They close with you? They like you. Happy customers don’t need intimacy.

More later, this is probably part I and I’ll cut it up and push it out elsewhere.

I was the dreamer…but now I’m reborn.

Working on doing my morning pages has revealed something to me.  I don’t have to be a mortgage guy–or a real estate guy–to be perfectly happy with my life.  I love some aspects of the job, and I’m going to continue to develop my idea as far as it will go.  But I want something else, at least, at a minimum.


I recently read The Dip, by Seth Godin.  It was probably the most important book I’ve read in 5 years.  (That’s over 300 books, kids).

Already brewing in my consciousness were a lot of the ideas in the book, namely: Being the world’s best is seriously underrated.   That idea has been after me, and I didn’t have it crystalized or expressed as well as Seth did, but I am so glad he wrote that book, and I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone.  In fact, if you’d like to borrow mine, you’re welcome to it.

Now–there are things I love about the Real Estate/Mortgage business:

  • Entrepreneurial Freedom
  • Wide Latitude to do what you want.
  • Income is high, relative to the requirements.
  •  We’re not tied to a desk.
  • We’re free to set our own schedules.
  • It’s rewarding when you do a good job.
  • You get to interact with Realtors.
  • You’re compensated on performance.
  • Intelligence matters
  • Selling skills matter.
  • The industry attracts individuals with great personalities.

Things I don’t like:

  • The future is murky at best, short and long term.
  • The strong personalities are type a, fraud willing people.
  •  There’s no baseline guaranteed income.
  • only one part of the workrproduct has compensation with it.
  • Clients need updating on a continual basis.

Now–there are a number of things that I really enjoy about what I do–but none of them are specific to the Real Estate and mortgage industry.  All of them exist in various capacities in different industries.   Right now, I’m definitely staying, at least in part to defy the odds.  The industry is imploding around us, and my income is up 50% from last year (last year was mediocre, but hey, this is true).

The Dip is basically where many people quit.  It’s Organic Chemistry in med school.  It’s mile 18 of a marathon.  It’s the trough–the tough part that we gotta slough through on our way to becoming relevant.  And if you can get through the Dip, the rewards are immense.  People are too afraid to focus on one thing, and like me, they get distracted.

I was a lousy real estate investor.  Picked ok properties price wise, but never got ahead of the game, and they consumed my income and credit.  The dip was early for me, and i failed.

I was a good Realtor.  Sold a ton of houses, made the grade, but I never got into dealing with consumers, and I never developed the empathy that I should have.  I got to well above average, and droppeed it because the difference between that and AWESOMENESS was scary.

As a mortgage lender, I’m doing well when everyone’s leaving the industry (maybe because…).  I could be in the dip, or I could be in the cul-de-sac.  A cul-de-sac is a deadend job.  It’s the guy whos reputation doesn’t allow him to get promoted, it’s something that you’ll never be great at.  The industry is radically changing.

It’s taking twice the work to do the same stuff.

The path:

I think that the industry may be in a cul de sac–practitioners will get stomped and squeezed.  I think 2008 is a year I can still make six figures,and what I’m going to do is back far away from it.  Create simple systems that don’t have a high degree of maintenance needs, and back of.  Spend my time prospecting and building relationships with people.

I think that I can manage growth, create good service, and drive it with a focused 15-18 hours a week, and spend the other 30 or so I want to work on rightrightnow.com .  Haven’t decided, but I am on record saying that this industry was toast in April of 06.   Thought it’d last another year–then–but knew it was inefficient and LOs were grossly over paid.

More tomorow, as the beat goes on.

I should not be doing this.

Our Company had a telemarketing campaign. A lot of people with resetting ARMs were called to tout the new FHA rates (New Rates = 6.0% on a 30 year fixed and below). This was reaching out to rural areas. The calls were set up by some 3rd party service, and basically said press 1 if you wanna hear more.

The ending is the best part.

This was management’s decision and not mine to run the campaign, which has produced good results, while pissing off a lot of the market. The people that are still off of the do not call list provide an interesting slice of Americana.

Edit: his response was justified.


Pouring My Heart Into It…An Open Letter to Starbucks


starbucks1.JPG Dear Starbucks shareholders, Howard Schultz, and anyone else who may be listening (This means you, Pat Nerr)

I love the idea that you represent. That you can go nearly anywhere in the country, and for about 2 bucks, you can get a piping hot cup of delicious coffee, a pleasing environment, and light banter with intelligent, caring and friendly people. I love the idea of sitting in store typing doing some work, listening to music, talking, or reading.

That is what is special about your company, and worth keeping. I am a FAN of the standards that you have represented, and I think that the $2-5 bucks that you charge is a value for the feelings that you sell.

The experience is eroding quickly, and it may be too late to go back.

Nobody likes to be sold, nobody likes to be monetized. If you want to suggest and share music (or even books, or even movies) with me, that’s welcome. I enjoyed your “Bob Dylan” live at the gaslight series, and was glad to see it (even though the recording was somewhat of a disappointment). I’ve even enjoyed your “The way I see it” on your cups.

What I haven’t enjoyed is the fact that your stores are feeling more and more like a cross between Target and Ruby Tuesdays. Crap everywhere.  That’s nobody’s third place.

Your employees have grown increasingly unfocused and listless, and the standards they uphold are nowhere near where they were 2 or 3 years ago, sore to store.  A few things have happened recently:

  • I went through the drive through, ordered bold, got mild (and no explanation), and I came into the store to ask, I was treated as if I was an idiot for coming in, and treated like all I wanted was a coupon (which i got).
  • Someone slid my change across the counter. I had a pithy remark (don’t try too hard), and I got: “What, you expect me to be perky,” in a serious voice. “I don’t pay $2.50 for a coffee to be treated rudely, that’s for sure.” Not an atypical experience.
  • I stopped going in to Starbucks, and started making coffee at home. I had a 4 times a week Starbucks habit. 3 out of the last 4 times, you didn’t have coffee ready. How can Starbucks have this problem? It’s easily solvable; weigh the coffee, when it’s low, have an alarm ding. Tim Horton’s seems to manage.
  • Your I-tunes promotion (and why I won’t be back for a while): I went in, was asked if I like music.

“Yes, Why”

“Here’s a free Itunes card, it’s by KT Tunsall”

“No thanks, I don’t use Itunes,”

“Oh, you should take it and try it–it’s a free song.”

“I’m not going to get to it, and I don’t need the clutter.”

“Oh, well you don’t have to be snotty, you should try a new experience once and a while.”

None of this is atypical, and none of it stands out anymore, it’s about the experience people have. Starbucks has gone from friendly to Elitist and arrogant. The only things that is saving you now is your location, and our nation’s caffeine addiction because “Getting a Starbucks” is now far from magical–or even pleasant–experience.

Would I choose a third place that is cluttered full of merchandise?

Would I tolerate someone selling me something–aggressively–in my third place?

I do not think so. Have some humility and honor the novel creation that you’ve made–the third place. Honor it, as if it’s sacred, and treat yourself as a host, hoping to make a good experience for people, not as the purveyors of culture.

Things that you must change and do:

There is some hope for you, you have great locations, and good memories. I’ll be back, I’m sure, in six months, and I’m sure that there are many people like me.

  • Coffee, dammit. A Starbucks must ooze coffee. It should smell like coffee, it should look like coffee, feel like coffee. Don’t worry about branching out, don’t worry about expanding (read: diluting) the brand. Be proud to sell coffee.
  • De clutter. Less is more, and don’t insist on selling non useful items. If you want to share music, great. If you want to share gadgets, great, but remember…this is MY third place…and I won’t tolerate being monetized.
  • Protect the third place on behalf of the customers. Always remember it is OURS and not YOURS. You have been honored by us to be included in our day, and it’s something that we can exclude (as I have done).
  • Uphold the standards of authentic friendliness. Having people that are excited about the opportunity to honor people by knowing their drink, and seeing them off with a smile is the most important thing. This has to be practiced EVERYWHERE in your company.
  • Focus on number of repeat customers in a week; most of us pay by credit card, those that don’t could have some type of unobtrusive rewards card. Measure how much we’re coming, measure if we stop coming, figure out why.
  • Sell stuff online, not in store. Create a community online–have a reason to go, and if you must sell us crap, do it there.
  • Figure out what the super users like, want and use, and cater to them (formerly us). The rest will be evangelized.
  • Charge more for coffee. I’d be more inclined to pay $3 bucks for a perfect cup of drip coffee than I would be inclined to tolerate being sold to. Best Buy wrecks the experience by hawking an extended warranty. Don’t you be like them.
  • Engage more with the community. Have more of a community bulletin board, welcome meetings in the community, and have some fun.

I know that you’ll see this eventually, and I sincerely hope it’s not too late to save the brand. End whatever commitments with the other brands that want to monetize your customers. Turn the volume down, and reconnect with the millions that still love you. Begin to earn the honored place that you enjoy, and begin to approach it with a sense of humility.

Best Regards,

Chris Johnson

So I’ve done it.

Some work remains, but the guts of what I’m trying to is up. I’ll fill it in on a regularly scheduled basis, and I have a lot of adaptable content from this site. What’s funny to me is that my writing from 2003-present shares a lot of similar qualities. There are some really sharp things I thought and put down–even then–and there are some really mushy thinking–even now.

tendayteam.com is my play to shorten my work week considerably. Next year I want to roughly double what I did this year while having time to spend with Jack…and then take a year off or more as I watch the industry burn.

So every single second I spend in what’s left of the mortgage industry had better return dollars to me–and in a short, short, short amount of time. Understand that in 18-24 months the laws will come down that will make it hard to transact business in our industry. (Oh, and be biggest wettest sloppy kiss on the lips of the banking industry since Check 21.)

It’s time to get me some leverage, and the way to do that is business to business. I have an awesome assistant, and we’ve got processes that are ever improving.

4:30 comes early, so I’m going to crash.

I want 15 readers by the end of next week. So recommend me already.