Become a Referral Clearinghouse and Watch The Referrals Flood In!

Ed Craine
July 2, 2008 — 1,588 views  
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As mortgage professionals, we can live or die by referrals.  When the market is hot, referrals keep our pipelines bursting.  When the market is cool, referrals keep our pipelines from freezing.  Being that we’re in one of the coolest markets in recent memory, earning referral business is going to be paramount to making it through the winter.  But what if you’re struggling to keep referral flames lit? Well, there’s a good chance that you don’t know about the “secret” networking trick that will have your pipeline flowing long before the snow can thaw this spring.

The “trick” is really not that tricky at all.  It is based on the well researched premise that those who provide others with referrals; earn referrals in return. Sounds easy enough right?    But if you’ve found that your referral efforts are earning you only dismal results, it’s likely because you need to increase the number of quality referrals you’re sending to others.  That is, you need to take your efforts one step further and become a “referral clearinghouse.”   

A referral clearinghouse (in loose terms) simply refers to someone who is known as the “Go-To-Person” for a referral to anything in the professional world.  As mortgage professionals, we can almost unanimously provide solid referrals to CPA’s, Financial Planners, Credit Counselors, REALTORS®, appraisers, etc.  But what about other service providers?  To become a referral clearinghouse, you’ll have to do better than that.
Expand your scope to include, for example, attorneys (divorce, real estate, and probate specialists at minimum come to mind); wealth strategists, stock brokers, contractors, interior designers, carpenters, painters, landscapers, the list could go on and on.  The point is; you want to have -at the ready- a referral to anyone for any service at anytime.
Once you’ve cultivated your list of preferred referral partners you’ll need to let your database know that you are now their new “referral clearinghouse.”  This will start with a simple letter.   Whether you choose to email your first letter or send a hard copy, it’s best to send a hard copy at least once a year.  After all, this letter is something they’ll want to keep on file.

The letter should be short and sweet.  Explain that you believe in the process of referrals, and that you would like to offer your services as a referral provider.  Then, include a list of the industries only, which you are able to provide referrals for.  But stop short of listing the service provider’s name or contact information. You’re not trying to be a shorthand version of the Yellow Pages.  Your ultimate goal is to get your contacts to call you.  That way, you can provide a personal referral.   Again, the trick is to get your database to contact you for a name and number. 

This technique will help earn business through referrals via several different means.  First, by mailing out this letter, it gives your clients a reason to contact you.  Naturally, anytime you can touch base with your clients, you are reminding them of who you are, and what you have done for them in the past.  The repetition of your voice and name will help keep you at the forefront of your clients’ minds.  This will ensure that you are first on their list to refer to their friends, colleagues or family members who need mortgage advice. 

Secondly, this increases your value to your clients, as you’re not blatantly trying to sell them your service, or a new loan product.  You’re simply letting them know that you can and should be thought of as more than just their mortgage professional.

Lastly, this can help you earn additional referrals from new potential referral partners.  There is no disputing that people enjoy it when others help them attain what they want, particularly when you’re not first trying to sell them your services.   What better way to help fellow business professionals than by providing quality referrals to them? 

Keep in mind that it is not necessary that you personally know each of the people in your referral list.  Naturally, the onus is on you to do a bit of research before giving their name as a referral to a client.  And certainly, if you refer a client to them and find out they were less than professional, remove them from your referral list, and give someone else a try.  The sign of a true professional will be adamantly clear soon enough, as likeminded colleagues who appreciate the value of referral networking will reach out to thank you for the referral.  This, again just opens the door for new referrals to fill your pipeline.  

Becoming a referral clearinghouse is a smart step for any mortgage professional seeking to build new referral relationships by word-of- mouth.  This strategy will prompt clients not only to contact you for a referral, but will provide you with a valid reason for contacting them, without having to sell to them.  This also opens the door for fellow professionals to contact you, thus opening up a dialogue about your business.  When done correctly, this all adds up to more business with existing clients and new business stemming from prospects.  More importantly though, you’ll find yourself bestowed with the highly coveted reputation as the “Go-To-Mortgage-Professional” who is invaluable to clients and referral partners alike. 

Dr. Misner is a New York Times bestselling author, Founder & Chairman of BNI (www.bni.com), and the Founder & Visionary behind the Referral Institute (www.referralintstitute.com).   Dr. Misner can be reached at [email protected] .

Ed Craine is CEO of San Francisco based Smith Craine Finance, an award winning mortgage brokerage. He was appointed Vice President of CAMB in 2007.  Ed serves as an Executive Director for BNI, and writes the column Ask Ed on www.brokerbanker.com Contact Ed at 415-406-2330 or [email protected]

Ed Craine

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Ed Craine is the CEO of award winning Smith Craine Finance, one of the oldest independent Mortgage Companies in San Francisco, California. A 25+ year veteran of the real estate financing industry, Ed has originated and negotiated loans in excess of $2 billion, to include both commercial and residential properties. He has simultaneously held such notable positions as Vice President of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers (CAMB), as well as serving as the Public Relations Committee Chairperson of the 5,000 member strong association during 2007, the year in which the mortgage industry received more media attention than in recent history. Ed currently also serves as 1st Regional Vice President of the Certified Commercial Investment Member Institute (CCIM). He will be inducted as Vice President of the Southwest Region of CCIM in September 2008.