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How to differentiate your business in 2022 in 10 easy steps

  •  By ICE Mortgage Technology

Author: Dale Vermillion

A volatile mortgage lending market, like the one we’re experiencing now, offers a great opportunity for forward-thinking lenders to differentiate themselves from the competition. Rather than backing away from challenges and letting the market run away from them, best-in-class lenders are doubling down on what truly sets them apart.

In previous articles, I’ve highlighted the importance of delivering a solid value proposition for your customers and building trust-based relationships—the first two legs of my Triangle for Success™️. Now, I want to unpack the final leg of the Triangle (and the key to your success): differentiation.

Why differentiation?

Over the past decade, differentiation has become a diluted buzzword as just about every lender now promises borrowers that their company is “different”. But the truth is that most lenders are very similar, which is why every lender and originator needs to ask themselves a candid question: “How different is my business, really?” If what comes to mind is price, speed, or technology, remember that your competition will always claim to be cheaper, faster, or more convenient.

Put simply: focusing on the transaction is a losing proposition for any lender or originator looking to prove to their borrowers that they’re really different. The businesses that truly stand out to borrowers are those focusing on the borrower experience. Offering expert advice, exceptional customer service, a relational approach, and unparalleled value are how world-class lenders position themselves as truly different in the eyes of their customer. Why? Because at the end of the day, differentiation is the product of having the discipline and accountability to consistently surprise and delight customers. Differentiation only leads to big wins when a lender or originator offers something to their borrowers that’s truly unique.

10 foundations of differentiation.

Creating differentiation doesn’t have to be a vague concept, or a moving target when you have a firm plan in place. The key is to make differentiation a priority within your organization, to the point where it’s baked right into your culture. Here are the top 10 areas to focus on if you want to pull ahead of the pack:

  1. Cultural uniformity – Everyone on your team, company-wide, needs to buy into your vision. Your culture is the most important thing for creating differentiation, and that culture is built on strong leadership. Lead by example.
  2. Factory mentality – Orchestrate your lending process like an assembly line. Assembly lines are designed for 2 things: efficiency and exceptionalism. Each person in your organization needs to understand their roles, responsibilities, and their relationship to the organization.
  3. Specialized diversity – When you try to give too much diversity to your employees, they often fail. Make them specialized. Make them great at a few things, instead of good at a lot of things.
  4. Commitment to exceptionalism – Beyond every member of the team having a firm understanding of their job, everyone must do their job exceptionally. An exceptional team is the result of each individual contributor being exceptional. Individual excellence leads to organizational excellence, which ensures your customers have not just a good experience, but a great experience throughout the entire process.
  5. Prioritization mindset – I can’t overemphasize the importance of setting and honoring priorities, every single day. Set priorities for everything, with the top focus being on your role! If you’re in origination, that's selling. If you’re in processing, that’s closing files. If you’re in leadership, that’s leading. This keeps you from operating reactively. You simply identify priorities, go to town, and don’t stop until your to-do list is complete.
  6. Unique value proposition – There’s nothing unique about offering a rate. Everyone has one, and there will always be someone who promises to go lower. Instead of focusing on the transaction, focus on the benefits a mortgage has to offer and the experience you and your team can provide. Your value prop will only be unique if you focus on your personal and company credentials, adding value to your customer’s financial situation, and serving as their expert advisor. Remember, it’s your expertise and advice that sets you apart, not your pricing.
  7. Relational commitment and consistency – People buy from people they like and trust. Your organization needs to have a relational commitment at every level—in communication and relationships with borrowers, but also within your team.
  8. Opportunity optimization – Don’t leave money on the floor! Buyers who don’t qualify today could qualify later, but you will never know if you fail to follow-up. Maximize every lead by making a goal to make every customer your customer someday, even if not today.
  9. Educational Expertise – A great sales force is an educated one. Educate your team, and show them how to educate their customers. Everyone on your team needs to become confident experts who can guide their customers to becoming better buyers who make better offers and wise lending decisions.
  10. Accountability culture- You’ll never get to where you want to be if you don’t have structured guidelines, deadlines, and expectations. You need to have a system of checks and balances to hold your team accountable, not for the sake of micro-management, but because you love your employees and want them to become the very best version of themselves, professionally and personally.

Bottom line – differentiation is based on relationships

As the last element of my Triangle for Success™️, Differentiation is only possible if you first invest in building lasting, trust-based relationships, and delivering exceptional value to each and every customer.

At the end of the day, truly being different is finding ways to wow your customers throughout the entire lending process, which is why leveraging a loan operating system with automated prioritization is essential to not only personalize the entire borrower journey, but add an extra layer of automated accountability to ensure your team members never let an opportunity slip through the cracks.

That’s why I’m a huge fan of the built-in priority view in Encompass® by ICE Mortgage Technology®. It just makes keeping your ducks in a row intuitive and simple. That’s the strategy you need to support differentiation for your company.

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