PERSON OF THE WEEK: Kelly Booth is director of the mortgage unit at Velocify, a provider of sales automation software to the financial services industry. MortgageOrb recently interviewed Booth to learn more about how new technologies and, in particular, social media are playing an increasingly prominent role in helping mortgage lenders generate more leads and originate more loans.
Q: In this market, why should lenders care about sales automation technology?
Booth: The mortgage business is a complex business and growing more so with all the regulations and auditing that lenders need to do. It can be especially complicated from the borrower's point of view.
Beside providing sales automation tools that help lenders find motivated borrowers, Velocify also provides guided selling tools that make the transaction less complicated and more efficient. Our platform sends automatically generated emails, notifications and text messages to keep all stakeholders updated throughout the loan process – the borrower, the borrower's real estate agent, the listing agent, underwriters, etc. This frees up loan officers to focus on what they really do best, which is educating and coaching the borrower through the process.
Q: Where are consumers finding lenders online? Social media, lender websites, third parties, etc.?
Booth: All of the above. There really is no single type of website where borrowers are searching for mortgages. For this reason, we constantly research and monitor new sources for leads for our clients.
That said, Velocify has partnered with some of the largest and most respected mortgage lead generators in the industry, including Zillow, LendingTree, QuinStreet, Homes.com, Best Rate Referrals, LowerMyBills.com, and more. We also assist lenders in converting leads off their own websites and partner sites – and we also help lenders and mortgage professionals attract borrowers through their social media platforms through embedded links and other tools.
Q: How well are lenders and loan officers leveraging the Internet for leads?
Booth: As a whole, not very well. In the industry's defense, online leads have historically been of very poor quality. But things are changing, as there are a growing number of reputable lead providers that are capturing leads with a high degree of granularity.
The trouble is that anyone can buy high-quality leads, but unless you have the tools to identify a borrower's specific needs and respond within a certain time frame, you're wasting time and money.
The other challenge is that many lenders still consider online leads as "junk leads," so they don't even try. I believe they'll have to eventually, though. It's clear that more and more borrowers prefer shopping online – particularly the coveted Generation Y or Millennial demographic.
Q: What strategies should be used to improve conversion rates?
Booth: Generally speaking, speed to contact is the single largest factor. This is true no matter what you're selling. Studies have proven that the faster you respond to a motivated buyer, the higher the odds you'll close the sale, and those odds drop quickly the longer you take. This is why technology has become so critical to the sales process. If you can respond to a hot lead in minutes by using an automated lead distribution tool and an integrated dialer like Velocify's, you can really impress the borrower.
Speed isn't the only factor, though. It's crucial to know as much as you can about your prospective borrower before an actual conversation begins. It's also critical for lenders to know the lead conversion rates of each loan officer, right down to the type of loan and factors such the borrower's credit score and age, so that they know which loan officers are most likely to close certain types of borrowers. These are the basic building blocks of a successful mortgage sales strategy. No lender should be without this data.
Q: How do you think lenders will be selling loans ten years from now?
Booth: According to a recent Fannie Mae survey, more than half of all borrowers are finding their lender online. My crystal ball says we're only going to see that trend continue, to the point where the entire mortgage sales process takes place over the Internet (I know we have been saying this forever, but we are seeing movement towards this every day).
Will mortgage professionals still play a key role? Absolutely. Whether purchasing or refinancing, borrowers need coaches – and those coaches are going to need Web-based sales automation tools if they are going to succeed. Personally, I'm pretty excited to see how it shakes out over the next 10 years.