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Strategic Moves for Long-Game Mortgage Success

Have you ever heard this Warren Buffett quotation? “I’m not concerned with the noise because I’m playing the long game.” If not, it’s probably because it wasn’t him who said it — it sounds a lot like Buffett, but it is actually from rapper and entrepreneur Jay-Z. Despite their industry differences, these two moguls are aligned in their success strategies. Both understand the value of the long-play, and both have become very wealthy by taking the patience-and-persistence route. In the world of mortgages, especially in a down market, it’s not always easy to think long-term, but it’s ultimately the most lucrative play you can make. Our question this month: What moves can originators make now to set up long-game success?

Understanding the Value of the Long Play

Warren Buffett did famously say, “Someone’s sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.” He also made a habit of picking stocks that he believed would flourish over a ten-year period as opposed to a six-month period. That kind of long-term thinking seems counterintuitive in a day and age where every TikTok video is touting side hustles and “get rich quick” schemes. With all of that noise, it’s hard for lenders and loan officers alike to make slow moves and trust the process. But that’s what it means to play — and win — the long game.

Rarely does the mortgage industry experience a lull in origination production of the magnitude we are experiencing right now. For many, that means struggling just to make ends meet and finding creative ways to survive through the rate cycle. For others, the slowed pace creates space to spend otherwise idle productive energy on building a better future, brick by brick, if that’s what it takes. A down market doesn’t have to be chalked up as “lost” months or years if we set long-term goals and start executing on a slow-burn strategy to achieve them.


Consider the following slow-burn strategies that can build a future that is impervious to inevitable mortgage rate cycles:

Establish personal connections. Have you ever had a barista or waiter remember your name? It feels great to be known! Originators can offer borrowers that same feeling by finding out something personal about them, remembering it, and then asking about it later. While it may seem insignificant at the time, the borrower is likely to subconsciously put you in the category of “friend” since that’s the kind of information they’re used to sharing with friends. And if they’re shopping around, you’ll likely stand out as the only one who bothered to get to know them personally. On the flip side, if you’re not making personal connections and you’re losing to competitors head-to-head, there’s a good chance it’s the lack of connection and not the rate that’s to blame.

  • Ask open-ended questions: Encourage your prospects to share more about themselves and their needs. This can help you better understand their situation and adjust your approach accordingly.
  • Find the why: If you are doing a loan for a home purchaser, the most important question to ask is WHY they are buying the home. This aligns their true need with how you are helping them achieve it.
  • Listening actively: Listen to your borrower’s needs, concerns and preferences and respond with empathy and understanding.
  • Share your story: Share your own experiences. Be authentic and transparent and show who you are personally, not just as a salesperson.

Act with integrity to create trust. When times are lean and a borrower is looking to you for guidance, it can be tempting to venture into a morally gray area. Resist! Here’s an example: I was recently in the market for a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC) and took the opportunity to reach out to a handful of lenders to explore options. Two of these lenders didn’t offer a HELOC product and pushed instead for me to consider a cash-out refinance, even after I told them I wasn’t interested in increasing the low fixed rate on my first. They were more interested in the possibility of a short-term sale than they were in doing the right thing (i.e., recommending the best product for me) and creating a customer for life.

Now imagine if one of them had taken the time to recommend a different lender with the best deal on HELOCs, maybe even provide a name and phone number (no doubt my call wasn’t the first of its kind they’d received), and then asked if we could keep in touch for whenever I’m ready to move up to a new house. That would have been a much better play, even if they had to wait to see their goodwill fruits. Instead, I was left with a bitter taste in my mouth for both the originator and the lender. These seemingly insignificant conversations might happen a few times each week, but they might add up to 150-200 new prospects each year that could pad an originator’s long-term marketing funnel. I’m not saying you need to steer everyone to a HELOC right now, but it should be discussed as one of the borrower’s viable options if you want to build trust.

Pay closer attention to the loan process. STRATMOR data conclusively demonstrates that loyalty and advocacy are a product of a delightful process, not a delightful originator. All the hard work that LOs put into being liked by their borrowers can be lost in a moment when the initial document needs list goes to their spam folder (-106 NPS points) or the processor asks for a document that they already provided (-47 NPS points). Over the past ten years, and based on more than a million borrower surveys, STRATMOR identified seven aspects of the mortgage loan process that impact advocacy and loyalty more than anything else. When these things all go right, the NPS is an astounding 97. When even one of them goes wrong, which happens 55 percent of the time, NPS drops by an average of 75 points. STRATMOR’s MortgageCX program provides monthly scorecards that can help originators personally track these aspects of the process, so they can preserve and protect referrals and repeat business.

Note to lender owners: Now may be the time to seriously consider overhauling compensation plans. Imagine if you had a compensation plan that incented loan originators to exhibit behaviors that drive true value.  For example, would you be in better shape in this down market if you had incentive plans that reward higher lock pull-through, higher first-time loan submission, better follow up on preapprovals, and finally higher levels of borrower satisfaction? We talk about these things, but maybe now (in a down market) is when we need to do them.  


Here are three strategies you can employ immediately to start building your long-game success:

  1. Really get to know your borrowers. Ask open-ended questions. Then ask follow-up questions. Be curious and interested, like you’re on a first date. Once the conversation is done, write down as much as you can remember. Ask your CRM administrator to create a field (or fields) for you to store this valuable information.
  2. Let integrity rule. Make a promise to yourself that your character and moral compass will never shift under the pressures of short-term gain. Be honest and upfront about any fees, expected delays, and documentation requirements. Surprise someone by recommending products that you can’t provide yourself. Just don’t forget to ask them if you can stay in touch!
  3. Get transparency of your loan process. If you’re not already using MortgageCX, you should give it a look. It’s the only program in the industry that gives deep CX insights at the LO and processor levels and provides a clear path to creating more raving fans (i.e., more referrals and repeat customers). Call me to schedule a discussion.
  4. Bring CX into the compensation discussion. Consider making long-term investments in better incentive compensation plans, and better training for staff to deliver high quality service, and support making your company more productive.

How can you learn more about creating a better customer experience and about how the customer experience impacts your company?

Find out more about STRATMOR Group’s MortgageCX program and how transparency into the loan process can help your company. Contact Mike Seminari at


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