Wanna get me fired up? Just go ahead and tell me how lazy loan officers are – I dare you.
Now we all know there are lazy loan officers, just like there are lazy dentists and lazy attorneys and lazy landscapers. And as a former processor, underwriter, and loan officer myself, I definitely remember a few lazy loan officers I met along the way – so I acknowledge they exist – but it’s not particularly common that lazy folks choose professions that are largely if not entirely commission-based.
All this said, I definitely don’t buy the “loan officers are lazy” excuse when it comes to technology adoption and engagement – there is something else at play, and it’s up to leaders to crack the code.
I’ve spent a lot of time in recent years working on this topic, so it’s near and dear to my heart – and I know it’s something many lenders are wrestling with right now, as the market has turned.
For this issue of Expert Insights, I reached out to some of the best experts in the industry and asked them: What’s your best advice on technology engagement or adoption … especially relative to MLOs?
Grab a cup of coffee (or according to contributor Ginger Bell, a glass of wine), pull up a chair and let’s dig in together.
Casey Hughes-Wade, Strategic Partnerships Director at Clever Real Estate
I love this question! And I think it has a very simple answer; involve your LO’s in the decision-making process.
Implementing and driving new technology across an organization has enough uphill battles on its own. The last thing a Lender wants to experience is pushback or low adoption from their sales team.
We all know evaluating and choosing the right technology is time-consuming; however, having a clear plan of action and working with your LOs early on in the process is a simple way to drive adoption and excite the team prior to launch. You can’t always please everybody, but identifying a pilot group in the early stages and adding them to the decision-making process has proven to increase buy-in from the start.
Knowing their concerns as early as possible and rolling out the technology strategically and in phases can support the LOs in adapting to the new workflow successfully.
Ginger Bell, Founder of EduMarketing
My best advice on technology adoption is to let people know what it does and how it will solve a problem for them.
For example, I have a drawer full of kitchen gadgets and half of them I don’t even know what they do, but I do know the most important gadget in my kitchen is my wine opener. In fact, I have two or maybe even three. One is easier to use than the other, but they all do the trick.
If you want technology to be adopted, people need to know the end result.
- Will they get more business?
- Will they be able to connect with more people on social media?
- Will they shorten their time for origination?
Once you’ve told them how great their life will be using it, then make it simple for them to get started. Begin with easy instructions on how to get logged in. Conduct weekly tech calls. Maybe even offering a reward when they reach a certain milestone.
Our lives are surrounded by amazing technology, but if you don’t let people know what’s in it for them, they will have a hard time letting go of their manual corkscrew to go to the Oster electric wine opener, which by the way, is amazing!
Andria Thomas, SVP Head of Product at FinLocker
My best advice is really a single and (seemingly) simple piece of advice, for anyone seeking technology adoption. Know. Your. Users. And this applies to all technology adoption, whether it’s the MLO as the user, or whether it’s technology that an MLO is offering to an end consumer as part of the homebuying process, like our FinLocker app.
- WHAT are their needs, also known as their “Jobs to be Done”?
- HOW are their needs are being met today? How does your technology propose to be better?
- WHERE would your technology fit into your users’ day-to-day lives? Is it easy enough to use that it’s worth the trouble of displacing the process they use today?
Jennifer Johnson, Owner and CMO at The Client Cube
Encouraging your sales teams to adopt and use your technology can be one of the most challenging obstacles for a mortgage marketing team. In my experience, the best way to encourage usage among the sales force is to feature another member of the sales team (aka a “superuser”) who’s already had success using the technology.
We find that when the sales team witnesses a practical example of success from a member of their peer group, it tends to motivate and encourage them, rather than hearing the marketing team merely talking about it.
To facilitate this, our marketing team invites the “superuser” to attend a live call where the marketing team and the superuser demo the technology together to the live audience. With this tactic, we see much more engagement and participation in the live chat, as well as in the weeks following the call.
Cheryl Messner, EVP of Customer Success and Experience at Sales Boomerang
Now’s the time to lean into technology that helps build, maintain and deepen customer connections. The last thing mortgage advisors need is to lose their hard-won relationships during this time of industry upheaval.
For successful technology adoption, show MLOs the big picture: not just how a tool helps them transact better today, but how it positions them to earn repeat business and referrals. Try these time-tested tactics:
- Enlist champions who are excited to evangelize and help peers learn more about effective solutions. Recommendations from a top producer may be more compelling than an edict from leadership.
- Don’t stop training at onboarding. Begin with the basics and progress to more advanced topics to help new and advanced users alike work through roadblocks.
- Convince the skeptics with numbers. Regularly sharing before-and-after results (like improvements to efficiency, turn times or loan production) will help those on the fence get on board.
Andria Lightfoot, Chief Customer Officer, Simple Nexus
Many mortgage leaders are taught that it is too risky to upset the apple cart with powerhouse performers by introducing new technology — but this is a myth.
Loan officers, especially top performers, welcome change when it helps them be more effective. The key is to invite your top producers to provide input on technology demos and implementation strategies and give them the opportunity to pilot new features.
Not only will they be able to help you identify where the greatest returns on automation and customer experience are needed, but including them in the process will generate greater buy-in, user adoption and ROI. After all, your sales team wants to perform at their best and your organization has a direct stake in your sales team’s success!
Shannon Baldwin, VP, Marketing Mortgage Coach
Before an organization can meaningfully engage its sales team with technology, it must first engage them in a compelling, shared mission that tells them why the organization serves communities with modern mortgage advisory service and what differentiates it from the competition.
Further, asking loan officers to develop a personal why that fits into the culture of the organization will give them greater clarity on how they can deliver customers and Realtor partners an experience that other lenders can’t.
When a sales team is aligned in its purpose (the ‘why’) and a lender invests in technology (the ‘how’) that supports its sales team in achieving its goals, engagement and adoption will naturally follow with the proper training and guidance.
For best results, leadership should train its sales team on how to leverage technology to fulfill the organizational mission, set corresponding usage and production goals, and reward adoption and performance.
Jen Peachman, Manager of Strategic Partnerships for Capacity
Change is hard. There’s no getting around it. And there’s no getting around wanting and needing to partner with new technology solutions to help scale and support your business. Along with following a change management model for your implementation and rollout, encourage your team to have some fun with it along the way!
We all know MLOs are competitive by nature, so include gamification as part of your awareness and adoption strategy. Having a new tech naming contest, sending out swag and fun promo items, utilizing point systems and leaderboards, and fostering competition within your organization can help make the hard stuff fun, and promises to help increase motivation and engagement.
Aligning with the right partners and utilizing your resources is essential for adoption. Connect with your technology providers’ customer success teams regularly, and have conversations with other companies using the solution to see what’s worked best in the organization. Communicate upcoming enhancements & share best practices on a regular basis to your sales team.
Empower your team, build a relationship with your tech partner, and share with them the responsibility to equip your team with the resources and experience designed to provide a positive return. We want to see your team do their best work!
Katie Hoffman-Faulk Enterprise Account Executive for Homebot
We all know that technology is a must-have in the industry today, but with so many products and services, it can feel hard to really get the most out of what these services have to offer. When investing in technology, there are two things to really watch for:
- Make sure the implementation and adoption is a streamlined process. There’s nothing worse than investing in a great product, only to find out that onboarding is too complicated for your team! So make sure there is a good system in place to make this happen.
- Make sure there is support from the tech company in the onboarding process. A lot of technology providers charge an additional fee for someone to help with setup and implementation. So make sure you know if that is the case before committing and if so, know what those fees are upfront.
To get the most engagement and adoption out of technology, it really needs to be a supportive partnership between your team and the tech company — so grow that relationship and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Anita Padilla-Fitzgerald, President & CEO at Take 3 Technologies
Congratulations on your decision to invest in a new technology that will either save you time or increase your sales! You’ve accomplished the hard part of “Vet Your Tech,” now get ready to make the transition! Here’s how to do it:
- Recognize that change is hard.
- Data is the key. Test the data the vendor imported to ensure it is accurate, current, and without duplicates.
- Proper training is critical, so be sure to attend the on-boarding and regular schedule training. (Be present and don’t multitask!)
- Provide input. A good vendor will welcome your input as to how to improve their technology.
- Lastly, have FUN. Find out who else is using the technology and connect, communicate, and share.
There are many great techs out there, but you must commit to learning and change to make them work for you!
Linda Bomar EVP, Strategic Relationships and Marketing for Indecomm
Amid market shifts, MLOs should prioritize automation and technology that improves the customer experience, enabling repeat business, faster closings, and the opportunity to maximize the MLO’s time to serve more borrowers.
Lenders often shift their business priorities in response to changing market conditions. MLOs like to stick to their old ways of doing things. However, in Frankenstorm markets, like today – rate hikes, tight margins, declining volumes – both these approaches will achieve negative results on loan production. When lenders scale back strategic technology investments or abandon innovation initiatives, it’s a recipe for lost market share.
Visibility into lender “before and after” tech adoption metrics has shaped my belief that innovation-led businesses and MLOs are always better positioned to meet market change. It comes down to this: Don’t let market shifts dictate your innovation and technology strategy when those investments can give lenders the agility needed to thrive in any market
Benjamin Madick, CEO & Co-Founder at Matic Insurance
MLOs are busy working to close more loans fast. In their minds, learning new technology is just an extra item on their to-do list. My advice is to change their mindset by answering these three questions:
- What’s in it for me? How will the new technology help LOs? Will it solve a problem for them or create a better borrower experience? Leading with this message will get LOs’ attention and drive adoption.
- What’s my incentive? Sometimes explaining the “why” isn’t enough. Consider an incentive program to spark initial interest — like a contest to reward the best performer with a great prize.
- Will it be difficult or disrupt my work? Make it as easy as possible for the LO to use the new tool. This means choosing technology that puts the LO experience first. You can also work with the technology vendor to host live training sessions or develop a resource library.
Saroop Bharwani, CEO at Senso.ai
When adopting new technology, work with nimble companies who are builders at heart, and seek teams that have the ability to adapt to today’s landscape and rapidly deliver true value in response to the most pressing needs.
No one understands the needs of homebuyers like MLOs do, and the role of technology companies should be to simply augment those providing advice to today’s homebuyer with tools and insights which unlock frictionless value. Don’t settle for less!
Along with her signature passion for people, Sue Woodard brings over thirty years of financial services and mortgage experience to her roles as an independent consultant, Senior Advisor with the STRATMOR Group and industry “Evangelist At Large.”
Sue Woodard is a renowned mortgage and fintech evangelist, public speaker and senior advisor at STRATMOR Group