Written by Joshua Shein, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

Having managed and trained hundreds of loan officers over the past 10 years, I have seen it all. I’ve seen brand-new loan officers have a killer year and seasoned ones strike out, regardless of the market. I have seen the entire spectrum of style from members of my team and have learned many things from each of them, from both their successes and their challenges.

While each loan officer has his or her own technique and style, there are a few common characteristics that are consistent among successful loan officers and distinguish them from the average performers. Top loan officers are able to close more loans and larger loans because they have learned how to do their job more efficiently and effectively than their colleagues. The good news is that most of these characteristics can be learned, and with practice, they can be implemented properly to improve your sales approach.

Everyone knows that relationships matter, and personal connections are the most reliable sources for building a client base. We have all seen relationships being cultivated over a lunch meeting, a golf outing or a night out at the ballpark. Nothing beats an in-person, face-to-face meeting for establishing and solidifying a relationship.

However, for many loan officers, the relationship-building opportunities with referral sources and potential borrowers are usually limited to telephone conversations, so the importance of being able to effectively communicate by phone cannot be overstated. A top producer knows that establishing rapport is key to closing loans—and he or she knows how to embrace the borrower regardless of location. It shouldn’t matter if the borrower is sitting in the next town or on the other side of the country—top loan officers are able to develop solid relationships that can be the difference between a quick, one-time loan and a steady referral base.

Develop a Phone Strategy
Top producers have spent time fine-tuning their phone strategies. Developing a phone strategy requires more than creating a script for what you are going to say when you make contact. It is the framework that sets the tone for your responsiveness, and like building any relationship, this takes focus, organization and discipline.

Talk Often
Determine a frequency for touch points. Successful loan officers have figured out how to regularly check in with their prospective borrowers, even if it is just to say hello or chat about the weather. It is critical to learn how to stay in touch and find the balance between calling a prospect too often (every few days) and not often enough (every few months). Even more important is recognizing that a one-size-fits-all schedule won’t work for every borrower. Learn to read your borrower and determine the right frequency for following up and staying in touch. This lets a borrower know you are still a resource even if there is no update on the loan. Our job is to educate and inform, and to build a trusted relationship during this process—this is what produces results.

Talk Long
Top producers truly care about their borrowers. They know how to establish a personal connection and have learned that faking it simply won’t work. If you don’t honestly and genuinely care about the borrower and their needs, you will never achieve truly top-tier success. Successful producers have learned that caring and understanding their borrowers’ families’ needs and situations builds trust, which translates into results and sales. Get to know your borrower intimately. Ask questions, take notes and listen to what they tell you. Ask questions and bridge back to their comments to show that you are engaged in their answers. When you take an interest in people, they remember you, and when

people remember you, it’s good for business.

Keep Up by Keeping Track
Track details and personal information.

When building an authentic relationship, it is important to remember the details, and the opportunity to act on those details is an impressive tool to have in your arsenal. When you are talking to a prospective borrower, make sure to take a moment to note details about your conversation. The goal is to get to know your borrower on more than a superficial level, and that takes engagement. Send a personal note of greeting or make a call on special occasions, birthdays and holidays, and be sure to use CRM (customer relationship management) software to assist you in tracking this information—you will never remember it on your own, and old-school note cards just won’t fly anymore.

Make Referrals Work for You

The Big Ask
Referrals from borrowers who have had a great experience are like gold. A majority of your work, getting to a point of trust and authority, has already been established by your prior borrower. Mine your contacts for referrals. Friends, relatives and neighbors can be potential sources of your next deal, but you have to ask. Asking your borrower for referrals should be a constant habit. Because they share many of the same characteristics (age, economic status and interests) as their social group, you can make contact with potential borrowers who are primed for your business.

Follow Up
Once you’ve made contact with a referral, you’ve made the first step to your next loan. Top loan officers are masters of following up. Whatever the results of that first conversation, it is imperative to follow up and follow through. Make a date for a second phone call, and if they need more information, make sure it’s in their hands in a timely fashion. When the time comes, make the call. If there is no further action, don’t write the potential borrower off; circumstances change all the time, and if you’ve made an effort to keep in touch, there’s a good chance you’ll successfully close a deal. Be patient but persistent; it may take six months or even a year, but the loans will come through.

Keep in Touch
Don’t stop once the loan closes. A borrower left dangling after the deal ends is likely to be a dead end. Successfully maintaining your relationships with previous borrowers often results in referrals and repeat business.

Patience is a virtue
We live in a world of instant gratification, so it takes effort to cultivate patience. But patience is often required to make it into the top tier of loan officers, particularly with a reverse mortgage client base. Progress can be excruciatingly slow, but it will happen if the strategies I’ve outlined above are adhered to. Nurture your prospective borrowers, build the foundation for relationships and eventually success will come. It is important to stay focused on the process and let the results happen organically; stick with it and give it time. It is easy to get distracted by co-workers and the latest app or new idea to close more loans. If you’re honest with yourself, take a minute and look in the mirror: Are you really working at full capacity? Are you focused all day, every day, while you’re at work? Are you working to build your business and your career every day? When you are, it’s amazing how quickly things can fall into place.

If you already possess some of these characteristics, congratulations. However, a top producer knows that their style must continue to be developed with practice and patience. If you don’t, don’t fret. Once identified, these tactics can be easily integrated into your day-to-day style and sales approach. For a loan officer, these practices can be the difference between a gratifying career and a short one.