Written by Rick Schluter, as originally published in The Reverse Review.

How many of you loan officers have been told by your managers to get the application, put it in the hands of the processing team and then move on to the next prospect? That’s been my universal experience in the eight years that I’ve been in the reverse mortgage business. And while it’s understandable why management doesn’t want us to get bogged down in processing details, I think that we may be missing out on a valuable opportunity to stay engaged with our customers, both during processing and after closing.

The hardest part of our sales process is usually getting the homeowner to the point of signing the application. Once that’s done, most loan officers assume that the customer is now fully convinced of the merits of our wonderful product, and can’t wait to get to closing. That’s true for many of them, but unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Many of the applicants lie awake at night afterward, reflecting on that stack of paperwork they just signed, worrying if they’ve just made

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a huge mistake. As the days go by, any bad press regarding reverse mortgages jumps off the page or screen at them, and they get more anxious as time goes on.

But you can help alleviate your borrower’s concerns by being proactive, by staying in regular contact and addressing any fears that might be giving them pause. Take advantage of the “touch points” that are available to you: appraisal results, title report, updated figures, processing progress, etc. Don’t go more than one week at a time without reaching out to the homeowner for some reason. Even if you’ve got nothing new to report, you can say something like, “Everything is going smoothly. I just wanted to tell you that I have nothing to tell you.” That usually elicits a chuckle; they appreciate hearing from you, and you can take that opportunity to ask them if they have any worries at this point. Addressing concerns early, before they’ve had a chance to fester, can sometimes make the difference between losing and closing a loan.

If they’re getting cold feet, ask specifically what’s bothering them, dispel any lingering misconceptions and, most importantly, remind them of whatever “pain” prompted them to consider a reverse mortgage in the first place. If they don’t move forward with you, will their painful situation get better or worse?

Also, if possible, try to attend the closing. Hold the borrower’s hand (figuratively) as they autograph dozens of documents. For LIBORs, focus on the incredible increasing line of credit on that scary amortization table. Explain why the recorded mortgage value is 50 percent more than their appraised value (which usually comes as a big surprise, if you haven’t already addressed that). Laugh together as you point out the mortgage due date: their 150th birthday. (For example, “If you live that long, we’re going to put you in all of our commercials!”). In short, make the closing an upbeat, educational confirmation of why they’re going through all of this. The whole idea is to make the loan process, from start to finish, a positive and understandable journey that will enable the homeowner to solve some of their major problems. If you can remain engaged and ease the process, the homeowner will be much more likely to recommend you to others.

Many loan officers do a decent job of setting expectations, keeping their customers informed during processing and attending their closings. But I see the biggest lost opportunity in post-closing contact. You hope that after the closing, you have a satisfied customer who will refer other prospects to you. But you can do much better than that. You have additional reasons to reach out to your customers, if you want to improve your relationship with them, encouraging them to be more than just a satisfied customer, and be someone who will actively promote you.

Most customers will go out of their way for you if you go out of your way for them. One obvious way they can help you is by recommending you to their friends. But ultra-satisfied customers who have bonded with you may be more inclined to take that extra step. This might include inviting you to speak to their senior church group or local senior club to give a presentation on reverse mortgages. Perhaps an ultra-satisfied customer might agree to be interviewed about their experience for the local newspaper or television station, or tell their story at a seminar that you’re putting on. That takes guts, and you’d have to be much more than just a happy customer to go the extra mile for your reverse mortgage specialist.

So, how do you convert happy customers to actively supportive advocates? Here are some suggestions. Every item won’t

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sit well with every loan officer, but here are some ideas that might help you guarantee long-term relationships:

Four days after closing
Call to ensure that they received their lump sum.

One month after closing
Ask what they’ve used the money for, so far. They’ll be thrilled to tell you, because they’ve likely eliminated their biggest pain point, and it will remind them of the person who helped them to do it.

Two months after closing
Ask if they have any questions about their monthly statement. Remind them that they can tap their growing line of credit (if applicable) without having to justify to anyone what they want to use it for.

Three months after closing
Ask them how the reverse mortgage has changed their lives. This is extremely important and will help you cement your relationship with this customer by giving you the opportunity to share in their joy. You also get real success stories that you can relate to future prospects (“There’s a woman in Greenville who faced similar challenges...”).

Every December
Send your family holiday card, not something off the shelf.

Birthdays
There are software packages that let you print customized cards that show who else was born that day, famous events that took place, etc. Consider sending such a thoughtful card to your best prospects, too.

Every spring
Mail seeds. Burpee sells “promotional seed packs” ($70 for 500 flower seed packs) with a large blank space on the back. You can then customize them with whatever message you want to convey.

Big snow/hot days
Call 10 customers and ask them how they’re doing. They’ll be amazed that you care.

If you’re like most originators, closing a few loans each month, you have the time to cultivate your existing customer base. Granted, every hour that you spend printing and addressing birthday or holiday cards is an hour that you’re not able to prospect or network. But I think you’ll find that if you keep in close touch, both during processing and after closing, your efforts will be rewarded in the long run. And you are in this for the long run, aren’t you?