Six Tips for Building a Reverse Mortgage Referral Network

In today’s rocky reverse mortgage landscape, it’s clear that a strong referral network is a major component to success. With profit margins shrinking, there’s little room in the budget for lead buys and marketing, and those who can cut costs by networking for clients might have a better chance of survival.

But connecting with other professionals to find clients can be challenging. Whether your focus is on Realtors, CPAs, attorneys, or financial advisors, there are barriers that take skills to break down.

To help, RMD spoke with two seasoned reverse originators to glean tips on how you can build a strong referral network.

Tip No. 1: Look around you

If you’re looking to grow your network, look to the people around you first. Initiating contact with someone based on an existing connection will likely be more effective than a cold call.

“Tap into your own network before you start doing any mailings or joining any groups,” says Harlan Accola, branch manager and trainer at Fairway Independent Mortgage in Wisconsin.

“You’re already a part of groups. What about your friend at the gym? Does he have a financial planner? Use those connections and talk to the people you know first.”

Tip No. 2: Learn their language

The reverse mortgage world has its own lingo, and other professions are no different. If you’re going to reach out to a Realtor or a financial advisor, learn their terminology so you can converse in the language of their businesses. Do your homework to learn about their work and the challenges they face before you sit down.

“Talking with a financial advisor can be a little intimidating, because they’re talking in a language that originators may not be familiar with,” says Chris Downey, president of Harbor Mortgage in Massachusetts. “You want to learn how the relationship works between a financial advisor and their wealth management client, and be familiar with the terminology. More importantly, be familiar with the compliance and regulatory obligations that financial planners have with their clients and the boundaries and restrictions he faces.”

Tip No. 3: Ask questions

If you want to connect with someone, you need to understand their perspective. The best way to do that? Ask questions.

“The more you learn about somebody else, the better you can connect with them,” Accola says. “Think about the people you really enjoy being around — they don’t talk about themselves, they ask about you, your kids, your job. Find out what the financial planner is doing, ask them what they know about reverse mortgages, and then talk to them on their level.”

Downey agrees.

“You need to understand what’s going through their mind,” he says. “If you can do that, you can address any concerns they might have about referring a client over to you.”

Tip No. 4: Rely on the research

Before sitting down with anyone to discuss how their clients might benefit from a reverse mortgage, it’s critical that you know your stuff.

“Be aware of all the data that’s out there,” Downey says. “It’s not just us coming out with this message — there are a lot of financial analysts who are saying the same thing. Use that information to your advantage so that you can educate.”

Accola echoes this idea. “It amazes me the number of reverse mortgage professionals who have not read Wade Pfau’s book, which is an absolute textbook on reverse mortgages and retirement,” he says. “Why would a financial advisor waste time with us if we can’t teach them something that they don’t know?”

Tip No. 5: Offer a solution

When talking with a professional, think about the challenges their clients face and explain how a reverse mortgage could help. Frame it as a solution that can solve specific problems, and make your services comprehensive.

“We’re not just giving them a reverse mortgage and sending them on their way. We’re really trying to make sure that when this process is said and done, they are in a much better position than when they started,” Downey says. “We’re addressing a health care issue; we’re addressing an estate planning issue. If they don’t have an updated will, a power of attorney, we’ll get all those things in place. That’s what a CFP or elder law attorney wants to see… We bring a comprehensive approach to the table.”

Tip No. 6: What can you do for them?

Frame the conversation so that you are talking about what you can do to help their business — not what they can do for you.

“Nobody is going to send you referrals unless you’re doing something for them,” Accola says. “Nobody wants to talk to you about helping you with your business. You have to talk about how you can do something for their business.” 

Talk to a Realtor about how a reverse mortgage can help their senior clients qualify. Talk to a financial advisor about how the product can help prevent their senior clients from withdrawing from their portfolios too early.

“Understand what the problems and the challenges are for that person and talk about how a reverse mortgage can help,” Accola says.

Written by Jessica Guerin

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