Most of the time, the entirety of the loan process is left by clients for loan officers to accomplish. With this in mind, client experience must always be prioritized in this complex transaction. Jen Du Plessis sits down with Brian Lykins, a Branch Manager in Kentucky, to discuss how to keep customers in touch and not leave them in the dark. He explains how to deliver consistent updates to them, building your authenticity and freeing them from any worrying thoughts. Brian also talks about the contribution of automated messages to make this task less tedious and more accurate, as well as his COVID-19 game plan.
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Making Client Experience A Priority In The Loan Process With Brian Lykins
I am so delighted that you joined us. Thank you again for taking time out of your day. I thank you so much for sharing all these opportunities that you’ve been taking to read. I have a great guest with me, Brian Lykins. He is more than a loan officer. He’s a Branch Manager in Kentucky and noted as being one of the top or The Top Purchase Money Loan Officer in the country. Are you the top or are you the purchase money?
Top 100 on the broker side recognized with United wholesale mortgage.
Now, we’ll be more specific about it. That’s a cool thing. I look back on that when Bank of America was big and strong and everybody liked working with them. We were the number one loan officer delivering business to them at that time, too. It’s a nice thing to feel. I want to share because Mortgage Lending Mastery is primarily for mortgage loan officers but we had a lot of different people on here because we talk about personal, professional growth for everybody for a lot of salespeople. Let’s get started with what your experience is like.
You’ve been in the business for many years. I know that. You came out of college, got in this business but take us back. You got in the business. Someone handed you a rate sheet many years ago that didn’t happen as much but someone handed you some stuff, you learned, you had these ups and downs. Tell us about the trials and tribulations that you experienced when you first got into the business.
It was my first job out of school. I lived in Lexington, Kentucky. We drive 100 miles each way, every day. I saw the ad in the classifieds, “Be a loan officer and make $80,000 a year,” and I thought, “This sounds great. I’ll give it a try.” It was a unique situation. It was for a company called IMF, which was the largest mortgage broker in the US at that time. Each state had Kentucky Mortgage Funding, Florida Mortgage Funding or working a lot on mortgage funding. They had revamped the entire office, meaning they probably fired about 14 or 15 people, so I got to be number three coming back on board. Two couple of loan officers were there already.
For the first 90 days, I didn’t even have a branch manager. There I was, trying to figure it out. I went through a little week-long training class separate for the corporate branch. I came back. It was flying by the seat of my pants. I’ll never forget when they finally brought a manager in to help out. I was ready to quit. I didn’t know what I was doing and what I was at, and it was funny because the corporate manager and that manager sat down. They’re like, “Brian, how many loans do you have?” I go, “I think I have eighteen.” They’re like, “What do you mean?” “I’ve got these files here.” They were like, “Let us take a look.”
They grabbed the files and they’re like, “Brain, have you got any news in underwriting?” I sat and looked at them, “What’s underwriting?” There I was sitting there and they started laughing. They’re like, “Let us see these files.” I was like, “I’ve got fifteen appraisals.” They’re like, “That’s what you learned to corporate. Pick up the phone and do the appraisal on that first call.” There I was with eighteen files sitting there all with the appraisals, income docs and I had no idea where I was going with it. Finally, somebody sat down, it took off from there and trained me but it was very discouraging at first.
I almost gave up and, thank goodness, somebody who was able to sit with me and give me the time that’s needed. That was very an eye-opening experience. It was funny because the other loan officers were hazing me and I didn’t know it. His driving and doing the rest of us all over the state of Kentucky told me that was part of a new loan officer’s job. As a new loan officer, for the first 90 days, you’re supposed to get our rest assigned for us to learn.
That’s incredible in the first 90 days to give 15 loans, regardless of what any market is or anything like that. Tell us how you did it. How did you get those first fifteen loans?
It looks a little bit different. They were doing mailers and things like that. It wasn’t any internet leads or anything.
Mailers were a big deal. We used to ride our bikes on Sunday mornings and stuff them into mailboxes. We used to do that with our kids. We’d have a little basket and our kids. We’d drive around and stuff mailboxes. Those types of things come back around.
One of the great things I remember was huge. As if you have a good data list and you handwrite the envelopes. That was the secret handwriting. They tried to get cheap and do that cursive. It was obviously, regenerated but the handwritten envelopes, they were moneymakers back in the day. We were responsible for writing 500 a week. I tried that one weekend but I paid somebody to do that.There are many loan officers who shy away from communicating because they might not hit their deadlines. Don't be like that. Be very open and honest. Click To Tweet
At least you had the foresight to do that. Many people are so concerned about control. They’re like, “I can’t have anybody else doing that. I have to do that. What if they know that’s not my signature or my handwriting?”
I spent about nine hours trying to write those envelopes. I was like, “I’ll pay somebody.”
You started off that way and maybe you stayed with that company for a while or you made some changes. Eventually, you had to go into a different world of meeting realtors. Now I got to go out and do those types of things. Tell us about how that transpired. Did you have success with it or what had happened there?
I had a unique experience. That was a rip eye. I went into management and I was a corporate manager, then I was a regional manager. When everything changed during the crisis, it was back to sales. That was my first introduction because everything was refinanced but pretty much back then. That was my first introduction to purchases. When I started at this one particular office, I had no idea they were all purchased.
I was already bought it. When I got the introduction, it was lending tree leads. The company was ordering lending tree leads and we were licensed in 7 or 8 states. It took me a while to figure out that, “This is a big difference for a refinance where you’re putting 2% or 3% on the refinance versus a lending tree lead,” which is a unit game.
When the internet leads are a major unit game and where it was a major eye-opener for me, was what I finally transitioned was that entire time, I was closing those internet leads and doing 15, 20, 25 a month based on units. I was never asking for the business. You hear that it’s cliché, “Let’s ask for the business.” Honestly, you hear that and you’d never do it, but once I started doing that after with so many experiences because I’d be working with agents that never met me.
There in Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama, everywhere that has never met me. Honestly, I was like, “Did you have a good experience with us?” They’re like, “Yes, we appreciated the communication.” There’s a lot of things that can go into that, but once I asked, it started giving me a chance, which was shocking because it sounds a lot easier.
It’s interesting that your exposure to real estate agents was from a distance. Here we are in COVID and it’s all virtual. It was virtual all that time, whereas many people were making forty phone calls a week every Monday. You have to make 40 calls to a bunch of people that they’ve never had experiences with to see if they’ll sit and have coffee with them and that type of thing, which I’m not a fan of because my business was very much involved in relationships. You started developing a database of real estate agents and maybe some other people to bring into your fold nap. That became where you continue to get your business. What has happened in the last 5 or 6 years of your practice that has shifted, changed or you’ve added onto it?
This was up to a few years ago when I was on lending tree leads. I finally sat down one day and I was like, “I’m going to focus.” My main priority, as I can tell you that some of the secrets that I do. I always give Wednesday updates to all parties. Now they’re coming out a great software that gives updates to all parties on your little progress, like the Domino’s Pizza tracker thing. One of the things I was very hands-on because years ago, I was still processing my own files too. One of the major things that took it to the next level was communicating with both parties.
The listing agents act shocked when they get updates from me on a weekly basis. It was, “I’m going to try it. I’m going to focus. I’m going to dig in on every single loan that I closed as long as they had a good experience and everything went smooth with the underwriting process,” but I made it my purpose to update them and communicate with them multiple times throughout the process then I ask. What’s crazy is 90% of the agents that I work with I’ve never met. Sixty percent of my business is in Florida. I live in Kentucky.
You don’t have to meet them for coffee or anything. Let’s talk about that. How do you ask, when do you ask because there’s a lot of philosophies around planting seeds and watering seeds throughout the process versus waiting until the end? I think a lot of loan officers don’t ask. For the people that I coach, I talk about this all the time. Why do we, in this industry, always do one and done?
Like, we got a lead, I closed the deal, done. There are no other things. I’ve developed a way that you can get lots of loans from every single loan that you get. I have like 7 or 8 different techniques that I use during the process. I can double people’s income very quickly. Asking one time could double your income and volume.
The biggest mistakes I made were not keeping that database of closed clients and not marketing to that closed database, or not keeping the agent list to where you can simply send out an email every once in a while with an update or something like that. That’s where I failed basically because I feel like it potentially could be doubled now had I done that. I’ve recognized the importance of that. Mostly being a purchase loan officer, I’m sitting on a fortune in refinances. The only ones I talked to are the ones that happen to call in because I’m so busy still doing purchases.
Imagine how much you’re leaving on the table not having nurtured those databases, and all you’d have to do is hire more people. I hear a lot of people saying, “I can’t take on any more business because I’m too busy.” Never ever say that. You can bring more people on.
What’s funny that you say that is I started doing assistance, which is very hard to find it now, especially because everybody is being so busy. I got very lucky because I found one that moved from New Mexico into the area. An agent told me about her being an LOA out in New Mexico. I now started getting the LOAs on board.
For example, 51 apps from purchases, which was crazy, but I now have people able to help me take those apps. One of the first things that could help us make sure you’ve got that digital app access. If you can send a link to a potential person that’s needing a pre-call or an agent or something, make sure you’ve got that digital app access. They can build it out then you can reach out to them if you’re very busy.
Have someone else do the preliminary. Let’s talk about 51. I’m the voice of the people that are reading and they’re going, “He said he didn’t keep his database. He’s only been doing this for a few years the right way. He’s doing it that way. How is it that he got 51 applications on purchases?”
I would say I probably got about 25 agents that are now being consistent with me. The past clients they recommend. You have that access but I’ve not farmed the database, but I use a little thing called OutboundEngine. That’s only $250 a month. It shoots off a few emails. You’d be surprised if you make sure it’s all about that customer service experience. That’s very important but then it’s out of sight and out of mind. Even if they have a wonderful experience, you still have to make sure to touch base with them.
We can talk about our processes and things like that we put in place now but it’s making sure you’re critically touching all parties and updating all parties every week throughout the loan process. I deal with a lot of lenders that I’m contingent on their closing, being semi-close with ours, and the agents are like, “We haven’t heard from anybody.”
I had a perfect loan process, and it was cool. I did for years. It’s funny that you’re mentioning 25 because my magic number was 22. I worked with 22 people. By the way, they weren’t all realtors. I only worked with four realtors. The rest were financial planners because I took a different path. That’s what’s so great about our industry.
My path was slightly different. I only worked with four realtors but I had my twelve apostles. The commitment level for those twelve apostles or I required was for them to provide me with two qualified referrals a month. It’s a numbers game. Twelve people giving you a minimum of 24 a month. That’s to start with.
The balance of your 22 that you’re focusing on, then all the ancillaries who prep our business in here there in yonder and your past clients. Being able to have those kinds of numbers is easy to do if people can start figuring out that they have to ask for that business and they have to deliver unbelievable client experience. I want to ask you again.
I want to go back to, how did you ask? Most loan officers are going and saying, “Did you have a good experience? Great. Give me business. Did you have a good experience? Great. Let’s have coffee.” What were the steps that you take or still take, and did you have a great experience with what’s work together that yields them giving business to you?
One of the things is the processing part of it. It is critical. Unfortunately, we’re trying to develop. In the broker world, a lot of us are going to the third-party process companies who are trying to help somehow establish a third of the processing company, but the processing part is critical. If your processors are hammered down, you still have to be able to make sure that you’re giving that weekly update.
We put in a little bit of software that does the milestones, like your appraisals ordered and your appraisals in. As soon as the appraisals in, I asked the processor to reply to all of them to know if the value was good. If you put it in those milestones for the automated updates, I think that’s critical. Give it a personal touch every Wednesday.Even if you know you are providing great client experience, make sure to keep touching base with them. Click To Tweet
My processes are required every Wednesday if they’re missing anything. One of the things that if we’re going to miss is closing or closing is going to be late. We’re very open and honest. There’s a lot of loan officers where there’ll be a little shy away from communicating. Don’t be like that. Be very open and honest.
I remember walking into this one when I first started seeing the purchases that some of the loan officers would completely say, “It’s none of your business. This is personal information for the buyer or this is private.” I still see some of that like on Facebook and things like that, where people will say that. They appreciate the honesty. You let them know you have a problem. I learned that trick. Don’t let them know every problem because then they’ll think everything is all buyer.
Every loan has something.
They all do. If it’s at that point of getting to the phase where you cannot get past that obstacle or you’re going to need some help, that’s when you reach out and let them know, “I need your help.”
I think that’s really important and I’m writing some stuff down because I wanted to talk about this as well. I did milestone updates as well. I was laughing when you said this too because you said when the listing agents are like, “You’re calling.” I remember calling this one agent one time and I said, “Hi, I’m Jen with this company.” She’s like, “What’s wrong?” That’s usually the only time that loan officers call. I said, “Do you know?” It’s funny that you say that because there’s nothing wrong. I know that we have an extended closing going on here. We weren’t going to close very quickly.
Sometimes no news isn’t always good news and sometimes it is but I always like touching base with people when there’s a lag time to say, “What’s keeping you up at night? What’s going on? There’s nothing happening on this side. I want you to know we’re in a lull. Everything is good. I have everything we need. We’re waiting for the closing date to come.”
If you can do that or you have these milestones from the beginning. It’s much easier to make that phone call that says, “We have a speed bump.” I think that’s what you’re talking about. It’s having that authentic communication with them. You can have authentic automation but you need to have authentic communication as much of that.
I wanted to expand on that because I think that’s where the crust of this comes from. It’s the trust that you’re gaining with them. Every time you communicate, you’re depositing into that trust account, not withdrawing from it. I want to ask you this. Maybe you don’t know the answer to this. I happen to know the answer to my system but how many touches are you making during a typical purchase transaction? You can count everybody. The appraisal was ordered. It goes to the borrower, the listing agent and the buying agent. That’s three.
The contract comes in. We’ll do a personal introduction to both sides. The LOAs you need to keep in mind are admins are gold for agents. If you impress that admin to death, keep that in mind. Those admins are gold, so don’t forget about them. For example, I’ve had one admin and she works with multiple agents across Florida. I made it my pacific goal to make sure I kept updating her all through the deals and all of a sudden, she was handing the agents.
There’s an admin advocating for me, which was awesome. I’m getting phone calls from agents and I don’t even know who they are. They were like, “The admin said you did a great job on his last loan.” Don’t forget about that. I would say when we originally get the file, it’s an original update to all parties. I always ask the title company they prefer to use. I don’t try to push the title company that we’d like to use.
Don’t get me wrong with you, but typically, in certain states, there’ll be on the contract, and in certain states, it’s not, but I would say after that, there is a six-stage status update in our system. It’s preliminary titles in and appraisals in. I like to do the personal touch. I know because you’ll get the automated email when the appraisals are in. If you don’t shoot an email out within an hour stating that, “The value is good as is.”
I’ll tell you. The appraisal is probably the one area in the entire process that we have modified a thousand times and we will let the appropriate parties know what the value is. It meets or exceeds the contract terms and it still needs to be reviewed by an underwriter. Keeping and adding all those things to try to prevent the constant phone calls coming in because those phone calls prevent us from doing our job and being able to provide that service.
That brings up a great point. On those automated status updates, you can address those bullet points. One of the things that were driving me insane was like, for example. When we would make a pre-CD going out, that would go out and I’d get eight phone calls a day. The borrowers are panicking and that the numbers are off-balance. Finally, I was like, “I’ve got to put some language in that. Please ignore if it’s unbalanced. It’s going through that phase change.” Now, I don’t get a single phone call, which is awesome.
I love that you’ve gone through that because I remember when we were going through that as well, particularly with the appraisal piece of it because everyone wanted to know the value if they could get a copy of it. We had to continually add little points and this and that to finally get it to the point where we weren’t getting a response from it. It was rather that I was picking up the phone and saying, “Have you had time to review it? Do you have any questions?”
I was asking for more referrals at that point. That was the opportunity. In our process, we had 71 touches during a purchase transaction. Those that are reading think about how many touches you’re making. If you’re not making any, you’re being that ghosting loan officer, then see how the impact could change and it will change your ability to get in 51 purchase contracts in a week because it’s that easy to do.
It sounds too easy. It’s shocking but you have to make an effort to do it. It can’t be one of those jobs where when I sit and I said, “I can’t do this for one week and stop.” I remember committing the 90 days. I remember saying, “This is it. I’m going to do this. I put my checklist down and I’ve got to do this every day for 90 days and see what happens.” All of a sudden, it started working.
That’s exactly how I became one of the top loan officers in the country. Being in the Top 200 is you kill them with service. Now, it’s not even service. It’s the experience. You kill them with the experience that they get, especially for loan realtors. They don’t have to be doing your job constantly. This allows them to go sell more homes. They’re not constantly worried about your job and allow you to do more business because you’re not constantly in a reactionary mode or a defensive mode. You’re in an offensive mode.
When you call that real estate agent, they see your name coming there. They’re happy because they know it means good news. It’s always something that is progressing. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve been doing in COVID and how you’re managing your relationships with your partners and/or what are you doing with your clients that’s any different from what you were doing before COVID?
I’ve still been working twelve-hour days, unfortunately. The business hasn’t slowed down. I think one of the things that a lot of loan officers need to attempt to do is I don’t go after the heavy-hitting producing agents. I might get one. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got a couple of in my state, but if you were to look at my board behind me on this list of my agents and things like that, but I try to make sure I cater to that agent that’s only done one or two deals.
They might be a little bit about experiencing. Usually, sometimes they’re the ones that stress you out the most but make sure you cater to those because they’re usually good for one or two deals a month. I took that approach a little differently. I’ve got a couple of heavy hitters, but I went after the ones that are good for at least 1 or 2 and made sure that they have a wonderful experience and that kept growing in that sense.
That’s what I love about this business. You can take thousands of different approaches and still be very successful, which is why I love sharing it in Mortgage Lending Mastery is this way works for you. This way may work for another handful of people or someone else may say, “I’ve already tried it and didn’t work for me,” and they go a different direction.
That’s what I absolutely love about what we’re doing. It’s the ability to be very successful comes in a lot of different shapes and sizes. The idea here is for you to get another nugget of maybe one change you’ll make. Maybe two changes that you might make and that becomes that habit that you were mentioning. That consistency and continuity do grow your practice. I love that. What are you doing in 2021? What does that look like for you, COVID or not?
My goal is to hit $100 million, which is a little bit hard to do as a broker but that’s my goal for 2021. I’ve got one LOA and I’ve got four that are in training. I’m trying to take a little bit of a different approach of not bringing in people that have never done it and trying to put them through some online coaching and things like that.
My approach is going to be training from the inside out. I’m trying to picture the loan process from A to Z. I’m putting them in through A to F and I’m going to move up the line and let them learn the loan process through as an LOA or administrative assistant, then let them either get licensed that’s going to help them to grow LOAs and those side of it. It’s already been a game-changer for me from taking a lot of things off my plate.Admins are gold for real estate agents. Do not forget to impress them. Click To Tweet
You should have done it quite some time ago. When you’re working more hours and you’re trying to bring in more business, and you’re going, “I’ve got so much business.” The minute you say that, it’s like, “That’s a lead indicator that you need to get ready to hire another person real quick.” It’s crazy. What do you do to improve yourself? What do you do on a daily basis? What are you listening to? What are you subscribing to? What are you participating in to improve both your personal and professional skills?
I wish that I had time to have it. There’s a lot of sources that I’m not aware of and things like that. I unwind. I have to say I leave the office every now around 9:00. I unwind looking at a lot of the Facebook groups. There’s a lot of good information you’ll see and joining some of those large loan officers groups. A good one is at VettedVA. They have a neat huge source of veterans that if you are part of that group, you can answer questions for them to answer enough of the buyer’s questions without soliciting your leads. That’s what I use to unwind, checking out some of the larger Facebook groups.
I love that you’re going to the consumer rather than to loan officers as the loan officers to try to solve their problems. Although, those are good. My group is Mortgage Lending Mastery, so I’m there to solve problems but it’s a different angle. If I were a loan officer these days, I’d probably be going to consumer sites all the time to be able to help answer questions and real estate sites and stuff as well. You subscribe to Mortgage coach.
I also do the Carl White.
Carl’s a dear friend of mine.
A little bit unique in that situation because I’m not having a lead issue. I’m not having a structure issue.
That’s where your LOAs are trying to help you out so you can have a life.
I expect this to be around a group. The amount of business that I think is going to be here for some time. One of the things I’m trying to do personally because of underwriting turn times, for example. I’m trying to make the front end very heavy, even though we have processors that can do quite a bit. I’m trying to make it as almost as stimulus as possible on the front end. I’m going on my fifth one and training now. We’re trying to set up a little bit of an assembly line on the front end. Now it’s going to take a little bit longer to get that file into their underwriting queue but my objective is to come out with 3 steps or 4 steps.
That whole one-touch process. 1 to 2 touch process is key to being able to be scalable.
I think that’s important now because of the underwriting turn time. It’s a little bit more than you can put on the front end, even though that could take away from the sales side of things but that’s why you need to bring on your assistant and don’t be afraid.
Have your client be more of a partner for you. For this to be successful in the timeframe that we all want is setting those expectations with that client and make sure that they understand they play a critical role in this and you’re not going to move forward with the processing of the loan until they have all the documents to you.
I put a deadline. In our little to-do list that we send out, we get our little purchase to this and like, “You have to have this in the next 72 hours. You got up to 7 days to get us this.” Make sure we put those deadlines in there.
Hold them to them. That’s the key. You can’t only put it in there.
Don’t hesitate to ask the agent to help. A lot of times, a loan sit there and you’re sitting there like the bar hasn’t given me information. You need to sell that agent now.
We call that lone threatening instead of life-threatening. If it’s loan threatening, you get other people involved. Always get other people involved when it’s long threatening. Don’t hold that back, go for it. Let me ask you this because you said, “I don’t have any time to do any of that.” Think about a time when you did have some time. Tell us about a book that inspired you.
To be honest with you, also being the sales manager, there’s been times when I’m up to 41 loan officers or down 21. I hate to say it. It’s straight work for me a lot, unfortunately. I don’t have that good little balance of relaxation. There are not many books that I read when it comes to that type of thing, but I’ll cruise Facebook late at night and look for inspirational stuff. As far as the book, I don’t know the last time.
When you’re doing good volume and you’re working hard, it’s hard to even be concerned about anything that will inspire you or have a mantra, unless you do have a mantra. Do you have a mantra for you and your team?
Other than communicating.
I’ll tell you a little tip for loan officers out there. We send out a handwritten card on every single credit holder. “Do this. I promise you. It goes a long way.” I also send out a handwritten thank you card at closing and as similar to the closing agent to both sides. You would be shocked, not the generic one. Make sure it’s handwritten. It goes a long way. It’s so much longer than you would think.
That’s absolutely powerful. Brian, I want to say thank you so much for taking the time. I know you got to get running and get onto your next appointment but I appreciate you sharing your tips, some secrets, and some other things to move someone else’s business forward hopefully. I wish you the best in what you’re about ready to embark on with your team because there are some challenges there too. I wish you the best in that. I hope to see your name on the list doing $100 million. I’ve been there. It is an exciting time. I wish you the best in being able to get there.
Thanks for having me.
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About Brian Lykins
With more than 17 years of proven expertise and integrity in the mortgage lending arena (mortgage broker),
my mission is simply this; “To deliver an honest and accurate, well communicated, knowledge-based lending
experience to my clients.” And, helping families across the country to achieve their dreams of
homeownership in that process, is something I take great pride in and find true joy in doing. To see more
customer service reviews please google “Swan Financial Lending Tree Reviews”
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