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Badass Brokering Part II: Questions are the Answer

By Mike Cameron, Special to CMT

Welcome back! Hopefully you had a chance to read Badass Brokering Part I. In this second instalment, we’ll continue the conversation by introducing the first part of our 3-part formula for creating trust:

  1. Ask Questions
  2. Tell Stories
  3. Be Authentic. 

Ask Questions

When it comes to sales there are two main reasons that we want to ask questions;

  1. We need to find out where our customer is in the buying process.
  2. We want to influence a buyer’s behaviour.

So what do I mean when I talk about finding out where our customer is in the buying process? Well, in today’s web-driven world, our customers have more information at their fingertips than ever before. With that in mind, it would be sheer folly for us to assume that clients are starting from scratch when we first meet them.

A perfect example of this happened to me a couple of years ago when I was in the market for a new vehicle. Like most of us, I had a pretty good idea of what class of vehicle (SUV) would serve my purposes. I was looking for something that would carry the family’s bikes around, get me to and from sporting events and with three rows of seating.

As any tech-savvy consumer would do, I went straight online and started researching some of the most popular models. I subscribed to Consumer Reports to find their top SUV recommendations. I ended up settling on a Toyota Highlander, largely because I had owned a Toyota before and was comfortable with the brand. It had 7 seats, ample storage space, and high reliability and safety ratings.

Decision made. That was easy, right?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

You see my current vehicle was on its last legs and we had a family vacation booked in two weeks. I needed a new vehicle, and I needed it now. All we had to do was find a dealership that could get me a Highlander quickly, treat me right and quote a reasonable price. It should have been the easiest car sale ever for the lucky salesperson that had the good fortune of me walking in their showroom.

The Lesson Begins

When I arrived at the first dealership, I lingered around the showroom with my son for a bit. We kicked the tires of a Highlander on the showroom floor and eventually a young sales fellow came over and asked if he could help.

I said, “Yes, I’d like to buy a Highlander.” His eyes lit up and he immediately shifted into sales mode. “OK,” he says, “why don’t we take one out for a test drive?”

I said, “Well, I’m actually in a bit of a hurry. What do you have in stock, and how quick can you get me into one?”

Somewhere along the line, it was clear he had been taught, “Get the customer in the car for a test drive.” He continued to push us to take a test drive and talked about how impressed we’d be.

“OK,” I thought, “I’ll humour him”. So he brought one of the Highlanders around, we hopped in the vehicle, and I took it for a spin. He went on extolling the virtues of its engineering, its “JD Power and Associates number 1 rating…blah, blah, blah.” Clearly he did not recognize that I had already done all of this research and could have pitched the vehicle better than him. 

Eventually we got back to the dealership. Him, excited at the prospect of a sale, and me, utterly exhausted and frustrated over having to listen to his drivel for the last 45 minutes. He did everything in his power to make certain that my Trust Bucket was all but empty. When we walked back into the dealership I just looked at him, thanked him for the test drive and walked out the door.

It took two more dealer visits before we found a salesperson who recognized that we were already 98% sold when we walked through the door. It was only a matter of: treat me right, give me a fair price and we’ve got a deal.

The Brokering Connection

I can’t tell you how many times I have listened to mortgage brokers in my office go on extolling the virtues of working with a mortgage broker without first asking the right questions.

Today’s consumers are far more educated than ever before. While they may not know all the benefits or value of working with a broker, they’re often already sold on using a broker. When that is the case, you’re simply wasting their time (and yours) by elaborating on the benefits of a broker.

Now don’t get me wrong, sometimes consumers think they understand but don’t really. That’s when you ask the question about where they are in the process.

“Can I tell you about ______, Mr. Prospect? Do you prefer the 30-second version or the three-minute version?”

Ask questions, let the client set the pace and agenda, and always make sure you’re filling that Trust Bucket.

Ten years ago, when your typical consumer approached a salesperson, they may have been anywhere from 0 to 25% sold on a given product or service. Today, when we encounter a customer they’re often more than 75% sold on what it is they want and need. It’s our job to know where the customer is in the buying process. 

Questions FBAs a mortgage broker, you may want to ask questions like:

  • Are you familiar with how mortgage brokers work?
  • Have you spoken to your bank already?
  • Have you identified the mortgage you’re looking for?

Questions can also be key when we want to influence behaviour. This is where the science of neurology comes into play. When I first learned about this stuff I was blown away by the power and possibilities of it all.

I came across Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a research psychiatrist at the UCLA School of Medicine and one of the world’s leading experts in neuroplasticity. Decades ago, he began studying the philosophy of conscious awareness. That’s where the actions of the mind have an effect on the workings of the brain. Jeff’s breakthrough work in obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) provided hard evidence that the mind can control the brain’s chemistry.

When we ask questions, we can actually cause the brain to create new neural connections. In doing so, we can start to physiologically change brain patterns.

This, in turn, can affect our own and others’ ways of thinking. So, when we run into behaviors or patterns of thought that we want to influence we have a far greater opportunity to do this by asking questions than we do by stating facts.

When beliefs are firmly held, bombarding people with facts is useless. We all have confirmation bias to a degree. That is, we hear what supports our beliefs and discard the rest. When we’re asked questions, it makes us think and challenges our beliefs. This ultimately allows the brain to open up to accepting new information, information that can actually change the belief.

Telling is not selling

In the mortgage business we run into the same objections, myths and false beliefs time and time again. What if we could design a repertoire of questions to assist us in changing a prospect’s thinking for their benefit (and ours)?

Here are two sample questions you can start with when meeting new clients:

  • How would it affect you if you had to get out of your mortgage for whatever reason and were hit with thousands of dollars in prepayment penalties?
  • After this mortgage closes, would it help if you had someone at your disposal to review your financing needs as they arose?
  • Are you familiar with how broker discounting impacts bank quotes, and how the market functions in the absence of brokers? 

Here are a few for dealing with prospective referral sources:

  • Could it help your clients to have someone in their corner who’s dealt with a myriad of lenders, instead of just one?
  • Would it strengthen your business if your mortgage partner regularly referenced you, keeping you top of mind no matter how long the financing process?
  • Would your sales process be easier if you had regular updates from your client’s mortgage professional?

Did you notice the one about what the market would look like without brokers? We all innately understand that we wouldn’t get the same rate discounts if brokers did not exist. This is a perfect setup for if/when a bank plays the rate matching game.

If only I had a dollar for every time a broker pulled out the old “I have done so much work for you and if you go back to your bank I don’t get paid.”

I hate to be the one to break this to you brokers, but your clients really don’t give a rip whether you get paid or not. What they do care about, however, is how your involvement impacts them.

More relevant positioning might be: “Banks often try to woo customers with rate matches. And if all of our clients went back to the bank to match our rate, we’d be out of business. Interestingly enough, before brokers were a big part of the market, it was a fight for the very best customers to get even a 1/2 percent discount approved at the bank. Can you imagine, if all the brokers go out of business, what kind of rate discounts you receive at renewal?”

The right questions can be a powerful way to address a client’s concerns in a genuine way that doesn’t feel protectionist. Above are a few examples of potential questions and I’m sure you can come up with your own.

My challenge to you this week is to make a list of client objections or thought patterns that you run into on a regular basis and build an inventory of questions related to them. Make a similar list for your interactions with referral source and lender interactions. Then see how implementing this strategy changes the conversation.

I’ll be back later this month with Part 3, “Sell it With a Story.”


Michael Cameron is CEO of AXIOM Mortgage Partners, a national network of independent mortgage brokerage firms. Mike has been in the mortgage brokerage industry since 1994 and is a graduate of the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia.