No matter how you use it, the word “agile” is never a bad thing. An agile leap in the air. An agile yogi. A true professional with a very agile mind. In an industry as rife with change as ours is, the ability to remain agile is an absolute asset. I mean, the word is antonymous with sluggish, ignorant, rigid and apathetic. This definition is what has led companies like commercial real estate brokerage firm JLL, the Standish Group and countless tech firms to adopt entire workforce methodologies based solely on the Agile principal.
Agile places the emphasis on teamwork, speed and the customer – the three elements required to close a successful (and referral-inducing) transaction and create a positive experience for the end user. Those who utilize Agile are also known as voracious learners and readers. They have a reputation for communicating transparently and responding instantly. In this ever-increasing digital age where time is money and everything is available within a nanosecond of your finger hitting a touchscreen, these behaviors are invaluable to the customer service process.
The Agile strategy begins simply enough. Since the goal will always be to provide the end user with a good experience, the process starts with questions that form “user stories.” What does the user want? This may seem like an obvious question at first, but that’s the short-sighted approach. Seriously. What does the potential borrower want? Is this a newly married couple looking to purchase a starter home? Is this a wealthy entrepreneur who is looking for a tax vehicle? Or a long-term investment? Or a vacation rental? Is this an expectant mother whose focus is on the schools in the area? Or an adult child who needs to live near their ailing parent? Or said parent who needs to free up a little income in retirement?
Everyone’s situation is different, but because we are the consummate professionals we can make very fast, yet effective recommendations for a variety of borrowers – as long as we completely understand exactly what they want and the motivation behind that desire. So start with the customer. Get to understand who they are, how they think, what they need now and in the future and how you can help – both now and in the future.
This Agile approach also works internally. You can implement this process on a regular basis as items outside of our control, such as unemployment, interest rates, geopolitics, the stock market, the housing market, natural disasters, the seasonality of our business and general economic turmoil come into play. In these instances, you’ll want to undertake the same type of questioning, creating a new story – or strategy – you can employ. How will the rise in interest rates affect my deal flow? This new study says the number of home sales is up 20 percent two towns over. I don’t do a lot of business there. What can I do to change that? Unemployment is at an all-time low in my market. How might that affect home sales or refinances in the near future? My hometown just passed a restriction making it more difficult to rent out second homes on a short-term basis. How might this affect my future investment clients?
Agile may not be reinventing the wheel, but its question-focused, interview-like approach delivers the exact results promised: it affords participants the luxury to remain nimble, on their feet, ready to tackle any problem and close deals in any market, regardless of the situation at hand. I promise, there is not one client out there who will scoff at the idea of an agile loan officer.