darren-nolander-sailWe may not totally be settled into a new normal, but there are definitely keyholes that show us what our future looks like in terms of our best business practices. As I’m sure you suspected all along, this new normal won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. We won’t totally lose the foundations that built the mortgage or business cultures…but we won’t emerge from this pandemic completely unchanged, either.

Like most things in life, there will be compromise. A blending of old traditions with new protocols that make sense. With that in mind, I want to examine some business truths and how they may evolve post-pandemic.

Old truth: Marketing begins with knowing your customer

New truth: Marketing begins with knowing your customer segment

Customization will always be a key to customer service, but there are certainly times when you can glean a good deal of information from honing in on a specific customer sect. This may include residents of a specific ZIP code or of a certain age.

We’re not talking about stereotyping here. Instead, the focus is on what are the priorities to these groups as a whole. Take ZIP codes, for instance. If a specific area is known for its robust school district, you can probably assume that education, community programming and family friendly atmospheres are generally priorities for these residents. If we’re talking age, the lifestyle of a young twentysomething is almost certain to be vastly different than that of an Empty Nest couple who are just about to retire.

By knowing your customer segment you can drill down on what is likely important to them. From there, it’s much easier to form the human connection we all need as we try to navigate how we’re going to get our needs met – mortgages and refinances included.

Old truth: You are competing with your competitors

New truth: You are competing with the last best experience your customer had

You know that whole saying about “you are your own worst enemy”? Well, you’re also your own worst competition. Don’t worry about the noise out there. Other loan advisors are going to do whatever it is they do. There’s little you can do to disrupt that.

What you can do is build on your greatness. Analyze those experiences where you’re knocking it out of the park, then find ways to fine-tune and replicate them. This may involve providing more efficient service through the use of technology or automation. It may also include reviews – both your past and current – which means you need to develop a great system for obtaining reviews.

Regardless of any individual weak points, you should absolutely focus on streamlining your operation. Nothing should work in a silo. Instead, the customer journey should remain fluid from start to finish. How you achieve that is up to you, but your efforts should start by evaluating your entire customer service journey. Then fill in any gaps where there’s a disconnect between a client’s expectations and your actual performance.

Old truth: Relationships matter

New truth: Relationships are everything

Relationships were always the backbone of sales. Thanks to COVID, however, they’ve become more important than anything. This pandemic has tested the nature of all bonds, including your client relationships. Fear, loyalty, communication and effectiveness have all played a part in whether you’ve lost business, gained business or remained the same.

You may not be able to control the fear on the other end of the table, but you can certainly allay a client’s concerns. You can stay in close contact. Answer questions on time. Stay on the phone a few more minutes to talk through someone’s worst-case scenario. It’s precisely when uncertainty and fear loom that clients determine whether you’re the one they want in their corner. Or not.

Capitalizing on the strength of your bond before something bad happens is a great way to start, but you want to maintain that consistency throughout the relationship. Not just when the times are good. Not just when they’re bad. So, yes, relationships are even more important nowadays – if you can even believe it.

Old truth: Agility is a technology process

New truth: Agility is a modern marketing approach

Technology is best developed in a flexible, agile environment, but it’s really how you’re able to pivot and put this technology – or any other tool – to use that matters. You can have all the technology in the world, but if you don’t know how to shape your operations around your clients’ changing needs, it won’t do you much good.

Those of us who were in this industry during the Great Recession likely took this notion to heart. There are best-laid plans, and then there’s what’s going to actually happen, whether you like it or not. You should prepare for both, and everything in between.

This is why it’s so important to listen to your clients and the market. They will reveal what the larger sentiment is, and where you should be pointing your sail. You never want to get caught in a situation where you’re trying to bend today’s environment to fit your business plan. It’s always the other way around. You want to remain nimble enough that your business can adapt with the times, while providing the confidence clients need to move forward with an important investment decision.

Life isn’t black and white. Chances are, it never will be. Rather, we’re always on a constant journey where we take what works with us, leave the rest behind and remain open to new ways of doing things. That may never be more relevant than it is right now.

Regional Vice President - Southwest

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