There are a number of things that set Oleg Tkach, branch manager at Guild Mortgage, apart from the crowd. 1) His team’s follow up systems are “insane,” reaching out to a lead seven times; 2) He underwrites files upfront, in order to move faster and compete with cash offers; 3) consistent weekly updates to everyone involved on a file that provide necessary information to partners and set expectations for borrowers; 4) using an “extremely high-touch” approach to communication through technology.
What Tkach stakes his success to, however, is the coaching that he provides to his real estate referral partners through the Core coaching program. They work on prospecting, team building, tracking leads, and strategic follow-up. When having conversations with potential partners, this is his differentiator.
“We’re not just going to close your loan. Anybody can just close a loan for you. We’re actually going to help you grow, and the beauty behind that is, that’s where you gain a loyalty and following from real estate agents, because you’re not viewed as just another lender that will close on time and with low rates. Everybody says that, so it’s more of developing strategic partnerships and coaching.”
If you find a way to give people what they want, you’ll get what you want, Tkach said, and real estate agents—especially the newer agents or the ones that are in the beginning of their careers—are kind of on an island by themselves and what most of them want more than anything is coaching. “Most of them want to have somebody that’s in the trenches with them and I think the ultimate is really helping them understand how to be a business person, how to increase conversion, how to drive leads.”
If you help create 50 very successful agents around you, you are going to benefit from their success. Most originators, Tkach said, don’t really know how to add value to their referral partners, and realtors in particular. Of course they want to close smoothly, on time, and collect their commission. But that should be a given, not a feature.
“I don’t even go into that when I meet with an agent. That’s just like your entry point just to even be a part of the conversation. Why would you sell that? And I think most originators, they don’t get that. They’re out there having all these meetings and then they’re saying, ‘I’m not getting the leads.’ . . . That’s because your meetings are lame and what somebody else is doing.”
If it sounds like Tkach pays a lot of attention to referral partners, well, he does. That’s because his approach centers on the agent as his primary client, not the borrower. Whether the referral partner is a CPA, attorney, financial planner, or someone else, his system is designed to keep them engaged. Otherwise, in most cases, there’s no path to the borrower at all.
To that end, even though Tkach prides himself on their seven-attempt follow-up method, he also ensures that there is a 10-week follow-up period after a meeting with a potential referral partner. Great meetings are great, but life often happens and partners can forget all about great meetings. Tkach’s follow-up plan uses similar messaging to that of the meeting, continually getting partners to engage and eventually get those first couple of leads. Once that happens and they get into the system, he says, the system is strong enough to retain them.
You can’t be a top originator without a great team, and one thing that Tkach has learned when building a 13-person team is that increasing your bandwidth increases your output.
“You’ve got to ask yourself what’s going to move the needle for you, and where are you spending your time?” he said. “Do more of what’s going to move the needle and delegate what has to be done but is not causing the needle to move . . . All my emails are responded to by my team, so that way my number one job, which is prospecting and all the activities that involve prospecting, is what I’m doing 90% of the time. The average originator or the average agent, they’re really an assistant to themselves; 10% of the time they’re prospecting, 90% of the time, they’re assisting themselves.”
Tkach has also learned how things change as you scale. It’s not just about bringing on people to handle increased volume. It’s about how the role of an originator changes to suit the needs of the particular business.
“Up to 15 units a month as an originator, you have to be extremely good at doing a loan, you have to have an underwriter mindset, you have to know your guidelines, you have to do all that. Above 15 loans a month—and this is where a lot of people get stuck—you have to be a great leader, you have to understand delegation, you have to understand the leadership. Not management, leadership,” Tkach said. “That’s essentially building a culture, and culture takes time. I went through a lot of people before I realized, I have to build a culture that wants to win. And the way you have to look at it is, if you have issues in the locker room, it’ll spill over to how we are on game day in front of our clients. And so it’s really keeping the culture strong, the people in the right mindset, which then essentially relates to them taking care of your customers.”