In some ways, Dan Faubert’s business looks completely different than it did when he started in 1989.
Faubert is an independent mortgage broker operating under Ottawa-Carleton Mortgage. In the beginning, the entire group of independents built their individual businesses with referrals from realtors; today, that’s gotten harder to do.
“You used to be able to go knock on a door at a realtor office and there’d be 30 agents in the office, whereas today, nobody’s in the office,” Faubert said. “Everybody works from home, everybody pops in and out. So the realtor business, though still very, very important for us, has become more difficult to get because they’re harder to find.”
Somewhere around 70% of Faubert’s business now comes from either existing clients or friends and family of existing clients. The rest comes from realtors or the internet, which Faubert says is the largest secondary source of business. That’s where clients are, and brokers have to meet them there.
“It’s changed everything we do,” he said. “I love it. I embrace it. I’m out there on the web, I work very hard at being reviewed, and have information out there that people can access at any time, day or nothing, because that’s what the world has become.”
He is picky about that online business, though.
Earlier this year, Faubert tried Facebook advertising, which he said didn’t make him any money. He spent a lot of time following up on cold leads, most of whom were just looking for information and not anywhere near ready to qualify for a mortgage. He would rather continue to grow the grassroots way, even though there is an online element to that growth.
Even then, warm leads are no longer enough, so Faubert asks all of his clients for online reviews so that whenever anyone searches his name, they not only find him, but what other people think of him.
“To me, that is probably the most important thing today, is having relevant, personal reviews of you or your company for the public to find. Because when they get the name at a party from a friend, they’re not going to call you right away. They’re going to look for you first, and if you’re not there, they’re not going to call you.”
The longer a broker is in business, the larger their database becomes, and the harder it is to manage. Without good management and continuing to reach out to clients, people won’t remember you, and the database won’t feed itself.
“An email does not reflect emotion. It doesn’t show fear or worry. We run into it over and over again where a client will send you an email and you don’t pick up that they’re worried about something, whereas if you had called them, you would’ve felt that in the phone conversation,” Faubert said. “A lot of people don’t even like talking to you, they would rather do it by email, but we can help them more by speaking to them.”
Faubert isn’t immune to asking for business; in fact, a lot of his long-time partners have retired, so he still must work at getting new clients as well as keeping his business moving with the times. He thinks the transition to a digital world has made it easier and more efficient to work from anywhere, but despite this, he still relishes in-person communication, going so far as to give small gift cards to clients when they come by his office. With all the information available online, Faubert said that “rate is our biggest nemesis”, and that he often has to work against the tide because people don’t understand that not everything they read online is relevant to them or their situation. If he has to tell someone that the rate they saw online isn’t available to them, it’s an uphill battle to gain their trust.
Faubert started as a director of marketing for a brokerage, organizing events for realtors and soliciting real estate agents. Eventually, the company had to cut back and Faubert was given the option of leaving the company or becoming a broker. Sales was where the money was, in his mind, so he stayed. He received his brokerage license at the time, but quickly found that his goal wasn’t to run a brokerage. His goal was (and still is) to be found online organically without large advertising expenditures and to get the most business that he can without the responsibility of managing any staff.
“I’d rather do what I do and enjoy, which is meeting people and selling a mortgage product that benefits then and put them in their first home, and sleep well knowing that I don’t have to worry about other people in my life other than who’s around me,” Faubert said.
Now that more people are after the same business, the key to brokers remaining relevant and adding to their database is to be much more creative in finding business and managing clients. He reminds his son, who has been in the mortgage business for three years now, that all the tech in the world doesn’t go as far as in-person meetings and phone calls, and to supplement business with them whenever possible.
“The fact is we’re in the business to help people. That has always been the thrill for me is, getting the client and keeping them, and keeping them happy and having them refer friends. Then you know you’re doing something right in the world, and that is what I thrive on,” Faubert said.