What Is Your Niche?

Avoid the trap of this question by adding value to your partners’ businesses

Lately, it seems like clients, referral sources and even magazine articles are all asking brokers the same question: “What is your niche?” This question, while traditional, can aggravate even the best sales professionals. Just answering the question is a major violation of Sales 101. If you are confined to a particular category, you should navigate out of that tunneled perception before that perception becomes reality.

So, how should you handle this tricky question? First, don’t lose sight of the fact that you offer much more than just one solution or component to clients. Instead, turn the question around by saying, “We do a lot of things well and every client is different. What are you looking for that you’re not currently getting from your existing broker?”

By putting the burden back on the client or potential referral source, you can figure out which of your different solutions are best suited to answer the inquiry. Selling is based on need, so if you can establish a need for the unique services that you provide, you’ll have a chance to win a new client or referral source.

Avoid common traps

It’s easy to fall into the trap of pigeonholing yourself in a niche, and the most common trap is the product niche. One of the biggest mistakes a broker can make is to become known only for selling a particular product. As soon as other originators gain access to that product, your differentiation is gone and you have little to combat parity. If you become a “me too lender,” then the determining factor between you and your competition becomes price. Is that where you want to be with your clients and Realtor partners?

The second trap is the technology niche. With the advent of automated processes in every aspect of the industry, this “niche” has become vogue. Many brokers tout the speed and ease of their technology to distinguish themselves from everyone else.

Sadly, however, with mortgage apps becoming so ubiquitous, this area is equalizing as well. Although you cannot lose sight of the importance that technology plays in today’s lending environment, it’s a trap to promote it as your niche when everyone else can provide the same degree of speed and automation.

Add value through service

The one niche that can help differentiate you from the competition is that global, all encompassing term: service. This is where you truly have the best opportunity to establish an added-value niche that will bring home the highest returns. If you can provide something other than price or product that helps your partners grow their businesses or eases your clients’ fears and concerns, they will see your value as the key to the relationship.

Think about what you offer clients and partners in terms of communication, operations and marketing support. Communication and operations go hand-in-hand. If your processes keep clients informed about the status and progress of their loans, you will keep them happy and even free up time to do other things that bring in revenue.

Proactive communication with Realtors or other referral sources will make their lives easier and more productive as well and can prevent them from calling you and putting you in a reactive position, which is never to your advantage. There is also a big movement today to use phones and live chat to access underwriters for loan tracking, which can speed up service.

This is becoming a big point in sales for wholesale account executives working with brokers, in that brokers now have access that they have been denied for a long time. Brokers can then turn this around as an added-value niche that they can tout to their clients and partners.

Marketing is the final added-value niche that you can likely offer your referral partners. By providing marketing support to partners, you help promote them, which will generate more business for them and more referrals for you. Marketing support is the key to establishing firm client relationships, but it requires effort on your part to know what your partners need. You also must have the technology in place to generate high-quality marketing programs.

By providing time, dollars and products to grow the business of your partners, you can create a legitimate claim to ask for referrals moving forward. You cannot tie your help to particular transactions, of course, but if you help create something that creates additional business for your partners, you will reap the benefits of their success.

In sales, there are no free lunches. By establishing your value, you let your industry partners know that you’re a niche worth having.