At first listen, a lot of the advice Jen Du Plessis has for mortgage industry professionals seems elementary: Be genuine, so that people know you can be trusted. Build true relationships with the realtors and others you’re dealing with rather than hope for the occasional referral. Determine your niche — what you’re passionate about and can do well and truly — and work to develop that. Make sure your team is all headed in the same, and the right, direction.
Basic stuff, maybe, but often it needs to be said, as professionals in any industry can get hidebound by the way they’ve always done things or how they’ve worked in the past — ways that may not work as well when the market changes, as in the current shift from a refinancing market to a buyers’, or as informed observers foresee an eventual economic downturn. Some of these basics, this “soft skill” set, will serve you in good times and bad, Du Plessis notes.
“Take a deep breath. Just take a deep breath,” she said. “Think about why you’re doing what you’re doing. Before you take the action, make sure it aligns with what your life values are, so that you can be extremely happy doing what you’re doing and have a business that you can rely on, rather than wondering where the next deal’s coming from.”
Du Plessis, a longtime top-producing mortgage originator, in recent years has segued from her 35-year career in mortgage lending to more of a mentorship role in the industry, as a consultant, coach, trainer, author (“Launch: How to Take Your Business to New Heights”) and speaker. “I’m really good at identifying the gap — you know, what is that one thing that’s holding you back?” she said.
The founder and CEO of, among other concerns, Kinetic Spark Counseling and Du Plessis, LLC, recently spoke with Mortgage Media’s Dave Stevens about these fundamentals that have served her well.
Saying her heart had been pulling her in the direction of sharing her successes with everyone else, she noted she started doing some coaching on the side some eight years ago while still active, speaking locally and around the country while she defined and refined her message. Now she speaks nationally and internationally, and not just in the mortgage space — “to really help people identify their values and having them align their values with their goals, so that they can achieve them faster and really find that prosperity that they’re looking for without sacrificing what they truly want.” She adds: “They don’t always know exactly what they want, so I help fine-tune that.”
Noting that an overriding theme at the recent Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference in San Francisco was the current generally tough time for the industry, Stevens asked Du Plessis to share ideas she has been able to impart on how to be successful.
“I’m going to say, go back to being yourself. Everybody else is taken,” she said. “I find that people are just reaching for straws — you know, every shiny object, every distraction, in a scarcity mode. When people see that you’re in that scarcity, you’re not attracting clients, you’re chasing clients. What we want to do is get you in a position where they’re trying to chase you, rather than you chasing them.”
The key to moving faster in the industry starts with slowing down, she suggested: Slow down, step back and take “a 10,000-foot view.” Stop and think — what is my niche? What am I passionate about. and can move forward in a genuine manner? That’s what attracts clients and referral partners — someone who knows their mission, their goal, and can communicate it — and can find and communicate ways, that mission and goal can align with these clients and partners for their mutual success.
She alluded to a client, an excellent producer with five years in the business who’s doing quite well for himself — but is miserable. His team doesn’t have an overall strategy; he finds himself having to micro-manage, inject himself into “minder and grinder activities” instead of focusing on his niche — finding the business, strategizing with clients, networking. He’s miserable, not sleeping, and takes it out on his family. The lesson? “Money brings you a quality of life, but if you can’t figure out how to turn that into a life of quality, you won’t have any substantial time in our business.” She would tell him to examine what he’s doing daily and determine whether it’s the best use of his time — and look, truly look at his team and make sure they’re working in the “genius zone.” Don’t just do “drive-by delegation,” she said: Build the team, and make sure everybody knows the goal and is working toward it.
Also key: Determining who you want to build partnerships with and build those relationships in a mindful and genuine manner. You’ll want to set standards about the types of professionals you’ll do business with — you’ll likely want to work with people whose values and attitudes align with yours. As Du Plessis puts it: “I only work with people that complement and not complicate me, my life and my practice — period, end of story. So if you’re a top producer, that’s wonderful for you as a realtor, — but for lack of a better word, if you have just a nasty attitude, and you make my life miserable because you don’t have your life organized … if you offend anybody on my team, I no longer want to work with you.” The respect and regard of her team is important, she said — she doesn’t want them thinking, “She’s only working with this person because that person can make her money.”
“I want my team to look up to me and respect me as well. They’re my number-one customer. My team members are my number-one customer. If you hurt my customer, you’re out. There’s no money in the world that’s worth that, period, end of story.” That goes for clients; it goes for other referral partners. One can be diplomatic about it, of course — “You know what? I just don’t think that we are the best fit for you, and I wish you the best in finding another place to get your loan,” she suggested. Because life’s too short.
And when you identify people in the industry you want to work with, don’t let it be a one-off deal where you hope to maybe get future referrals out of it — work on the relationship, make it real, and lasting, and mutually beneficial. Everybody benefits: The originator, the realtor — and the client, getting into their home.
“We talk very loosely in this industry about going deeper with relationships and having realtor partners, but none of us really do the activities that require us to have those strategic partners,” Du Plessis said. “That’s a key word, because I want to make sure that my partners know that we are strategic. We’re not just partners.” This requires more, deeper, wider and longer engagement. Because, she noted, customer experience — how people feel about having worked with you — is as important as customer service, what you provide. People give their business to people they trust — and that means learning who they are as a person. “These are people I choose to make my lifelong friends, and we just happen to be business partners who strategically meet on a regular basis to continue to move our business forward.”
She gives the illustration of two people in individual boats — each with just one oar. They spin in circles, without direction. Sometimes their boats hit, and a fish flies across from one to the other — which she likens to a referral. Fine as far as it goes, but each could catch a lot more fish, or get to their destination or whatever their goal is, if they get in the same boat, with two oars and a target. “I’m helping you. I’m coaching you. You’re helping me, and you’re coaching me. We move forward together in a strategic way, rather than a very loose, ‘Oh, that’s a referral partner of mine, because I met him in a networking event, and I added them to my database.’”
So how to develop these kinds of relationships? The most important thing, Du Plessis said, is to be genuine — make sure what you’re telling them, what you’re offering, aligns with the reality of who and what you are and do. Show up with a targeted message, and make it a message that’s the truth, not just baiting a hook and hoping for a bite.
“There are realtors who say, ‘If you know of anyone buying or selling a house, I’d like to talk with them.’ What if I said, “Buying a home can be very difficult, it can be very overwhelming, but I have a unique skill in being able to guide you through that path with my negotiating skills, my ability to communicate strongly, and my attention to detail,’” she said. “Now what happens is, you’re attracting the people that want that type of experience, and all the rest of them can go bye-bye.”
For more about Jen Du Plessis — including information about the services of Kinetic Spark or requesting her to speak to your organization — see www.jenduplessis.com.