Scott Payne sits down with Ethan Ewing, the CEO of ProPair, to discuss best practices in the Lead Management world. They discuss setting up a lead management system, adjusting strategies, prospect matching, screener models, lead scoring, loan officer improvement, and previous and upcoming conferences.
Ethan, will you share a little bit about yourself to serve as important background information to know about you?
My name is Ethan Ewing. I've been in the lead generation business for about 15 years now. I started out way back when in the mortgage industry, so my roots go back as a loan officer back when I was early in college in my summers. That's what I would do in the summers and have stayed attached to the industry for the past 30-some plus years now. Most recently, prior to ProPair, I ran a company called bill.com, which is an online lead generation business focused primarily on mortgage leads, but touched debt, touched tax, touched a bunch of other verticals. More recently in November and October of 2016, we started ProPair.
ProPair really came to this business through years and years of going through the mortgage industry and then the world of lead generation and now at a place that is a place where we feel like we can really affect some change and bring real impact.
What is ProPair is and what are some of the high-level projects you are working on?
At a very high level, the way we think about this business and the reason that we jumped into it originally was being on the lead seller side and you're sending leads into mortgage lenders, into lead buyer shops. You really don't have much visibility into what happens to that lead once it's generated and once it enters a sales organization. So that's a prospect. That's somebody at the other end of that lead. That is an individual and they're looking to meet some objectives. They're looking for something and you send them off into a lender and at that point, it's out of our hands and that's a disconnect that the big lead providers still struggle with. It is a disconnect in the industry.
Coming from that perspective, the idea was that, "Hey, look, we can do more. If we had some visibility into how those leads are worked in your system, how they're assigned, how they're prioritized, how they're followed up on, we can help you to be better," but ultimately in that position as a lead seller, you weren't really given that transparency. The conclusion for me was that hey, this had to be something done independently, but it represented just a huge opportunity.
The way we think about the ecosystem and really our product platform overall is this lead yield management concept. The minute that a lead is generated and sent into a lender shop, there's an expected yield that they want to generate from that lead, from that prospect. How they go about extracting that yield and how they go about making sure that they have a positive ROI is just a series of decisions that today in the environment, before we started the business, a lot of shops were making either somewhat randomly, or according to some fixed rules that they have in place. That lead is following a process through that entire, whether it's a 30, 60, or 90-day period over which they have the ability to extract that yield.
What ProPair did is saying, "Okay. Hey, great. There's a bunch points in there. There's a bunch of decision points in there where you can apply your data to make better decisions around those activities." The first one is our core product that we came to market with is called prospect matching. Prospect matching basically, when that lead is generated and when it's received, what we're doing is we have a recommendation engine and that recommendation trains on one, two, three years of data from your shop. We look at the individual performance of loan officers, and we run it up against the attributes or the characteristics of each one of those leads. What we're looking for is we're looking for tendencies, trends. We're looking for behavioral differences, where you can say, "Hey, loan officers tend to perform differently on various types of leads." When we ran the data, that's exactly what you see.
You see a great disparity on how loan officers perform with different attributes of different types of customers and different types of prospects, so that original lead assignment is really where we started. It's prospect matching. It runs in real time. When a leads comes into a shop, what we do is we help our clients determine which of their loan officers are most likely to convert that lead and we manage that assignment from there.
That's a great point and it's not something that a lot of lenders are thinking of. A lot of times when lenders are getting set up with a lead management system or reconfiguring what they have already, we really find a lot of times it's just setting up distribution on a round robin platform. Lead comes in, who's the next available agent for that lead? What you are saying is that's not the best way to do it, because the customer has a profile. Example may be if you had a veteran customer that came in and you knew that specific loan officers, either because they were a veteran or just had good experience with veterans, were able to service veteran customers better, they probably should get that veteran customer then just some random person who maybe started a couple of weeks ago.
The concern that when you do something like this is that certain loan officers are going to get weighted more heavily on attributes. The reality is we plug in about 30 attributes so you have a really nice mix. You could, if you wanted to rely on one, two or three attributes. You might have a bigger near term impact, but you're really going to mess with your lead assignments and that's going to become, pretty quickly, that's going to become talking points on the sales floor where all of these loan officers are getting all of these types of leads and all these are not getting these types of leads. With a healthy mix of attributes to some degree you're taking away, maybe the near-term impact you could have, but you're maintaining.
You're basically saying, "Look, this is a sustainable mix and it's a sustainable assignment strategy." Back to your point, it's really hard. If I'm in this seat of managing lead assignments and the folks that we work with our clients most closely are those that are responsible for those lead assignments, it's really difficult. If you want to set up some fixed rules and say, "Hey, send these types of leads to this group, these types of leads to this," you're just going to get some clap back. It's just going to happen, or you forget about certain rules. They come over time, they layer on top of each other and it really becomes difficult to manage. Our approach coming into it, and now we're starting to move into prioritization and now age lead work as well, is that, "Look, the basic principle of what we do is that you can use all this data you have, and you can use it simply to automate decisions and to make better decisions. They're automated and you can, to some degree, set it and forget it."
Let the data manage those decisions and you're going to be a lot better off in the long term, and it's just a lot less burden on you and you'll feel better about how your business operates. Obviously the performance will be there, but you'll also just feel that, "Hey, I'm making data-driven decisions."
You mentioned a key phrase that will resonate with a lot of administrators or sales leaders, which is the set it and forget it. There's nothing more than an administrator or someone who's managing how leads are routed dislikes more than having to adjust things manually every day. Having to do manual assignments, having to adjust different strategies. The idea to set it and forget it will resonate with a lot of people.
One of the things that you had mentioned or is on your website on one of his articles, talked about the art versus the science for the distribution of leads. One thing that really resonated about how people gamble really with their leads when they randomly assign them versus using analytics and data, as you talked about so far for how to actually distribute the lead out to their users.
Ethan, will you discuss a quick success story you have had with someone and how this type of analytical approach, prospect matching, was used to the distribution of leads which has really made an impact on your business?
Every one of our clients uses our core product, which is prospect matching and those are managed lead assignments. That's an automated manage lead assignment. We're taking care, as a new lead comes in, we're able to manage that the assignment to the initial loan officer. It generates a 10% plus increase in closes and close rates across all of our clients. That will vary month to month. It'll vary quarter by quarter. If you're gambling and right now with gambling you have a 50% chance of losing, probably more than a 50% chance of losing depending on what you're paying the house. All we're doing is, we're effectively saying, "Look, we're not going to give you an 80%-win rate. We're going to say, we're just tilting the deck a little bit in your favor by using the math and using historical tendencies and using your performance data, we're going to increase. You're going to win six out of 10 times."
That's all that that prospect matching does. That's all our other products do, is they tilt the odds in your favor. They just make this thing better. If you're managing a random or fixed lead assignment structure today, yeah, you're a little bit shooting in the dark. That's just how it's done. What we're able to do and what the technologies, any machine learning application that's out there today, it takes lenders all of this data that they have, and it puts it to work. When I was running bills, for years we would say, "Hey, I want to use your data. I want to use our data. I want to use their data. I want to get data."
We were just always, for us on our side, it was a matter of getting access to the data. The challenge to me running that business is okay, what do you want to do with it once you get it? In this scenario, what we offer and what any, with these technologies available to lenders now, is it's a turnkey approach to say, "Hey, now you can use your data to automate decisions. That's what data is good for. It is just good to make better decisions moving forward." You can do it for analysis and you can do it to show reports and to have more visibility in how your business operates.
The way we weaponize it is we say, "Look, we're going to help you make better decisions moving forward, based on what the historical data tells us." That's the beauty of the technology and that's honestly why we're doing this. This is where this thing's headed. I mean, it's just self-driving cars. Same deal. With your kids, with my kids, I suspect in five, 10 years, we're going to have self-driving cars. That's going to be the new normal, because data and computers and all of this mass computing power we have will ultimately make better decisions over the long run for how to turn the wheel, for when to hit the brake. That's inevitable. It's a little scary on the other side of it. It's a little scary, but inevitable.
The ability to be able to plug that into businesses today, that's what gets us excited. That's just why we love this position where we're in and what we look for with clients and anybody, with you, is use-cases. What's a good place for us to plug this in? In the case of lead assignments, that's an obvious one where clearly that shows. It's proven that it works. That's an easy one and now we're exploring more and more of those use-cases.
You talked about winning six out of ten times. If you can win six times, that’s great. That being said, as far as redistribution, it's another piece that comes into play with this is that first assignment's important in trying to give it to somebody, but a lot of organizations today will just blindly redistribute leads to other users without really looking at any data or profile. For a lender who wants to redistribute leads that are neglected from one loan officer, maybe they want to only give it to a certain set of people rather than randomly assigning it out.
Another thing that we've been working on with a number of lenders is that building out the screener model where there are screen teams who are calling these customers and they're actually the ones making the phone calls and then transferring them to an actual salesperson. It's kind of the way of the future, how this can be used with a screener as well. Someone who's coming into the organization for the first time to have some type of profile, even though there may not be historical data on them, to do some type of analysis on their profile so that they can be distributed, make sure that those calls go to them, and if they're not available, go to somebody else. Redistribution is another key piece.
Will you talk about that identification and reassignment piece?
That's close rates, and that's just with prospect matching and upwards of that. The other piece is like you mentioned. Once you get in, we think about three stages. We think about assignment, prioritization, and then we think about identification. Within this lead yield management concept, you have those three steps. The assignment happens when the lead first comes in. The prioritization of the lead happens when it's in the loan officer's queue through that from day zero to maybe day seven, helping them prioritize. If they've had a good contact with that loan officer, this is the type of stuff you like or with that prospect. Helping them to identify and all you're doing here is just reinforcing something that instinctively they know, but you're helping to reinforce it systematically across all of your loan officers.
The last piece is an identification where, to your point along the reassignment piece, did they get leads functioning in Velocify? If you determine that, "Hey, it's going to go into the get leads function after X events happen." If you were to instead to be able to be dynamic about that. And what you're doing is you're interpreting, "Hey, is this lead cooling and is it time to move it to somebody else?" Then of course, when you do that reassignment, you reassign it into a loan officer who is more likely to convert that now somewhat aged lead.
And then the last piece, identification. You're in shops all the time. When that lead goes from day zero to day seven to day 15 to day 30, depending on which shop it is, a lot of those leads don't get touched after day 15.
A lot of them don't get touched after day 30. There's a lot of effort around nurturing a campaign so it's certainly not that that buyers are ignoring those leads. Well, what identification can do is say, "Okay, day 30, we know what that lead's worth." Now we've seen a whole bunch of activity from day zero to day 30. We've seen calls made, inbound calls, outbound calls. We've seen texts, we've seen emails, we've seen activities. How does that change the value of that lead from day zero to day 30? T o be able to then identify, "Hey, look, there's a real opportunity with this lead at day 30." There's real magic there.
Using now data as well as it relates to things like the time of day that someone inquired and using that on the day 30 strategy, so rather than cue it up for the salesperson to give it a call, just whenever it is, whenever they're able to make calls, actually putting it in their queue around the same time of the day that the lead came into the system. There are a lot of stats on that.
After day 15, the best time to call them is usually around the same time of the day that they originally inquired. If you don't know when they inquired, let's say it's a trigger lead of some kind where they didn't actually raise their hand, it's going back to the original lead potentially in finding what time of the day did the original lead come in after this funded, what became a funded loan. Maybe it's going to your servicing system. Using these data points to really strategically follow up and nurture, and maybe it's not a phone call because the lead score isn't high enough at that point in time, maybe only emails are sent to the customer around said time.
Shifting gears a little bit, back to your days of being a lead seller. A very common phrase that would be heard is that things like, "These leads suck." People think that leads suck, but ultimately what it comes down to is maybe it's not the lead that sucks, and maybe it's actually the lender not doing their job.
It would be interesting to hear from a former lead provider as it relates to what strategies companies should be utilizing to make sure it's not really them. Once they've confirmed it's not them that sucks, then to be able to take that to their lead providers from there.
Ethan, will you share some things you have seen in the past in regard to improving utilizing leads?
That line just brings back Jack Lemmon, Glengarry Glen Ross, and Alec Baldwin coming back with the, "No, no. The leads don't suck. You suck." As a lead seller, that's your instinct, but the reality is, you know that the leads don't suck. That's just the instinct. Ultimately, there's a prospect there. There's somebody that's looking for a loan and you've got a product to sell them as a lead buyer.
You've got a product to sell them, so a lot of times from our seat, the perspective was the reason that we got into this business, which is, "Hey, what's happening to that lead? When that lead enters your building, what is happening to it? How are you following up? Who are you giving it to? How are you prioritizing it?" The stuff that you do. I've heard tremendous things from our mutual clients around the secret shopper work. It's like a secret shopper reveals to the lender exactly what that prospect experiences. The lead comes in and, back to our previous conversation, you've got now a series of fixed steps set up. "Okay, I'm going to call them three times on day zero. I call him twice on day one. I'm going to send a couple emails. I'm going to send texts."
There is a script there. It follows this script. Now secret shopper goes in and you can reveal to that lead buyer exactly how that's being received to a prospect. Is it being executed? And then how does it feel? How is it working? Are you getting the right messages? So that type of transparency that you give them in the secret shopper piece is huge. What it does is it tells a lead buyer who's spending anywhere from $100,000 or 50,000 up to millions of dollars a month on leads, it says, "Okay, great. I'm seeing these leads coming in. Now I understand. I can see that experience and I can see how it impacts those prospects." That type of visibility is a huge thing.
Like anything else in this business, it's a chance to reflect and to assess and to say, "Okay, great. How am I doing it today? And certainly, I can do better."
I have a few articles written about the best steps or the best things to do to really enhance customer experience as it relates to the things related to these screenings. The first one is talking about call screeners and making sure the calls happen on time.
It's definitely working with a number of lead providers today already where they are shopping their customers who are struggling with the quality of leads so that they can help verify and work with that lender to optimize the process in which they call those leads. It really comes down to user adoption. It has been talking about a number of times today, about really making sure that users are following the process and the things that has been set up.
It’s an obstacle when launching a lead management system.
Going back to the early days of how you have done it being a former salesperson, or maybe it's being a lead provider, or maybe it's even now, as ProPair is implemented with clients, will you tell us what techniques you are using to change the behavior of loan officers or if we are stuck in doing it the way it has always been done?
We cheat a little bit because we're integrating with lead management systems and so our decisions are effectively being forced onto loan officers. When a lead comes in, it's assigned according to how we're informing work. We're providing what we call a recommendation. We're telling a lender how to recommend that lead and then we're telling them how to prioritize that lead, and then we're telling them which of their age leads have the best chance to close based on everything that's happened to that lead since it's been inside their shop. We do cheat. We don't need individual sales person adoption of tools. There's nothing they touch or anything else.
We don't stay in the background for long because you've got sales management, sales managers that know that ProPair is in there impacting decisions, impacting assignments, impacting prioritization, impacting age lead identification. We're doing all of those things. That's revealed. You can't keep the genie in a bottle and you don't keep it behind the scenes. We've taken an approach there where, because we have all of this great data that the lender provides us and we have all this analysis and we have these insights, we put together what we call Hello Guidebooks. They take on a bunch of different forms and we'll customize them for each of our clients, but they are basically these trends that managers can share with their individual salespeople. It showed their performance on a bunch of dimensions relative to the rest of the team. It's not meant to be penal at all and if it's presented as penal, well, that's a problem.
It's an affirming thing. It's a positive thing. What we're seeing is that it really shows loan officers as salespeople that their company, their managers have their best interests at heart and they're looking at their tendencies. They're seeing what they do well and they're reinforcing those, and they're seeing what they don't do as well and they're trying to help them get better. The fact that now that's tied to ProPair, that then ties a loan officer back to, "Hey, there's something good happening here." Much like self-driving cars. I mean, mention of it, there's a resistance to saying, "I'm not giving my wheel up. I want to drive the car." Once you see that, "Hey, there is a better way to do this. There's a way that will keep you safer. You'll lose less of those closes. You'll be a better performer. We're going to automate these decisions for you. We're going to make your life easier and make you a better sales professional." Then ultimately the adoption comes after that. That's been our approach.
In this case, loan officers in the mortgage world, once they see the data of things they've converted well in the past, the question is if they become better at those things because now they feel good about the fact that the data shows that they are good at these things
Ethan, will you give insight to Loan Officer Improvement and whether actually want to focus and get better?
We've seen two, if I just totally generalize, I've seen two types. One that are people that say, "Oh, wow. Ooh. There's some opportunities and now I'm going to completely change my day and I'm going to focus on this area. I'm going to focus on these day parts. I'm going to focus on these types. I'm going to focus on these activities." That's one group. And then there's another group that says, "That's cool, and I'm going to keep doing my job." Either one works for us. We're not trying to change behavior.
If a loan officer does change behavior, we'll be there to support them. We retune our models every month or every three months. We'll be there to support that. But if they don't change behavior? Totally fine. I think that the bigger thing we've learned is that it's empowering. They know the data's all there. They don't know how it's being used. They know it's being used to monitor, "Hey, are you making enough calls? How many leads are you getting? Are you closing deals?" To be able to go a level deeper and to see the analysis and get the insights and be able to see that, "Hey, indeed, my managers are looking out for me and they're helping me, they're coaching me along and using my data to show me what I'm doing well, and maybe the things that I can do better." That stuff's really powerful.
Last but not least, last month in Boston me and you got to share the stage together at Connect to Convert Conference and had a really good panel, got some really good feedback from the participants after the fact. We are going to be presenters again here soon at Lead Generation World in January in Denver.
Ethan, will you give a little taste of what our group discussion is that you will be hosting and really talk about why people should look at attending this conference?
That was super fun in Boston. Between you and Aru, it was just tips galore. People just taking notes of little, just nice little tactical, executable nuggets. This one's going to be different. Lead Generation World and I'm really excited for two reasons. One is this is a chance, I think anybody that's coming out of this conference, it is like LeadsCon years ago where it's early. It's going to be raw.
The attendees are relatively senior. They're experienced people that have been around for a while so there's going to be an openness that you may not see at other conferences. Lead Generation World will evolve and it'll get a little more structured. There's a transparency there and there's an openness that is really unique. It shows in the early days. That's the part that when Mike said he was doing it and he was moving forward and I've had a few people ask me, "Hey, is it worth going? Should I do it?" It's like, "Well, be prepared. It's going to be different. It's going to be raw. It's first cut. But there's going to be a whole different level of conversations you're going to get there. Just going to be a different level of transparency." That's the first part.
The second part in the session we're doing, Mike's basically given me along those lines, an open hey, generally go open up and talk about the mortgage industry. I've got an open canvas and I'm not going to be doing the painting, but I'm going to set the construct in there and I think what I'm going to, in the mortgage industry, generally, when you're forward-looking, you're still forward-looking reactively, right. You're saying, "Okay. Hey, rates are going to go up. We need to get better at purchase. Hey, there's going to be more depositories coming back into the market and we're going to need to compete more. Hey, I've got a portfolio and I'm going to need to be more proactive with them."
What I want to do talk about in this session or open the conversation up to is really get some of the leaders in our industry that touch mortgage to talk proactively about how they want to impact the future. So what tools, what technologies do they want to apply to get better? Not the reactive stuff and not, "Hey, I know rates are going to go up and I'm going to need to do X, Y, and Z." You've got leaders in there who ultimately are holding the keys to how technology's adopted in the mortgage industry on the consumer direct side.
Talking about what that means and what steps they need to take and where this thing is going and how they can steer the ship over the next one, three, five years, because you're moving to greater automation. Everything we do, if you look five years ago, it's so much easier today than it was five years ago. Now there's some things that are harder, but those are new problems. Five years from now, the things that we're struggling with today are going to be so much easier. They're just going to be taking everything. Let's talk about that path. Back to why we got in this business: with machine learning applications and the computing power you have and all of the data you have these applications, these are ready to be applied in the businesses.
That's our that's our whole premise is that when you bring these decisions into operational businesses, you're going to have an impact. This is where it's going. It's not going the other way. We're not going back to fixed rules. We're going towards more automation. I want to open up the room and, and let people talk about where they think they're going and honestly, be a little aspirational. Be as forward-thinking as possible because I think those conversations are exciting and it alleviates people from their day-to-day of, "Hey, I got to do X, Y, and Z. I got to send this email. I got to follow up in this project. I got to execute this purchase order," whatever it is. That's going to be the gist of it. I'll fire it up, but it should be great.
At this conference, I will be presenting on the topic of rewiring your process around the modern salesperson, lead management 2.0. A lot of loan officers and salespeople today are past the dialing for dollars. They're not as motivated as the days of, "Back in my day, we used to make a hundred calls per day." Those kinds of salespeople with technology changes and stuff have gone a little bit by the wayside and so you got to make sure that your process is really set up and built around that.
We will be talking about some tactical things and ways to set up your system to utilize technology for your salespeople to make their lives easier. Ultimately, they win, you win.
Everyone wins when everyone's converting more leads.
If you want more information, listen to the Episode 3 podcast, which can be found on the top of the podcast page or check out the full video on YouTube.