Leave it on the Plate! By Brett McDonell

February 20, 2017

Creating a memorable customer experience that wows, over-delivers and will keep them coming back for more.

Today I am going to write about a simple, yet brilliant philosophy that we will call “Leaving it on the plate” which was inspired by a story from Brian Tracy, one of my mentors and one of the wisest people to ever walk this earth.

I cant recall if I was reading one of Brian’s books or heard the term “leave it on the plate” while listening to a podcast interview with Brian, but it has stuck with me.. enough to share it with the mortgage community as I feel it can add value to your business.

Brian was telling a story of a very successful restauranteur he had met and ultimately interviewed to find out how he had built such a remarkable restaurant that was always booked, raved about by patrons and critics and constantly admired by his competition. The best part of all is that the owner did this while spending zero money on marketing, never offered discounts or coupons and operated similarly to other restaurants…. When Brian asked the man what is his secret, the man simply replied……. “We leave it on the plate” – meaning we offer quality food at a quality price.

This concept got me thinking. What does “leave it on the plate” mean for a mortgage professional and can we duplicate this simple concept with success?

I spent some time analyzing this concept and adapted it to fit the needs of a mortgage professional. To leave it on the plate for a mortgage professional you need to do the following to make sure clients enjoy the experience, come back the next time they need your service and most importantly refer people to you.

These are 3 steps to make sure you’re “Leaving it on the plate”


 Separate yourself from the competition: Most clients looking to refinance or purchase will speak to multiple lenders before making their decision, don’t allow yourself to be commoditized and have nothing to offer except a rate quote. Below are some ideas to help differentiate yourself.

Utilize a client questionnaire (Click for my personal Questionnaire) or goal oriented interview process to determine what the client’s needs and goals are so you can best advise them on how to achieve them. If someone calls you and the first thing out of their mouth is what’s your rate on a 30 year fixed, you better not answer with a rate, you better answer with a question like; Why is it you want a 30 year fixed?  You’re the professional, the expert and it’s your job to ask the tough questions to uncover their motives and present alternative options that maybe they don’t know about and you being the expert do and will be happy to show them.

Make your services “Tangible”: Instead of defaulting to send someone numbers via email like 99% of loan officers send them a box or physical package in the mail to make you and your services “tangible”, have a stack of printed testimonials, highlighted 1003, needs list and a pre-paid return envelope, make it as easy to do business with you as possible. To spice things up if the prospect is buying a new home you can send them an uncut house key for maximum impact. You can also provide them with some type of Free buying guide to position yourself as an expert, make a 1 page “Home Buyer’s Guide” with the top 10 questions to ask a lender before they submit an application”, use this opportunity to layout all the smart questions they should ask and then of course provide the curated answer.

Use “Risk Reversal” and a Guarantee to make the decision to work with you a no brainer. Example:” If at any time during the mortgage experience you feel as though you’re not getting 5 star customer service and the absolute best loan for your personal needs; feel free to cancel and I will gladly refund you monies (if any at all) that have been collected. In addition, I will hand deliver the entire loan package to the lender of your choice – no questions asked!”  See what I mean, this is powerful and nobody else says anything of the sort. If the client is talking with 2 lenders and they’re both offering the same rate and the same costs, but one offered this guarantee, which one do you think they would pick?!

Instead of following the trend of doing everything online or digitally, offer your clients document delivery and pickup services. Believe it or not a lot of people don’t like scanning documents, sending emails, logging into to secure websites, sending faxes and making passwords and logins for all the online junk that exists today and sadly that has become normal during today’s loan process. Take the time to get the deal done and make it as easy as possible. Offer to have the documents hand delivered for signatures and then picked up when ready, same with conditions and anything else that needs signatures or to be reviewed, you can use a courier service, do it yourself or have a team member or an assistant do it.. simply offering this will differentiate you from everyone else, most people won’t take you up on it, but they will feel well taken care of to know that it is a above and beyond service you provide to make the process as easy as possible.


In summary, you’re separating yourself from the competition and standing out by: Being the expert and not a commodity or order taker, adding tremendous value, alternative options and alternative insights and programs, make your services tangible by sending them “you in a box” and finally by making it as easy as possible to move forward.

Set expectations and overdeliver: Once a client has agreed to work with you, you need to make sure you deliver on all your promises and if you want them to refer you and use you again, you need to make this experience “memorable” so they do not forget you.

 Once the loan process has begun make sure your clients know each member of your team and everyone has been introduced properly, I recommend sending out a team welcome letter in the mail or digitally that has everyone’s name, title and responsibility and contact info. Also for maximum impact have your “risk reversal and guarantee” written on the form and have every member of your team personally sign it to show their commitment to making this mortgage experience the best ever.

Find out how your clients and the referral partners on the transaction prefer to communicate and how often (this is something loan officers never do, leaving clients in the dark with no idea of next steps, updates, etc..), establishing a communication plan is critical to having happy clients. I tell my clients they will hear from me or my team with an update every Friday no matter what as well as when we move stages in the experience.

Strategically under promise and over deliver; If you tell a client you will have them numbers to review before end of business next day, get it to them within the hour and express how important they are to you, this can work wonders do quickly develop trust and respect.


Create some “wow” moments: The goal for anyone in a service oriented business should be to be “memorable”. To truly fascinate, be memorable and to creating “raving” fans you must do more than just do what you said you would do within the time you said you would do it, you must WOW them. Wowing clients during the sometimes-stressful mortgage process can be tough, but it can also be done. I recommend creating 3 wow moments for every transaction to insure they remember you. Here are a few examples of ways you can wow.

 On new purchase deals get a quality image of the home either from the listing agent (marketing photos) or from the appraiser, have that image framed with a home sweet home message and delivered a week before closing.

Post close wow; Once the loan closes, put together a folder with all the important home/mortgage docs and send to them in a lender branded mortgage/property folder to keep and access all their info such as appraisal, insurance, final HUD, Note, etc…..

Wow when presenting finance options; Use a program like mortgage coach to analyze all options in black and white and show the benefits of each both short and long term, you can even use video on these now to truly personalize your message.

Wow by under promising and over delivering as mentioned in step 2.

Wow by eliminating or covering fees or reducing interest rate without advance notice, everyone likes to save money, especially when they don’t expect it.

Wow by unexpectedly showing up at the closing/signing with coffee and to oversee everything.

Much like with anything on marketing, advertising and sales optimization we could spend hours or days on each of these steps as there are tons of variations and other ways to be memorable and wow your clients, but this is just meant to be an appetizer if you will and to get you thinking about how you can adapt your mortgage “process” to be more of a mortgage “experience” strategically aimed to give you happier clients, more repeat business and more referrals!

I hope you put this information to use.

PS: Here is one additional idea to stay top of mind and continue to be “memorable” for years after you close the loan.

Instead of sending clients a mail letter on the obvious holidays and special dates like their birthday, anniversary, xmas…. Pick 4 holidays that people typically don’t receive cards in the mail and send them a card. You will be the only person to send them a card on this holiday making you stand out from the crowd. I recommend spreading out the holidays so that they get 1 per quarter.

Below are the 4 holidays I am currently using to send out greeting/holiday cards.

St Patricks Day:

This year I will be sending a Happy St Patricks day card and I will be giving all my past clients 1 lotto scratcher and wishing them good luck. This will stand out as it’s not just a card, but a tangible gift in the form of a scratcher… everyone likes to gamble, especially when its not their money. I think this will be great.

4th of July:

While this is a popular holiday, people do not typically get cards for the 4th of July making this the perfect opportunity to stay in touch and stand out. I will be sending out a holiday card with a printed list of all the local/major firework shows for them to attend as well as all the Firework shows that will be aired on television.


This is going to be fun and engaging. I plan to send out a Halloween card with an invite to participate in the “Brett McDonell Best Pumpkin Contest”. I am inviting all my past clients to carve their best pumpkins and email me an image of it to be entered in to win a $100 Amazon gift card. I want to engage them and make it fun. After I choose a winner I will upload all the photos to a shutterfly page and send the link out via email to everyone who participated.

Labor Day:

Well known holiday that nobody will receive a holiday card on unless I did your mortgage loan. I have not developed a theme for this one yet, but will as we get closer.

I hope this gave you some ideas to stand out and be memorable “post close”.