This lesson will walk you through the entire Acquisition funnel, starting with finding, then motivating your seller leads through the lead-nurturing process and ending with a potential deal on your desk to fund or flip.
In the context of this course, “Leads” are loan sellers, ideally motivated & engaged in the process of working with a buyer to unload their performing or non-performing mortgage notes. Most of this training will focus on sourcing non-performing loans (NPLs) as these distressed assets are sold into the secondary market higher up the food chain and finding NPLs is a higher-value activity for you to master. Let’s begin with the lay of the land –
The 5 Different Lead Avatars
In marketing, an “Avatar” is a representation of your ideal prospect. For our purposes, here are the 5 different “note seller avatars” that you will be building relationships with in order to find notes for sale:
Institutional Lender Decision Maker
The top of the food chain – institutional lenders are the best prospects for the largest portfolios and lowest prices. These banks have non-accrual (not accruing interest), charged-off loan portfolios that need to be cleared from their books in non-performing loan sales. Often times, larger banks that have acquired smaller banks (S/B/M = successor by merger) have portfolios of loans from the smaller acquisition that need to be consolidated and cleaned up with portfolio sales. The actual decision makers that will hold the keys to these deals may have many different titles, executives and other higher-ups are great contacts. Here are some other potential titles for the right counter-party to build a relationship with:
Special Asset Manager, Distressed Asset Department, Charge-off Loan Manager, Loss Mitigation Specialist, Secondary Marketing Operations, Portfolio Manager, Asset Liability Manager, Risk Modeling Director
Hedge Fund Partner
Next on our list, Hedge Funds – these are the larger firms that may have acquired portfolios of loans from institutional lenders. These companies have many reasons for selling loans. They may have bought a mixed portfolio and only be interested in retaining a particular asset-class or subset. Other Hedge Funds make a profit on the arbitrage between wholesale portfolio acquisitions and retail one-off loan sales. Some Funds are winding down and need to close out the remaining loans in the portfolio. Whatever the reason, opportunities exist to build relationship with the Managing Partners of Hedge Funds that operate in the secondary mortgage market. You can also find success working with Portfolio or Trade Desk Managers. For example, FIXnotes founder Robert Hytha is the Portfolio Manager and runs the Trade Desk for US Mortgage Resolution Trust (among other clients). Members of the Mortgage Note Mastermind have exclusive access to assets from FIXnotes clients.
Family Office Note Investor
One step down from Hedge Funds are Family Offices. These range in side from small mom & pop operations to large quasi-hedge fund entities. Either way, by building relationships with the founders & operators of these investment portfolios, note investors can add value by providing liquidity to assets that the Family Office Note Investor no longer has a desire to hold.
While Family Offices often own portfolios of institutionally originated loans, Private Lenders hold notes that they have originated themselves. These are often smaller one-off opportunities to acquire notes in the Private Lender’s local geography. Although these are a great, often untapped source of product – expect smaller deals and less regular deal flow.
Note “Broker” or Loan Sale Advisor
Finally, the bottom of the food chain and the worst option: Note “Brokers” or Loan Sale Advisors are essentially your competition – they are marketing companies that find & connect buyers and sellers. The assets from these sources are unlikely to be “flippable” because the Loan Sale Advisor is already marketing their opportunities far and wide. For more information on how to build your own Loan Sale Advisory, check out the Mastermind Masterclass Mortgage Note Matchmaker. While there are some organizations that offer quality assets and others that are near the top of the food chain (Freddie Mac NPL Offerings come to mind), most of the time the pricing due to competition for these portfolios makes them less desirable targets.
The Best Sellers
You only need 1 great seller to earn a six-figure annual compensation (we’ll get into fee structures for flipping loans in Lesson #3). Proving yourself indispensable to a seller’s loss mitigation loan sale strategy can put you in a position for repeat business for the long-term. First, you need to be willing to add more value than you extract from each trade – it’s an easy decision to keep doing business together when you are making a seller’s life easier and their business more profitable. Finding the right seller is a numbers game so you’ll want to bring this Value-Add philosophy to every relationship, but to make it a bit easier to spot the best of the best, here is a checklist:
- regular deal flow: Distressed lenders or full-time note investors will have an ongoing pipeline of defaulted originations or up-stream acquisitions.
- professional: Laser focused and diligent with their processes, not distracted with other “shiny objects” aka other real estate strategies.
- trustworthy: Do your due diligence – how is their BBB rating, Trustpilot/Google/Linkedin reviews? Are they a defendant in any lawsuits (outside mortgage note legal activity).
The best deals are from leads you generate yourself, but for a little kick-start – here is a list of sources: Where to Buy Mortgage Notes
Where to Find Leads
Now that you know who the bullseye prospects are, let’s take aim at the target. There are many different online/offline platforms, venues and strategies to find your note seller leads and your decision on which to tackle first depends on your interests, skillset and existing network. All of the below are viable but your competitive advantage will be found by aligning yourself with a strategy that leverages your unique abilities. If you don’t think you have any unique abilities – that’s OK! The most important part is to choose a direction that you find engaging and stick with it, consistency is everything.
We’ll get into the “How” in the next section but the takeaway here is that Linkedin’s professional directory offers a treasure trove of potential leads. By researching the potential titles from the Institutional Lender Decision Makers above with banks that are in the headlines for rating agency downgrades or FDIC troubled asset lists, you can start to build a rolodex of promising leads.
Paid Ads & Mailers
Internet ads are incredible powerful in their ability to target specific types of people. By honing in on the type of content/interests/demographics of your Avatar, you can target an audience for your ads that best fits. Physical mailers are another option that can be directed to Lender offices or to specific Private Lenders home addresses (you can purchase lists of potential Private Lender from various sources online).
Organic Content Marketing
Here’s where we started – writing articles, recording videos, sharing progress on social media and building an audience. In the beginning this approach might only attract smaller sellers but as your abilities are improved and the value your content provides moves up the food chain, you can begin to attract larger deal flow by making a name for yourself with internet content.
In-Person Networking & Events
Up until this point, all of these lead sources have been online – you can run a note business from the comfort of your home office or anywhere with internet connectivity. But often, in-person events are where the best relationships are formed. Attending note investor conferences (like DME, Note Expo & Papersource) is a great place to start, but as you learn the language and feel ready to move to the “big leagues”, banker-centric conferences like IMN and MBA are the best place to network with the larger players in the secondary market.
Word of Mouth/Affiliates
This a somewhat advanced strategy because you won’t have any word of mouth before you begin but it’s an important consideration from the beginning of your journey. As you exceed expectations (even when a deal doesn’t pan out), consider requesting a LinkedIn Recommendation, Google or TrustPilot review. As your reach expands, think in terms of value-add opportunities for potential affiliates – can you offer a success fee to people who bring you deals, are there other incentives you can design to align interests?
Why you don’t need any special skills to start
It’s important not to be discouraged by early disappointments when deals fall through or leads don’t deliver. The easiest way to develop a skill is to do it enough times it would be unreasonable for you to be bad. But in the beginning is it really reasonable that you would succeed right off the bat? Put in the time, effort and consistency to develop the skills to attract deal flow to you.
How to Find Leads
We’ve covered the Who and the Where, now onto the How – this is important, let’s learn the actual processes to start finding assets for sale.
Your Value Proposition
Your guiding principle as you take the next steps is to “add value” – and your value proposition is the encapsulation of this principal. This is what you must communicate to your potential leads. Although it can be adapted as you move up the food chain or as your asset preferences change, here is the gist of it: “We help banks, hedge funds and other lenders cut their losses and recapitalize on charged-off and underperforming mortgage notes. We make it fast & easy for lenders to offload their bad debt”
- Create a list of bank/hedge fund targets – you need to do some research here. FDIC data is available to the public but is summarized neatly by the Distressed Pro Bank Prospector tool. Rating Agency downgrades, mergers & acquisitions and other timely news is another source of potential bank names. Google is another source of research for Hedge Funds and Family Offices that invest in mortgage notes.
- Search LinkedIn for employees of target companies – use LinkedIn’s search tools to find all the employees of your target banks, hedge funds and other companies
- Send connection requests – LinkedIn makes it look like you can only “Follow” contacts that are outside of your 2nd degree connections – this is false! Navigate to their profile, click “More” and then click “Connect” – you can send a connection request to anyone on the platform.
- Warm up your leads – spend at least 10 seconds getting to know your prospect via their profile, posts or other social media pages. Send a personal message that shows that you spent that little bit of time – don’t pitch them yet!
- Offer your services – make sure to interact before you pitch and work on a seamless transition to how you can help them. Direct them to your lead magnet if there is interest (more below).
The Acquisition Funnel
The LinkedIn Process above is just one “top of the funnel” method of generating leads. Paid ads, mailers, content marketing, word of mouth, etc are all ways to get people to know what you’re up to. The next phase of the funnel is nurturing your leads through value-add content or services. Your goal is to turn leads into engaged leads that have an interest in taking the next steps with you. After you have done this manually for sometime, you will have a better idea of how to leverage automation to scale up your process using automatic email campaigns following a solid lead magnet to capture email addresses.
An Effective Lead Magnet
Businesses without an email list (populated via a lead magnet) are missing a hugely valuable asset that can make everything else they do easier. Your note business is no exception! Offering something of value up front (at no cost) in exchange for your prospects email address is a critical step in your acquisition funnel. What your lead magnet consists of should be directly related to the type of lead you are attracting. For example – banks and hedge funds might respond to a “Complementary Portfolio Analysis”, smaller note investors might like a “Secondary Mortgage Market Report” or a mini-course on “How to Sell your Bad Notes for Top Dollar”. Creating this freebie and a corresponding landing page that offers the deliverable in exchange for their email address should be a top priority.
How to set yourself apart (work for free?!)
The best lead magnets are clearly valuable, and working for free (for a “Complementary Portfolio Analysis” for example) is a great way to build goodwill and show your prospects your ability to respond promptly and deliver quality insights. Think in terms of overdelivering to your prospects and you will have more opportunities to monetize in the future. Play the long game!
Nurturing to create Engaged Leads
Engaged leads are worth their weight in gold – it should be a top priority to show your leads that they are in good hands working with you.
Delivering your Vetting Package
Every professional note buyer has a Vetting Package, a collection of documents that show their standing as a quality counterparty. Depending on a particular bank seller’s requirements, this includes everything from your policies/procedures, insurance docs, proof of funds, partner profiles, contingency plans and employee handbooks. In any case, putting together everything you have in an organized deliverable and providing to qualified leads proactively is a great way to establish your professionalism.
Lead Magnet Fulfillment
Easy Lead Magnets are PDF downloads or access to online resources. Difficult Lead Magnets to fulfill include the Portfolio Analysis or free consultation calls. When designing your landing page and acquisition funnel, smooth out any efficiencies and automate wherever possible. For example, FIXnotes lead magnet is our “How to Invest in Mortgage Notes” course – this is delivered automatically through WordPress, PaidMembershipsPro and Zapier. Using these tools, we’re able to collect an email address and provide access to the complete course instantly. When fulfilling a more labor-intensive lead magnet, make it as easy as possible for yourself using calendar schedulers, forms to gather information and automatic email follow-ups.
Email sequence Followup
We’ve mentioned email sequences a few times and for good reason – email is one of the most effective means of nurturing leads and generating deal flow. Using a tool like Aweber, Constant Contact, Hubspot, MailChimp, etc will give you the ability to create sequences that automatically deliver to your new email leads on a regular basis. Although we wouldn’t recommend building a automated sequence until you have a good feel for it (by communicating with your leads manually in the beginning), it’s a great way to leverage automation to nurture leads in bulk.
This is it! You’ve successfully moved a lead through the entire acquisition funnel to the point where they are now sending you an individual asset or a portfolio of loans to sell. If your communication this far has been comprehensive, you should already know that:
– They are the decision maker and own the loan(s) in question
– You are the only buyer reviewing the opportunity at the moment
– Pricing guidance has been provided if they have expectations
– Timing and any other factors are shared (why they are selling, etc)
– All data has been provided for your review & pricing
If you don’t have these answers, make sure to have a conversation early in the process to understand where you stand with regard to competition, pricing, timing, etc.