As a commercial mortgage broker, it is easy to get caught up in a daily checklist of duties. You should not forget, however, the importance of dedicating time each day to forming and maintaining solid relationships.

Building strong ties with clients and lenders is paramount for successfully closing deals and expanding your business opportunities. But there is an art to building these relationships. It takes time, effort and creativity, especially during the time of the COVID-19 health crisis.

There is no time better than now to begin. Relationships are forged with consistent communication, trust and transparency. The difference between a closed loan and a near-miss deal often comes down to your relationship with the lender and underwriter.

In the midst of the global pandemic, this would seem to be a difficult time to strengthen relations with business partners. After all, it is much harder to meet and chat with your clients and contacts in person. But the truth is, there have never been more resources available for businesses to bond with potential business partners in remote fashion.

Establish rapport
Start by reaching out to people in your existing network of lenders and clients. Pick up the phone and call the person directly or send them a message via LinkedIn. Make sure the recipient knows that the message is intended for them. Your chance of creating a lasting impression is much higher when you go beyond the hard numbers of a deal and show an interest in your contacts as people.

If your lender lives in Cleveland, for example, consider opening the conversation by asking them how everything is going there. Getting them to talk a bit about themselves is a great way to establish the rapport required to build trust and transparency.

It also is important to expand your network. Reach out to anyone who has sent you an email in the past or to those who might be a valuable contact. Note your last contact with the person, and seize any opportunity to reach out to them and have a conversation. This is how new relationships are forged.

The pandemic has undeniably impacted how we form and maintain relationships. Social distancing has forced people to stay in touch remotely via Zoom, the phone and email. It may seem that we are farther apart than ever as individuals, but we have never had more in common. Everyone has coronavirus-related problems in common.

Personal details
Check in with people about their health and safety. Consider asking if they are working from home or have returned to the office. You also can learn from these conversations about what to expect from the other person. Everyone is facing some sort of new challenge due to COVID-19. Take this as an opportunity to form connections around these hardships.

For example, your investor client may be working night shifts as a nurse in the intensive care unit while flipping houses on the side. This person may be harder to reach and it may take longer for them to return your message. It may be better to contact them via email than by phone. If you know something about your business partners and clients, it is easier to gauge their needs and what you can expect from them while working together on a deal.

You also will need to take full advantage of virtual communication channels. Using Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack is the new normal in the age of COVID. If you want to stay in touch, there are several digital platforms available that can be used effectively.

In some cases, though, it is still safe to meet with your clients and business partners in person. You should seize on opportunities for these meetings. Given that most people welcome a chance to get together, these meetings can go a long way in strengthening relationships.

If you live in a warmer climate where outdoor seating is available that allows for social distance, you may want to invite the person to grab a cup of coffee and chat outside. Likewise, consider inviting them into the office. Make sure you have hand sanitizer placed at the entrance and masks available, and that they are completely comfortable with entering the space.

Lender cooperation
Maintaining strong ties with lenders is especially important. Try to get to know the sales representatives or underwriters on a personal level. Understanding a lender’s office culture can be useful as well. It can make the process go more seamlessly.

Additionally, learn how to work with the lender’s platform, and understand their guidelines and expectations in advance. Once a mortgage broker has proven to be reliable and trustworthy, certain exceptions are much easier to get approved, especially through smaller lending companies with more underwriting flexibility.

Make sure that the full loan file is put together before asking a lender to make an exception to their guidelines. Your probability of getting a favorable result increases substantially after the appraisal is done and bank statements and credit reports are submitted to the lender. An underwriter with approval authority most likely won’t grant an exception until they have a full understanding of the file.

For example, if a broker is asking for a credit-score exception, you will have to establish that your client and the project are a good risk. There should be offsetting information in the file that justifies the risk. A lender cannot approve an exception based on assumptions that are later found to be false.

The value in taking the time to create and sustain sincere business relationships will pay off in more ways than you know. Take actionable steps sooner rather than later, and use the digital resources available to do so. The benefits will shine through, and your business will close more deals and build more capital.