The secret to Ashley Smith's success involves a hard truth: mortgage lending is an always-on job.

Smith, a senior loan officer at Atlantic Coast Mortgage in Ashburn, Va., a suburb of Washington, D.C., has been in the mortgage business for more than 13 years, starting at Prosperity Mortgage in 2002. Smith has also previously worked at First Savings Mortgage Corp. and Wells Fargo Home Mortgage.

Last year Smith originated 189 mortgages for a combined dollar volume of over $71 million — putting her at No. 45 on the 2015 Top Producers rankings list compiled by National Mortgage News, a sister publication of American Banker.

She preaches attention to referral partners and improvised decision-making, which require a lot of communication at all hours — as well as some patience and understanding from her family.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about your most creative or successful marketing strategy. How did you come up with the idea? What were the results?

I believe the best marketing strategy is to have an open line of communication with your referral partners. I pride myself in having a team that is available at any time of day, any day of the week.

My motto to my referral partners is, "If you're working, I'm working!" I have successfully gained more business because of marketing myself as being accessible in the times they need me most, which is usually nights and weekends.

What's unique about the local market you serve and what do you do to address those needs?

Our market has a wide range of buyers because I'm located in the Washington metropolitan area. We have several first-time homebuyers and buyers who are eligible for Department of Veterans Affairs financing. I work with several local real estate offices and offer to teach classes on the various financing options that would best suit their clientele and marketplace. Educating the referral partners on the various programs we have to offer has given them the confidence to get more business, thus yielding me more business.

Tell us about an unusual or difficult loan scenario and what you did to ensure a successful closing.

I had an appraisal come in too low. The buyer didn't have enough money to bridge the gap between the appraisal and the sale price, so I raised the rate and gave them a lender credit to help cover closing costs. They thought they would lose the house because of the lack of cash, but my solution helped them keep it!

What do you know about the mortgage business now that you wished you knew when you started out?

You have to sell to everyone involved in the process, not just your client or referral partner. It's not about the math; it's about relationships and people's livelihoods that make you the most successful.

Who is someone in your life, personally or professionally, who helps contribute to your success?

My husband. He gives me the flexibility to get my job done at all hours. We have two children and often he has to put himself aside to be there for them because of the demanding hours. Without him I would not have the flexibility to be as accessible as I am to my clients and referral partners.

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