The Secret to Working “S.M.A.R.T”

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Throughout my years coaching clients, I have often heard financial advisers confess the following:

Over the years I have developed poor work habits that are now ingrained into my business. These habits are slowing me down. I’m in the process of identifying the poor habits so I can transform or replace them with better habits. I don’t think my challenge is working harder, but instead working smarter. The only problem is, I am not sure what working “smart” is.

Poor work habits are a very common challenge. The solution is to work S.M.A.R.T.  My interpretation of that acronym is Systematically Managing Activities Requires Training.

The old saying “practice makes perfect” is just not true. If we practice the wrong way we develop poor habits. By systematically managing your activities, the good ones, you will develop positive habits. To do this you need training. You create good habits by gaining awareness of what to do and what not to do, action to put that awareness into motion, and accountability to sustain the action.

Financial advisers often are unsure if they have created effective work habits because they may not know any other way. The first step is to get a second opinion about your business. The best source is someone you believe is very successful. He or she may have faced the exact same challenges you are currently going through. One of the secrets to working S.M.A.R.T. is asking for help to become more effective!

This happened to me years ago. I had been in the business for three years, thought I was working “smart,” but realized I was not as effective at turning many of my prospects into clients as I wanted to be.

At the time, I had over 800 prospects in my contact management system! Now, these were not just “any old prospects.” They knew my name and even recognized my voice when I called. Why? Because I called so often. Every time a prospect gave me objections such as, “I’m busy right now, but call after the holidays … or in the fall when the kids are back in school,” I would actually believe them and put their objection into my contact management system patiently awaiting the next required time horizon to call them back. Then, I would call and hear the next seasonal objection.

That is, until I decided to work S.M.A.R.T.

After hearing the umpteenth seasonal objection, I decided to walk down to the corner office and speak to Jim Fish, a successful veteran financial adviser with over 25 years experience. He had spent over a dozen years at Merrill Lynch and became the assistant branch manager in charge of training all of the rookies. Who better to ask for advice?

Jim patiently listened to my challenges and concerns and offered a simplistic but brilliant way of working smarter. He told me to go back to my office and spend the next week calling as many of these particular prospects as possible. After making polite small talk, simply ask, “Is there any chance that we will ever do business?” If they said no, ask why. If they said yes, then ask them, “What would it take to do business today?”

After a week of following his advice, I proudly reported back to Jim that I was successful at throwing over 100 unqualified prospects out of my computer! And, more importantly, that I had been successful at opening up a few accounts.

Daniel C. Finley
Advisor Solutions Inc.
St. Paul, Minn.

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