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The Reality of Creating a Record-Setting Year

Do you believe that achieving a record production year in your business happens by chance or by design? If you said design, you are right. However, while most advisers start off a new year with big dreams, few finish reaching them. The reality of creating a record-setting year is more than just great intentions and luck, you need thorough and consistently used systems.

As a rookie financial adviser more than 20-plus years ago, I struggled my first year. During my second year things were a bit better because I gathered three times the assets but I was still in no position to stop eating ramen noodles. It wasn’t until my third year that I made a commitment (and a plan) to create my success. As a result, I tripled my income from the previous year. I then repeated the process the following year and was able to double my income following the exact same system. I’m telling you this not to impress you but rather to impress upon you that you cannot leave success up to chance.

The following is a brief outline of how you too can plan for your success with a little upfront work:

Create an Unwavering Commitment

It was a simple statement to myself— “I’m never going below $10,000 gross per month this year,”—that led me down a path to changing my belief system that I could actually do it. I used this same strategy years later but doubled the number and hit a personal record high production in month five out of the first six months of the year. Why? Merely because I choose to believe that it was possible. Remember, the more you believe in your own potential the higher the probability that you will hit your goals.

Daily Discipline of Prospecting

Part of that unwavering commitment was to start every day prospecting. This may seem like a no-brainer but it’s not easy unless you do one important thing, learn to enjoy doing it. It might sound crazy but if you make a game out of how many dials, contacts and appointments you do while prospecting, it can actually become a lot of fun.

A Systematic Way of Selling

Although hope is a good thing, it’s not the best strategy for sales success. Instead, you need a systematic way of selling so that you can duplicate every step of the way, from the initial contact to closing the sale. In my third year, I also learned from a top producer how to cross-sell to my client base. This opened my eyes to how to gather additional assets and commissions but more importantly to increasing my value to my client base.

A Detailed Tracking System

In order to keep the momentum of activity and results going it was important for me to create a great tracking system that was simple enough to fill out during the day but effective enough to keep a tally and tell me if I was going to achieve my monthly goals. I created a daily score card that tracked my contacts, presentations, orders asked for and gross commissions. Next, I created a sales pipeline of prospects and clients so I knew how many people and how much potential business was possible. Finally, I tracked daily gross production and knew exactly if I was above or below my goals at any given time. When you make tracking a priority you get excited to achieve more.

A Strong Reward

At the end of my third year I was shocked at the amount of success I had achieved by greatly surpassing my goals. Looking back at it now, it’s not about the numbers it’s about all of the other things that are obtained when you surpass what you believe you are capable of, confidence, pride and increased self-esteem to name a few. However, that’s not to say that you shouldn’t have a strong reward system. In fact, I went from eating ramen noodles the previous year to buying my first house! When you have a strong reward system you have an extra added incentive to achieve your goals.

Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks

2016-02-28_finleyBy now you might be saying to yourself, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If so, just know that isn’t reality. In fact, in my book 101 Advisor Solutions: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Strategies that Educate, Motivate and Inspire, I tell a true story about my client Gale Z., who after 25 years was forced to realize that she was barely hitting the corporate minimum production standards at the end of a year. We applied the aforementioned strategies and by the end of the first quarter she was the top producer in her region. She exceeded her numbers by reaching 66 percent of the previous year’s production goals.

If you read this article and need help creating a record-setting year, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing, to schedule a free complimentary consultation.

Dan Finley

 

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

 


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Goal Setting: How to Make 2017 Your Best Business Year Ever

Investing time to strategically plan their goals for the upcoming year is the single greatest return on investment an adviser can make. If you’re looking to create a breakout year and accomplish your most important goals, read the following to make 2017 your best year ever.

STEP ONE: Review Your Year
This step helps you focus on what you should be doing more of and what you should be quitting completely. Identify your successes and where you came up short. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. Which were good decisions and which were bad?

Answer these questions to properly reflect on your year:

  1. What did you accomplish this past year that you’re most proud of?
  2. What did you do to earn this accomplishment?
  3. What disappointments or regrets did you experience this past year?
  4. As you look back, what was missing from last year?
  5. What are three things you want to stop doing next year?
  6. What are three things you want to keep doing next year?

STEP TWO: Define Areas of Attention in Your Business
There are seven main areas of your financial practice that you want to be in optimal shape to see breakthrough success. Rank each area on a scale of 1-10 to see which are the lowest and need your attention.

  1. New business and client acquisition. Are you talking to enough qualified prospects and turning them into clients?
  2. Marketing and branding. When people get introduced to you or your brand, can they quickly identify how you can help and benefit them?
  3. Do you have all-star employees who are easy to manage?
  4. Client service and experience. Are your current clients receiving the right amount of contact and care so there’s no reason they would ever leave you?
  5. Do you have the systems and processes set up so that the office can run if you’re not there?
  6. Time management and productivity. Are you spending time only on $1,000-per-hour tasks rather than $10-per-hour tasks?
  7. Expertise in planning and investment management. Are you continually increasing your knowledge in order to offer the best advice and recommendations to your clients?

STEP THREE: Create Your Future
Here’s the framework to follow when identifying your goals. Use this framework to develop five to seven goals for the next year:

  1. Write it down. Research shows that written goals are much more likely to be achieved.
  2. Suspend reality. Decide later if a goal is realistic.
  3. Think big. Have goals that are challenging enough to demand your full effort
  4. State in the positive. Focus on what you want to move toward.
  5. Have actionable goals. Write your goal as if it is already achieved. For example, say, “I have hired one new all-star employee that handles all paperwork prep and processing by 6/30/2017.”
  6. Time bound. Make sure there is a date of completion.
  7. Be specific. The more specific the goal, the better.

STEP FOUR: Bulletproof Your Goals
Advisers who achieve their goals are the ones who are motivated and who have a compelling reason why their goals must be achieved. So you can create powerful motivators for each of your goals, which will increase the chances that you’ll achieve them.

Take these steps to create motivators for your goals:

  1. (Again) write down each goal.
  2. Connect emotionally and logically with each goal by determining why the goal is important and what is at stake (both the positive and negative).
  3. Write down the top three to five motivators
  4. Review them regularly.

STEP FIVE: Take The Next Step
The last step—the most important step in the process—is where we start to take action to make our goals a reality.

  1. Don’t over plan. We naturally are attracted to planning. But sometimes it turns into a fancy way to procrastinate. We want to make sure we get started on our goals as soon as possible.
  2. Work backward and break up your big goals. Imagine the goal is already complete. What do you need to do each month in order for you to that moment? This will help identify manageable action steps.
  3. Schedule your goals. Set aside time each week to review your goals, motivators and progress. At the end of each session, identify the next step you need to take to reach this goal.
  4. Celebrate the small wins to motivate yourself.
  5. Start now.

Download this step-by-step worksheet to help you with this process.

dave-zoller

 

Dave Zoller
Financial Adviser
Streamline My Practice
Warrenville, IL

 


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Business Planning: Déjà Vu with a Twist

Another December—and another opportunity to write up goals for the coming year. It feels like déjà vu. Some of you view writing and revisiting your business plan as nothing more than practice management mumbo jumbo. To the rest of us, it is an essential business management habit. For both groups—those of you who go through this exercise every year and those who do it reluctantly—I have some ideas on how you can set up your business plan in a way that will pay off by the time you’re sitting in this same spot next year.

Keep It Simple
Too often, I see written business plans that are beautifully designed and bound but also big and cumbersome. I am usually left wondering, where’s the beef?

You can have meaty content without loads of pages. Keep things simple: all you really need is a document that outlines the vision, the long-term direction of the firm over the next five years and a set of SMART goals for the upcoming year. You want just seven or fewer of these goals (which need to be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bounded). By keeping the number small, you can narrow your focus on the few things most important to the firm.

Personally, I like to include one or two stretch goals even though they don’t quite fit the “R” (realistic component) of SMART. Doing so pushes you outside the comfort zone. It works as long as you don’t get hung up or feel like a failure if you don’t reach one—or any—of your stretch goals. More likely than not, you’ll at least move beyond what the realistic goal would have been. Just remember that beating yourself up when you don’t reach a goal is totally counterproductive.

Additional documents that support your plan warrant attention. For example, a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis tends to embody why you think the goals for the current year are important. You can also fold in analysis of the previous year’s goals to provide a contextual lookback that will enhance your planning process.

Here’s the Twist for 2017
One new concept for 2017 concerns the “time-bounded” component, or the “T” of SMART. Many of us are inclined to set all our due dates to December. New research tells us to do one thing at a time instead. It even suggests that multitasking is bad for our brain.

So this year, instead of putting December 31, 2017, on each of your goals, prioritize and schedule them one after the other. While you may not be able to do it perfectly, staggered due dates can help you focus on each goal and enhance your brain function at the same time.

Find the Missing Ingredient
There are no guarantees. Just because you’ve written down that you’re going to do something, the action still has to happen. The plan only goes so far in keeping you accountable.

In fact, the one missing ingredient of what business planning and goal setting can specifically provide is accountability. The way goals are written matters here. Clearly designed SMART goals can be measured. They can also increase accountability. You’ll be absolutely clear on whether you have achieved your goal or not if you’ve written your goals in such a way.

To make sure you do, it helps to find a coach, consultant, colleague, boss or mentor who can keep you on track. You want someone who will help you stay focused on your goals and your progress toward achieving them. Any associated expense will be worth it when you solidify the right goals and realize you have a support system grounded in your long-term strategy.

The closer you can keep your firm tracking toward your vision, the more likely you’ll realize value from your business planning efforts. Perhaps this time next year, planning will have become a welcome habit.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web
Joni Youngwirth
Managing Principal of Practice Management
Commonwealth Financial Network
Waltham, Mass.