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3 Steps to Mastering the Art of Excellence for Financial Planners

Obtaining excellence with any endeavor is rarely an overnight occurrence. It typically takes years of tenacity to master a craft. Many planners let outside influences and short-term setbacks detract them from acquiring excellence in many facets of their business. On the journey to becoming your best, you must simply sometimes take things one step at a time.

The key to mastering the art of excellence is to focus on each of those steps, whether that is defined as learning how to cold call, close a sale or ask for referrals. It is important to concentrate on your ability to be more effective on each particular “step” before moving on to another.

Eventually, those steps string together and form a way forward and you realize that you have traveled farther than you ever thought possible. Aristotle said it best when he said, “Excellence is an art won by training and habituation.”

In other words, we create excellence by continuously learning and honing the activities we do until they become a habit; thus, excellence is merely a by-product of doing such.

Here are some suggested things to consider as you strive for excellence in whatever areas you seek:

Step 1: Commit to a New Level of Greatness

If you want to excel at anything you must commit to a new level of greatness. It doesn’t matter whether you are a financial planner, insurance agent or professional athlete, every successful person knows that the first step is to decide without a shadow of a doubt that they are fully committed to putting in a best effort.

Rob T., a 20-year veteran financial planner was stalemated as his business had reached a production plateau. When I began coaching him he was absolutely committed to learning how to unclog his pipeline. All he needed was to unearth the clogs, implement the right processes and put those into place to take action.

Step 2: Model the Masters

Success doesn’t happen overnight, but it will happen a lot more quickly when you model those who have mastered whatever it is that you would like to succeed at.

In Rob’s case, I had coached many financial planners on a methodology to find specific clogs at every stage of the pipeline, so we quickly found what challenges he actually had. Next, we discussed solutions that have worked for other successful planners/agents. Then he began to apply the activities that were necessary on a daily basis to put those solutions into place. Over time, these activities turned into habits and voilà, his pipeline moved along well and converted for him in many cases.

Step 3: Map out the Milestones

The final step in to track your progress is what I refer to as mapping out the milestones. This helps you see accomplishments (or obstacles) that were made during each leg of the journey. The following is brief description of milestones that Rob experienced.

Initially, I had explained to Rob that my pipeline process had four stages: initial contact, first appointment, second appointment (or closing appointment) and getting referrals.

Rob knew that he had a clog in each stage, but some were bigger than others. So, we began working on stage No. 1, the initial contact, because he was not filling up the pipeline, which was vital. Soon, he was setting more first appointments than he had ever done previously.

Then, we worked on stage No. 3, the first appointment, because he said that many prospects weren’t securing a second appointment with him. I taught him how to help prospects see the value of a second appointment and he was able to make those happen!

Next, we worked on stage No. 3, the closing appointment, because he was not strong at closing prospects. After a number of weeks, he reported that he had closed nine out of 12 prospects!

Lastly, we worked on stage No. 4, getting referrals. Once we role-played what I call “client-centered referral dialogue,” he had a framework for his conversation around getting referrals.

Why Mastering the Art of Excellence Works

The reason why mastering the art of excellence works is because who wants to settle for mediocrity? Being just okay with your business is not okay; finding techniques that work is imperative to getting your business firing on all cylinders.

If you would like a free coaching session with me, email Melissa Denham, director of client servicing at Advisor Solutions.

Dan Finley

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business consulting and coaching service dedicated to helping advisers build a better business.

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Investing Differences Across Generations

The three generations currently being served by the financial planning profession—boomers, Gen X, and millennials—have similarities, according to the Commonwealth Financial Network article, “Uncovering Investing Trends Across Generations.”

Those similarities include retirement as a top reason to invest, an overallocation to cash, and a preference for equities. But the differences between these generations are important to keep in mind when effectively serving them.


According to Commonwealth, this cohort has reported being “somewhat aggressive” when it comes to risk tolerance. A study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that boomers approaching retirement age today are heavily invested in stocks. Boomers are also least likely to have money in target-based funds that change from aggressive to conservative the closer a person gets to retirement.

A Capital Group investor survey found that 92 percent of retired boomer investors say it is important to get and stay invested in the market, and 60 percent of boomers surveyed say they feel positive about their retirement. About 31 percent indicated they have no financial concerns, and 32 percent of boomers reported feeling comfortable about investing.

Gen X

The U.S Census Bureau found that Gen X investors lost about 40 percent of their net worth between 2007 and 2010. Because of this experience, Gen-Xers are more skeptical about the markets, but they also have an overall higher risk tolerance than their
millennial counterparts.

Fidelity Charitable found that 77 percent of Gen X investors have made an impact investment, indicating they care that their investments have a positive impact as well as a financial return. Meanwhile, 26 percent of Gen-Xers surveyed in a BMO Wealth Management study said they feel satisfied with investing.


A 2016 report released by Toniic, an impact investing community, indicated a strong link between millennials’ values and their investing decisions, and that millennials are driving the trend of impact investing.

BMO Wealth Management found that 26 percent of millennials are saving for a home, 23 percent are trying to build their emergency fund, and 21 percent are saving for a short-term goal like a vacation. About 15 percent of millennials feel stressed and overwhelmed by investing, according to BMO, while 18 percent feel confused and 24 percent
feel comfortable.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn

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Don’t Forget Clients’ Pets in Estate Planning

When Karl Lagerfeld passed away a few months ago, it brought renewed attention to estate planning for pets. The fashion designer left a chunk of his estimated $300 million net worth to Choupette, his beloved Birman cat.

Lagerfeld kept his furry companion in mind during estate planning, which other planners recommend your clients do, too.

“I have definitely recommended people taking certain steps planning for how their assets pass to make sure they take care of their pets,” Roger Ma, CFP® professional, recently told CBS News.

The 2017–2018 survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) found that 68 percent of U.S. households owned a pet. Pets are considered tangible property, like cars and furniture, so if your clients don’t leave a plan for their pet, it won’t be taken care of the way they want it to be.

Here are some things your clients can do to ensure proper care of their fur babies. Identify the pet’s new owner. Identify a person who can take care of the pet who actually wants to. Following this, leaving the pet to them could be done in a few ways.

Update the client’s will. It can be as simple as leaving instructions in a will, for example, adding a statement like, “I leave my dog, Baloo, to my brother Mike.” But know that Mike is now in charge of the dog and can take it to a shelter if he wants. That’s why it’s important for your clients to designate somebody who actually wants the pet.

Establish a pet trust. Philip Herzberg wrote in the August 2018 Journal that a pet trust may be more advantageous than a will. A pet trust “will enable your clients to appoint both a caregiver who will be responsible for the pet’s care and a trustee who will manage the funds for the pet’s well-being,” he wrote. Caring for pets is expensive. Have your clients figure out how much they spend on food, pet health care, medications, supplements, and supplies and fund the trust with that.

“Be sure clients name contingent caregivers and trustees in case their first choices are unable to serve in their respective roles,” Herzberg wrote.

Even though your clients may not leave millions to their pets, like Lagerfeld, they still should consider them in estate planning.

“Not everyone has millions to give their pet, but it shines a light on making sure there’s a qualified caretaker that you trust to ensure it has a good home to go to and also that you fund their needs,” Ma told CBS News.

Ana TL Headshot_Cropped

Ana Trujillo Limón is senior editor of the Journal of Financial Planning and the editor of the FPA Practice Management Blog. Email her at alimon@onefpa.org, or connect with her on LinkedIn