In his book titled High Trust Selling, Todd Duncan says, "The key is to have a plan that generates the right kind of sales -- from the right kind of accounts, backed by the right sales process -- that produces the maximum revenue for your time." Building a growing business is hard, and Mr. Duncan has a pretty good handle on the end result. It's interesting to note that he says the key is to have a plan -- not just any plan, but the right plan. Now, I'm no expert on what is right for everyone, but I have a few ideas on what it takes to create a growing business -- 15 ideas, to be exact.
1. Focus on a niche and stay focused.
Ultimately, defining a niche market that best fits you is necessary for your success. Not only do you need to define your niche, but you must also be tenaciously focused on that niche and not let anybody or anything get you sidetracked.
If retired Joe Lunch Bucket, with $300k to $600k in assets is your niche, then find out what makes him tick, how best to serve his needs, and then pound away. That happens to be my niche and I believe index annuities are a great solution to a lot of what ails Joe Lunch Bucket's finances. I'm not sidetracked by other issues. I'm not saying that there aren't some other products that might benefit my clients; all I'm saying is that they come to me with a specific need, which is usually protecting their savings and maximizing their interest. I fish for this type of niche client, and I get what I fish for.
2. Do the most of what you do the best.
You were hard-wired for something that only you can do well. Work hard at defining who you are and what you love to do, then spend your days doing just that. If you do the most of what you do the best, for all the right reasons, you will be the most fulfilled.
If you focus in on what you do best and leave much of the other stuff involved in your practice to someone else, you will not only be more fulfilled, but your bank accounts will be filled full. Yes, that means you need to hire staff to get to the next level. That staff person is going to free you up to bring in the money. You must learn to be a profit center and hire out the rest.
3. Be available to your clients.
Return phone calls the same day. It sounds simple, but so many don't get this small task accomplished. You must make it a priority to service your clients well or each time you don't, you will create a negative impact on your business. Too many negative voices in your fishing pond will stop the fish from biting, and soon you'll be out of business. Who should you call today?
4. Having an office presence is important.
We market to the most scammed demographic in America. How you present yourself says a lot about you, and operating out of the trunk of your car is not the image you want to portray. The reason is simple. Would anybody want to invest real dollars with someone who may not be around tomorrow? You may not be trying to swindle them, but clients want to know they can depend on you. An office is a must, even if you start with a "virtual" office that lets you have a presence in a group setting. But don't stay there. As you progress in your success, get the real thing.
So, stop with the excuses. You are either the real deal or you're not. Having an office is a commitment that your clients want to see.
Second, you need to think about what kind of statement your office is going to make. I'm convinced that your attention to the atmosphere you create when a client first walks through the door goes a long way toward your success. People make big decisions about you in the first 60 seconds of contact. What is your office telling them during that first minute?
5. Educate yourself.
What and how much you read today will have a direct impact on the person you will become tomorrow. That's right; you will enhance your growth, fulfillment and income by reading. And not just books on business, but books that feed your interests, growth and soul. Make the commitment to read. Determine the specific time and place and make an appointment with yourself. If you don't make it a part of your overall plan, the tyranny of the urgent will rule and your future will lose.
Also, go to conferences that will stimulate your creativity or give you insight into what some of the top people in your niche are doing. Rub shoulders with the best. There's an old proverb that says, "Iron sharpens iron." Sharpen yourself by not only getting around some of the best in the country, but check notes with those in attendance and learn from those in the trenches, just like you.
Maybe you need to pursue a new educational degree or increase your credentials. If you don't have the ChFC or CFP, why not go earn them? What you will learn in the process will challenge you to sharpen your edge. That's right! You have an edge, so the question you have to ask yourself is, "Am I as sharp as I could be?" You are either going forward or going backward -- there is no neutral in personal and professional growth.
6. Own it!
Of course you own your business, right? Well, maybe. Or maybe you have a tendency to blame your failures on everyone and everything but you. You won't believe how many agents I sit with who tell me they haven't been successful because of all the people who have taken advantage of or manipulated them in the past.
If you really want to own your business, it's not about the money, it's about the responsibility. Whose is it? When it comes right down to it, who is responsible for your success in business? Get the answer to that question right and you are well on your way to using all your talents on your way to the top.
Instead of blame, try the power of personal choice. Choose to own your success. It's a choice we all make every day.
7. Market at least five different ways
This is central to business growth. A one-dog show will inevitably collapse. Having more than one way to prospect ensures that if a monthly seminar bombs, you have four other avenues of success working.
The math involved in this will seem a little odd. One plus one will equal three, two plus two will equal ten, and three plus three is exponential. Let me explain. If you only market one way, you will only receive what that one way will bring in. Yet, if you add a second marketing approach, it will directly impact the success of the first, thus enhancing those results. So, if you do a seminar mailing in an area that you drip-mail, have a recent client party and go to lunch the week before with two A-list clients who will remember to bring friends, then your seminar will fill up with not just responders, but with actual, qualified prospects. And if your clients' friends see your seminar invitation along with the drip mailing, and your client's testimony about how great you are, they will tell their friends. Add to that a client dinner and a movie party and the word about this "great advisor" in the community starts to spread like wildfire. Think focus-group marketing.
8. Service your clients.
I alluded to this earlier when I said that being available is a must, yet there's more. It's not just about getting a withdrawal, readjusting a portfolio, making beneficiary changes, and forms, forms and more forms. Service is an incredibly effective opportunity to build a trusting relationship with your clients. Relationship-building is what the top advisors in the country understand as essential to their success. They believe that business is relational top to bottom, and the better the relationships, the more the business prospers.
There are those, of course, that are short-sighted and are constantly in "client acquisition" mode. They churn-and-burn clients consistently and without conscience. You have to decide what you want to be -- a churn-and-burn artist or a trusted advisor. The key? Servanthood! It seems like a contradiction -- being a servant in order to be at the top -- but it's really the path to success. After all, a great teacher once said, "The greatest of you is the servant of all."
9. Get a professional coach.
Are you teachable? Professionals have coaches. It's that simple. There are so many choices for a coach these days that there is little reason not to have one. So, the question is, why don't you have one?
A coach can encourage, train, inspire and, if they're good, even tell you the things you need to hear. They will assist you in goal and vision planning, finding your strengths and talents, implementing your plans and accomplishing your dreams. You will work smarter, not harder, and find time for the more important things in your life. Go ahead, invest in your company's most valuable asset -- you. Get a coach today.
10. When the going gets tough, lay another brick.
I know this sounds a little out there, but hang with me for a minute. In the Old Testament, there's a book about a guy named Nehemiah who was asked to rebuild the walls of Old Jerusalem after the nation had been conquered and taken away to a different country. Nehemiah faced opposition from his enemies and from those who were supposed to be helping him. So what did he do when the going got tough? He simply laid another brick. Sounds a little trite, but think about it in these terms: If, when you are the most discouraged and feeling lost, you simply go on to the next appointment, make the next phone call and see the next prospect, you will eventually work yourself out of the blues. Keep doing what you're supposed to do and don't give in to negative emotions.
11. Develop a war chest for hard times.
I really hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you haven't ever had a slump, one is coming right around the corner. OK, that sounds pretty pessimistic, but it's true. I don't know what it's going to be. Maybe it's a set of seminars that bomb, a few weeks where marketing efforts yield no results, or maybe some unexpected health problems keep you out of the hunt for a little while. Again, I don't know what it is or when it will happen, but you need to be prepared for hard times.
I can't tell you how many agents I've seen who've experienced initial success only to spend their money as fast as they earn it. Then trouble hits and they don't have a reserve to handle it. It's hard to see at first. When things are going well, it's easy to believe that there you will never see anything less than the success you are currently experiencing. It's a vision problem. You can't see it right now, so you don't plan for it. Big mistake!
So, what's the answer? Build a war chest. Save a portion of what you earn so that you could continue your business for at least six months if something happened. This will take some discipline, planning and maybe a little delayed gratification. In other words, buying that new car, SUV or home can wait until you have your business secured, so that when you do purchase those dream items, they won't add to the pressure of the next hard time.
12. Always have a plan.
One of the sure-fire pathways to discouragement is working as hard as you can and not knowing why. Always have a plan. Sit down some morning and write out some simple 3-year, 1-year, 6-month, 3-month, 1-month, 1-week and 1-day plans. When you know where you're headed, each day is just a step closer to your dream.
Developing a vision and goals for the long haul can be incredibly rewarding and life giving for each day. Simply start with where you would like to be three years from now in your business, personal and family life, and then work backwards in measurable increments until you arrive at tomorrow. Suddenly, tomorrow looks brighter.
Make sure your goals are measurable and doable; yet also make BHAG-type plans (big hairy audacious goals.) You can always make adjustments, but you have to have a plan to adjust in the first place. So, go ahead and have some fun making your plan and then be sure and work your plan.
13. Goal-set behaviors.
Once you make your plans (goals), behaviors are what make them happen. They are the specific activities that you will do day-by-day and week-by-week that lead to goal accomplishment. Phone calls to prospects and clients, appointments, prospecting, training, strategic partner meetings -- all are behaviors that you need to quantify to reach your goals. Let me give you a hypothetical example. If you want to sell $5 million in premium in the next year, and you average $75,000 per sale, you will need 67 sales. If you close at a rate of 40 percent, you will need to have 168 real appointments. With a 30 percent appointment fall-off rate from seminar leads, then you will need 240 scheduled appointments. If your average appointment batch from a set of seminars is 24, you will need 10 sets. That doesn't include other prospecting behaviors that could net you referrals, which will make your overall goals a lot easier and less expensive to reach.
What are the behaviors? They are the seminars given, invitations sent out, follow-up phone calls, actual appointments, letters sent to new clients, applications taken and more that will carry you to success.
14. Return to the basics often.
When I started doing dinner seminars, my first three were very successful, netting me an average of $60,000 apiece. So, I thought the fourth would be the same when I was able to get more than 25 scheduled appointments. I went on the appointments and one by one, I struck out. I couldn't figure it out until I was down to my last real prospect. The problem was that I got away from my five-step system and just expected people to roll over and give me a check with their application at the door. It didn't happen. It took me five appointments and six weeks to finally close $110,000 of premium in an annuity that only covered the cost of the seminar.
I need to stay in my system and improve on it regularly if I'm going to succeed. I have a tendency (and love) for just winging it. So, I need to stay disciplined and make every single appointment count.
Vince Lombardi said the team who blocks and tackles the best will win the football game. Under his rule, it was back to the basics every day for the Green Bay Packers. What did it net him? Why do you think they name the little item the NFL gives to the winning team in the Super Bowl the Lombardi Trophy?
15. Be part of a team.
Last, but certainly not least, learn to be part of a team. You will find the support and rewards of being part of a larger family much more satisfying than being a Lone Ranger (even he had Tonto). Who will you call for help with a difficult case, or another idea for income solutions, or when one of your favorite clients passes away? Who will you call to do your end-zone dance with when you make a huge sale? Who will you go to when you're discouraged and need someone to tell you you're a ten? Who `ya gonna call?
You need a team! It's a lot more fun... unless you can relate to your breakfast cereal in the morning.
So, that's it. Fifteen ways to grow your business. I'm sure there's more, and there's more that can be written about each of these 15, but then you wouldn't have time to actually do some of them. Well then, get going.
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