Create an impactful practice
By Jules Gaudreau
As financial services professionals, there are a number of things that are simply out of our control – the stock market, real estate market, interest rates and so on. But you can control your activities, and manage and motivate the activities and behaviors of your staff.
I’ve been in this business for 30 years and my practice management techniques have evolved over time. I speak regularly to young advisors about incorporating many of my business practices at little to no cost because there are ways around the limited resources available to new agents.
I subscribe to the idea that a person in a professional practice or a business owner simply can’t do 4,000 things right. It’s much more realistic that six to 10 items can be accomplished effectively. If you place emphasis on those six to 10 things 4,000 times a year instead, you’ll be amazed at how impactful you can be. You will likely develop a great deal of expertise in your focus areas.
The way I conduct my business revolves around a philosophy I call my “impact zones” – focusing on a few key areas myself, and delegating everything else as necessary. For example, I dedicate an hour each per week to business development, organization development, training issues, technology and community service activities. In addition, several hours are put aside during my work week for service issues, and a couple hours more are focused on carrier and industry matters. By structuring my time in this manner, I ensure that each and every week I’m taking care of my “impact zones” — nothing is left hanging week after week.
To keep this process in place and enhance my efficiency to actually make sales, I put an appointment in my schedule each week to sit down with the corresponding staff member handling an impact zone. Planned meetings are certainly much more effective than just letting things happen here and there. And, rather than interrupting me throughout the week, my staff members know they each have a designated time in place to speak with me. As a result, I am able to commit the rest of my time to prospecting, selling, servicing my clients or personal activities.
For newer producers, it might be advantageous to devote one day per week — I recommend Friday — to all housekeeping items so that the other four can be utilized strictly for what I refer to as important high value activities such as phone prospecting, obtaining referrals, networking and dropping in on prospects.
While I’ve learned that controlling how you spend your time is very important in this business, I find it equally critical to have a measurement system in place within my practice. By “inspecting what I expect,” my staff develops a strong respect for the numbers I find compelling. In other words, they respect what I inspect and measure. I’ve found there’s an overwhelming assumption that if something isn’t being measured, it’s because it’s not important. So, my team calculates how many calls come into our practice, how many of those are converted, and then how many are up-sold or cross-sold, for example.
We also track how many calls it takes to make a certain number of appointments. There are four departments in my practice: personal property/casualty, commercial property/casualty, employee benefits and financial services. Each department manager measures these numbers each week. The data is then published office-wide so each staff member can see what is being reported. This process is not only effective at keeping us organized and accountable, it’s a great motivating tool as well.
Whether you’re a young agent just starting out or a seasoned veteran, ongoing sales training should be practiced at every phase of your career. Studying things like body language, different personality types, vocal nuances, even determining whether your clients respond best to audio-visual or kinestetic stimuli, will not only help you win more business, it will strengthen your client relationships. Formal sales training is a fundamental element of my practice, as is role-playing, not only before a client appointment but after as well.
Whether we win or lose business, we must know why. Each staff member must know our mission and be able to articulate our value proposition. At a time when so much is unpredictable, take the time to build and reinforce your foundation. Invest in your practice, and clients will invest in you.