Seven strategies to help you get to the top and stay there

By Bill Cates

Referral Coach


Throughout the last 15 years of working in the financial services industry, I've had the opportunity to interview and study many top producers. This article is devoted to seven strategies that you can employ in order to get to the top and stay there. The better you can master each strategy, the more likely that you will achieve and retain top producer status.

No.1: Commit to building a referral-based business

Study after study has proven without a doubt that the primary way your next great client would like to meet you is through a referral. And now, with the popularity of the national do-not-call registry, referrals (especially introductions) have become more important than ever. Don't dabble in referrals. Master referrals. Work to become more referable by bringing a valuable process followed up by great service. Network strategically with centers of influence. Ask for referrals from satisfied clients. Create a reputation for yourself in a narrow target market.

No. 2: Understand who fits your business and who doesn't

Of course, as you mature in this business, your ideal client profile will evolve over time. But at every step of the way, you should be crystal clear on who fits your business and who doesn't. You need to be willing to say "no" to prospects who aren't a good match, or work with an associate who is better suited to their situation. Make sure your centers of influence know your Ideal Client Profile so they only refer prospects who are a good match.

No. 3: Deliver value first, make the sale second

Most companies I work with say they are "process-driven" when it comes to bringing value to their prospects and clients. The truth is, however, that most of these companies have a process that's designed to help convert a prospect into a client -- to sell a financial plan or a financial product. If you want to stand out from your competition, have a process that's designed to deliver a valuable experience to the prospect first. If you provide a valuable experience, they'll want to become your client and give you referrals.

No. 4: Take a leadership role with your clients

Most people put off making the right financial choices for themselves. Take a leadership role with your clients by using your confidence and conviction in the work you do to make sure your clients are following your advice -- now, not later. Sometimes, you have to push. Sometimes, nudge. Sometimes, cajole. Two years ago, my financial advisor cornered me on a golf course with an application for LTCI because I had been procrastinating for over six months. He could get away with that because we have a good relationship, and he knows I sometimes need a push. I appreciate his leadership.

No. 5: Establish credibility with your prospects and clients

Part of any sales relationship is credibility. There are many ways for you to gain credibility. Your professional credentials help some. Working from referrals is a huge advantage. Hosting a radio show is also huge. You can publish a book or booklet that demonstrates your expertise. Hosting seminars where you demonstrate your knowledge and creativity makes a difference. Work on building your stock pile of credibility, so people trust you more quickly and take your advice more willingly.

No. 6: Focus on what you do the best. Hire assistants to do the rest.

I went through the Strategic Coach Program taught by Dan Sullivan. One of many things I learned from this program was to focus on my unique abilities, and hire others to supplement my weaknesses. By focusing on what I do the best and what I really like to do (which are usually one in the same), I'm most productive and do the most good for my business. I'm building a "unique ability" business, where everyone can work at what they enjoy and are good at. This way, we get maximum productivity and enjoy our work.

No. 7: Take time to rejuvenate. It's mandatory.

Most entrepreneurs and salespeople tend to work really hard and then reward themselves with time off. I subscribe to a totally opposite view. I've found that I'm at my best and most productive when I take time to rejuvenate first. Rejuvenation should not be a reward for hard work; it's a prerequisite for creative work. I came to a realization last spring. Whoever decided we needed two days to recuperate from five was wrong. We need three days to recuperate from 4. So, I've pledged the rest of my working life to four-day weeks. Of course, I won't pull that off every week, but I have the last 18 out of 20 weeks. Business has never been better, and I get more done in a shorter period of time. Try it.

Are these all the strategies one can employ to get to the top and stay there? Of course not. I could have focused on the benefits of targeting a niche market. I could have mentioned strategic alliance and centers of influence. I could have covered the value of using business coaches. I've covered these strategies in past articles, and will likely do so again in the future.

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