By DANNY O’CONNELL
Like many young advisors, I began my career focused solely on attracting new clients. Since this was not my first job out of college, I knew I struggled with the follow-up. This led me to develop several simple methods to improve my sales strategy and better build my business. By recognizing your pain points early on, you’ll be able to maximize success for yourself and your practice.
Discover Your Blind Spots
It’s just as important to identify your weaknesses as it is to play up your strengths. I’ve found that investing in several different personality assessment tests is a great way to kick-start your personal and professional development. If you’re unsure where to start, try a few well-known tests such as Kolbe, DISC and Myers & Briggs. These are a great way to discover your strengths and pinpoint areas of improvement.
Another way to gain honest feedback is to request it from peers and clients. Ask your coworkers if they see any room for improvement in your day-to-day work, or ask clients if there’s any way you could enhance their experience. If you find a veteran advisor to serve as a mentor, run prospect calls or scenarios by them for their feedback. Chances are, with an outsider’s perspective, you’ll discover blind spots you never knew you had.
Process Around Your Weaknesses
Once you know your weaknesses, you need to put processes in place to work around them. For example, I knew my follow-up with prospects needed help, so I established a simple method to help remind me. Immediately after an initial meeting, I would schedule a follow-up call in my Microsoft Outlook calendar one to two weeks out. If an appointment or reminder was on my calendar for the day, I knew it would get done. Seeing a full to-do list on my calendar every day helped me stay organized and focused, and it also helped me turn more prospects into clients.
After a while, my calendar was full so I had to switch to Outlook Tasks. As my business grew, I had to again adjust my strategy to incorporate a helpful Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. CRMs like SalesForce or SmartOffice keep your contacts, email templates, detailed notes and more all in one place, and they can help cut down on missed opportunities or lost paperwork. Since there are many layers and capabilities within these platforms, make sure to do more than just demo the CRM. Research the tool, read industry reviews and ask the provider questions like, “Who will help me set this platform up?” or “Where do other advisors struggle to use the platform and what do they like about it?” Feel free to even ask for three customer referrals to hear it from the source. Asking about the good, the bad and the ugly will help you determine which CRM can most efficiently support you.
As your practice grows, use recruitment as an opportunity to build a team that complements each other and fill your weakness gaps. Rather than hiring employees who are similar to you, hire those who bring diverse skillsets different from your own. When recruiting, drill down on job descriptions and be clear about the strengths you are seeking so you attract the right candidates. To ensure you recruit a well-rounded team you can also implement a simple personality test into your interviewing process.
Don’t Make Excuses, Make Changes
Since there’s no guarantee the methods that worked in the past will be successful in the future, make sure your practice’s established processes constantly evolve. Host weekly meetings with your team and encourage open and honest discussion about problem areas and potential solutions. It’s helpful to conduct internal quarterly and annual reviews as well, since these will allow your team to regularly assess and adjust individual and collective procedures as needed.
The most important thing to remember is to never be complacent. Since we work in an industry that’s constantly changing, there are always new solutions to old problems. For example, my team and I used to spend a lot of time traveling from client to client, and we’d often sit for hours in traffic. We recently reevaluated how inefficient this method was and began incorporating virtual meetings into our practice. Once we identified the weakness and implemented a solution, our productivity doubled. By recognizing what needs to change and how you can change it, you may be able to kick-start your practice five years ahead.
Danny O’Connell, a Qualifying and Life MDRT member with six Top of the Table honors, started in the financial services industry in 2001. The founder and CEO of Next Level Insurance Agency, Danny has over 25 published articles, speaks internationally and has served as a Fox News Radio healthcare consultant for numerous local affiliates. In 2014, Danny was named by Advisor Today a 4 Under 40 Award winner.