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February, 2011
Why is greatness reserved for so few?

Achieving greatness has very little to do with talent and a lot to do with hard work.  That’s why so few Advisors become great.  It’s too demanding and it takes too long.  As time passes, most Advisors stop developing their skills and stop getting better.  Most people in any walk of life eventually abandon the quest for greatness.  They conclude they don’t have what it takes.  Some people, however, stay motivated and continue to improve throughout their careers.  Nobody really knows why some people are more motivated than others.  My conclusion is that people with concrete goals and dreams of success feel more motivated than those who drift along aimlessly.

I can think of a lot of reasons why so many Financial Advisors fail the business, let alone fail to achieve greatness.  Let’s talk about the top reasons why and discuss ways to avoid those shortcomings.

Poor planning: Time management is a major issue in our industry.  The more you can delegate and automate, the more time you will free up to be in front of clients and prospective clients.  The amount of time you spend marketing yourself this year will determine how much your business will grow next year.  We all know that work expands to fill time.  But we also know that we could do in a half-day what we normally spend a day doing.  Too many of us fail to plan out our day.  The end of the day comes and we haven’t prospected one bit.  Anyone who has ever gotten successful has done so by implementing and following a plan.  Not having a plan is an excuse to fail.

To wit, I have met very few Financial Advisors who have written a business plan, never mind a marketing plan.  I hear very few mission statements.

A business plan is simply the path you will follow to achieve your goals.  A marketing plan will determine who you plan to approach, their specific financial needs, why this particular market makes sense to you, and how and when you plan to approach these folks. 

Lack of concrete goals: Goals are a concrete way to measure your progress.  "I'm going to earn more money next year" is not a goal.  It's a desire and desires cannot be measured.  Concrete goals and the time you plan to achieve them are very measureable.  Make your goals magnetic, so they pull you toward them; and make them achievable.   Think of goals as mile markers on a long journey to a specific location.  The mile markers measure your progress.  They let you know you are heading in the right direction and you are making progress on your way to achieving your objective.  Brian Tracy is right when he says that a goal not written down is not a goal.  It’s a fantasy.

Fear of rejection: If I pointed out a wealthy couple and offered you $100,000 to walk up and say hello, would you? Actually, $100,000 is probably less than you'd earn from a wealthy person who became a client and a center of influence. While fear of rejection may have to do with shyness, it ultimately stems from a poor self-image. 

Poor verbal skills: It is here where simplicity becomes so important.  Saying the words is not the same as telling the story.  You don't need a hundred sales ideas. Get two or three sales ideas and tell them over and over and over until you're so good you're great at it.
Poor selling skills: Whenever you are speaking with a client or a prospective client, be it for the purpose of exchanging ideas or developing a relationship, some form of selling is taking place.  You are selling yourself and your ideas.  Too many Advisors don’t know how to sell.  They never get good at it because they just don’t like to sell.  It never occurs to them that the highest paid Advisors are the best sales people.   

Poor powers of persuasion: This is a tough business in normal times, let alone lately.  You are asking strangers to ignite their trust in you and reignite their trust in the system.  Without passionate persuasion, this is not going to happen. 

Poor relationship building skills: As Advisors we have to decide if we want to manage money or manage relationships.  Today’s clients want a lot more than just profits.  We don’t have a relationship with a car salesman.  We have the car.  The result of what you’re selling will not manifest itself for years.  There is no immediate satisfaction in a long term plan.  That person will not go along with you unless he or she likes you and trusts you.  He also must think that what you are recommending is in his best interest.  Too many Advisors are impatient and do not want to wait the years it sometimes takes to establish trust.  They quit.

Not referable:  It is imperative that an Advisor’s self-image reflects both his or her positive attitude and importance.  People respond to authority. It is therefore critical that you are seen as an expert in the world of financial planning.  Would you want to do business with you? Do you like the way you look? Do you wear the best clothes possible? Is your appearance as neat as it could possibly be? Are you the most enthusiastic person you know?  Do you believe in yourself? 
No repeatable process: For some strange reason, Financial Advisors don’t feel the need to practice.  Yet we all know that elite athletes practice the same amount every day, seven days a week.  And we know that pays off because sports produce measurable results.  Consistency is non-negotiable in this business.   The Advisors who don’t believe in a repeatable process would do well to read The Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and The Supernova Advisor by Rob Knapp.

Poor decision making: Decisions drive actions.  Actions produce results.  Those who make poor decisions will not last.  We have to prospect the right people in a smart, business-like fashion.  We must spend wisely our monies set aside for marketing.  We must come to grips with reality when we have spent too much time chasing a prospective client.
All of these traps are avoidable.  Greatness is there for anyone willing to invest the time, patience and practice.  The first step to greatness is deciding to become great.  The second step is to seek help.  It’s okay to ask for help.  Get a trainer, get a coach or get both if it makes sense.  Training involves showing and telling someone how to do something.  Coaching involves asking a person questions in order to enhance that person’s skills.  If you know your job well and just want to sharpen your skills, you need a coach.  If you are not yet good at what you do, you need a trainer.  The third step to greatness is to refine what Steve Scherbarth calls our ‘core competency.’ 

As Steve said in a ‘Don With’ interview last year, our core competency is talking: in front of clients, on the telephone, at seminars, etal.    If you work fifty hours per week for fifty weeks per year and earn $100,000, you are earning $40 per hour.  Yet, you probably spend no more than 30% of your time at your core competency.  Of the 2500 hours you work in any given year, generally no more than 750 of those hours are spent in front of clients and prospective clients, your main and only revenue source.  The good news is that 750 hours invested by you can generate $100,000 per year, or $133 per hour.  The better news is that there are several things you can do to improve those numbers.

By learning how to run a more efficient business, proper training will allow you to get that 30% up to 70%.  With time spent at your core competency worth $133 per hour, your income will be more than $230,000.   

If the time you spend in front of clients and prospective clients is not going to grow, you can always improve your prospecting skills, your verbal skills and your selling skills. Proper coaching will ensure that.

Or you can do both, the best of all worlds.

Get out there and build yourself a repeatable process.  Sharpen your skills until they are second to none.  It may be possible to be born with innate talent.  It is impossible to be born with innate skills.  Skills must be developed over time. 

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