From the November 2015 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

What Advisors Should Do Every Day to Succeed

Develop a strategy, and then execute it by taking some daily time to plan

Illustration: Brian Stauffer/© theispot.com Illustration: Brian Stauffer/© theispot.com

I started my business Nov. 11, 1977, 38 years ago this month.

After training tens of thousands of advisors over these 38 years, there have been many lessons learned. They range from cold calling, to product presentation, to dripping, to team building. But before any of these comes planning.

Plan your growth strategy and then spend some time planning every day.

Of all the lessons, business and personal planning is, in my opinion, the most important and most fragile. As some sage noted, “Without a plan, you wind up somewhere.”

It does not necessarily follow that a plan guarantees success. However, a good plan, faithfully executed, comes as close as anything I know.

A few years ago, a very senior branch manager at one of the national firms asked me, “How long have you been doing this?”

When I told him, he said, “We don't let anyone do the same job for more than two years.” True enough.

Well, I’ve been doing the same thing for a lot longer than two years. By staying the course, I have been able to piece together the success puzzle.

Key pieces involve planning.

Develop a Strategy

How many times have I heard, “It worked so well I quit doing it”?

The greats in this industry develop a strategy that works and stick to it until they find a better one.

They always have a growth strategy. They deeply understand the business not growing is either at its high water mark or, more realistically, on its way down.

Before we get into strategies that do work, let's see if I can put one to sleep, at least for now: the “Social Media Strategy.”

This is a deathtrap for advisors with too much money to spend.

If you think you can build your business today with social media, you are dreaming.

I know of no instances, as in zero, nada, zip, where an advisor is building a business through social media.

Countless advisors have sipped or even drunk a deep draught of the social media Kool-Aid, and then … nothing.

Today, in this market at this time, social media does not generate new business.

People don't look for financial advisors … or dentists, or attorneys, or any other brand of professional services by searching the Web. They instead research advisors that have been referred or approached them.

That, and that alone today, is the reason why you need a good Web presence.

Your Web presence is: (1) a website. This promotes you and your team. (2) LinkedIn. This is your online résumé. (3) Facebook. This features YOU, your family and your community involvement.

The three sites together are your online brag wall.

One final point: please, no pictures on your website of old people. Some Web designer somewhere decided that old people wanted to look at pictures of old people.

As soon as you can, get rid of them.

You are not selling old people, especially an old couple wearing white, walking on the beach with their grandkids, also wearing white.

You are selling yourself.

But spend a lot of money on social media? SEO? Please don't. If you get the urge, take out your checkbook. Write a check payable to me. Send it to me. I will cash the check. I will spend the money. I will be better off. You will not be worse off. So there will be a net social gain. Just don't do it.

So what is your strategy?

Let's call it “Referrals Plus.”

Every financial advisor wants to lay down, mouth open, and wait for the referral manna from heaven to drop. It just doesn't work that way.

“Referrals Only” ONLY works when you have a large client base, do a great job, and engage your clients with events and mailings.

Almost every advisor needs a strategy in addition to referrals.

Hence the name, “Referrals Plus.”

Your choices today are:

  1. Referrals Plus Cold Calling. Yes, it still works today. Like it or not, for most rookies, it is the only strategy.

  2. Referrals Plus Seminars. Yes, seminars also work today. If you have some money to spend, are a decent public speaker, consider seminars. It's faster than cold calling.

  3. Referrals Plus Direct Mail. You have to be good at it and stick to it, but direct mail can work.

  4. Referrals Plus Introductions. Ask clients to introduce you to people you know they know.

  5. Referrals Plus Strategic Partners. A few real strategic partners can bring you tens of millions in AUM a year.

  6. Referrals Plus Networking. Build a deep list of people you know that you would like to do business with.

The mass marketing strategy that got you in the game won't necessarily keep you there.

One strategy fades into the next. But you never are without a strategy.

Plan Your Day

To implement a strategy requires daily planning.

It's also how you get focused.

By taking some time every day to plan, you are not just planning. You are programming the most powerful supercomputer in the world to find solutions, organize resources and deliver bright ideas.

Do it. Set aside 30 minutes in the morning and work on your plan.

Now what do I mean by work on?

Clarify the tasks you want to accomplish. Assign priorities. Get them in sequence. Write clarifying statements. Research them on the Web if possible.

By writing them clearly you are clarifying in your mind.

If you give that supercomputer vague instructions, it just spins through vast amounts of thoughts, facts, wishes, losses and past successes.

Tell it, “I want to dominate my market by affiliating with and supporting 10 local charities.” Now it can go to work because you have given it specific, not woozy instructions.

Here are some tricks I have learned lately.

Get an app to manage your tasks. I have settled on a cloud-based app, Todo Cloud, to keep my tasks organized. It's available on iOS or Android. For a few dollars a year, you can log into their cloud on your PC or Mac, organize the different projects you are working on into lists, prioritize those tasks, and then focus on what you MUST accomplish today. Use your phone or tablet to refer to your focus list.

This app has a very, very important function for me.

Ideas pop into my mind any time during the day.

If I don't write them down and get them into Todo, they are lost and gone forever.

If I am at my computer working on a project and an idea pops up, I send an email to my Todo App. If I am out and about, I can set a reminder with Siri. A simple adjustment in my preferences for Siri enabled me to send my reminders to Todo Cloud, not Apple's iCloud.

Thirty minutes or so planning your day and then perhaps a couple of hours on the weekend creates focus. That alone should nearly double your productivity.

Organize Your Day

I call it the “Model Day.” It's the difference between a reactive and proactive day. You divide the time during the day into blocks. During that block you ONLY do one thing — call clients, cold call, investment research, financial planning or whatever. At the end of that block, you force yourself to move on to the next block.

The blocks need to add up to all the activities necessary to grow a business.

Miss one (call clients is a common missed activity) and your business will stagnate. Growing a business requires lots of ingredients. Your plan is the recipe.

There you have it.

Get a strategy. Plan it. Organize your day so you can deploy it.

--- More by Bill Good on ThinkAdvisor:

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