The Secret to Your True Potential Is Fried Chicken

(Photo: Thinkstock) (Photo: Thinkstock)

I was at a conference once, and the speaker there—Don Barden (author of the Perfect Plan)—talked about the key factor that separates the top 1% of advisors from the rest.

He said that the average advisor, a member of the 99%, compared his or her performance to that of his or her peers. The top advisors looked around, saw how they were doing relative to other advisors, and used that to measure their success and their ability.

(Related: Rethink Your First Client Meeting and Go Digital)

The top 1%, the speaker said, did not look around them for a reference point. They looked inward and measured themselves against their own potential. That was the ultimate separator, the factor that either drove elite performance or lead to complacency. The challenge of recognizing your true potential, however, is a part introspection and part industry awareness, but realizing that potential is something else entirely. Concluding that you can get to the top of the mountain is one thing, but figuring out how to get there is another.

So what do the best in the world do?

In many cases, they seek out experts who can help them find the path, either by drawing it out or by clearly identifying where their biggest opportunity for growth lies.

This principle can apply whether you are selling annuities, life insurance, supplemental health products or… fried chicken.

Chick-fil-a, all potential politics aside, has built a powerful brand in the fast food world, and the process that they used to reach that point is relevant for all businesses, including advisors. While comparing serving fried chicken to advising clients might seem like a stretch, the best practice is one that we can learn a lot from.

Before Chick-fil-a was the megabrand it is today, the company worried it would become “another fast food company.” Samuel Cathy, the founder of Chick-fil-a believed that his business had the potential to rise above his competitors. The product quality was high. The restaurants were clean and bright. But he wasn’t seeing the response from customers that suggested they too believed that Chick-fil-a was on a level above the rest.

Cathy looked to a brand that he admired, and he asked their team to evaluate his business. That brand was Ritz Carlton (and you can read the entirety of this story in the book It’s My Pleasure).

Again, we are looking at two seemingly different businesses—a global luxury hotel and a fast food chain—but Cathy was adamant that his brand could inspire the same level of customer satisfaction and loyalty as a Ritz Carlton; he just wasn’t sure what he was missing. The Ritz Carlton team did their research, and one of the suggestions they came back with seems counter-intuitive at first.

They suggested that Chick-fil-a employees stop telling customers “thank you.”

Confused man (Photo: Thinkstock)

(Photo: Thinkstock)

Saying “thank you” turned the restaurant into a transactional experience, and suggested a definitive conclusion to the relationship. The customer makes an order, hands over money, gets their food, the cashier says, “Thank you,” and that’s where the relationship ends. Ritz Carlton said that was a mistake. Instead, if Chick-fil-a employees said “My pleasure” the way Ritz Carlton employees do, the tone of the interaction shifts. Now it’s open-ended and ongoing.

(Related: How to: Over-the-Top Customer Service)

Chick-fil-a ran with this, and now has a uniquely customer-centric relationship approach that has produced major rewards. To give you an idea of how far this goes, imagine in your mind what a fast food training video would look like (maybe you had to sit in the supply closet and watch one at your first job) and then watch the Chick-fil-a take on training videos. It’s radically different.

The point here is not for you to say “my pleasure” every time you work with a client. Instead, the point is think more about your true potential and seek out the help you need to identify the opportunities that will help you reach that potential. You as a self-evaluator can only go so far. You have the ultimate bias, and you can never know what you don’t know until you seek out help. Recognizing that potential is the first step. Finding someone to help you realize it is the second.

In our world, this might mean working with a business coach or a CEO coach. It could mean having an elite mentor who challenges your thinking and offers you advice. It could be working with a marketing or appointment setting firm who consistently feeds you new opportunities and new ideas.

When you see your true potential and actively engage experts who can get you there, you put yourself on the path to being part of that top 1% of advisors, the kind who are on the stage sharing their stories versus being in the audience taking notes.

--- Read Luck Is Where Opportunity Meets Preparation on ThinkAdvisor.

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