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Tis The Season To Set Goals

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Most people agree there is no better time to think about setting goals than the beginning of a new year. Its also a time when insurance agents are busy evaluating what they did the previous year and looking to create success in the next 12 months.

Agents goals cover the spectrum. Some decide to enter new markets. Others may want to hire a new assistant or qualify for the Million Dollar Round Table or a prestigious company award. While some just want more time off.

Joseph St. Pedro, president of St. Pedro & Associates Financial Services in Royersford, Pa., revisits his goals every year and breaks them down–right to the point of knowing how many phone calls he has to make to reach them.

“In 2001, every time I picked up the phone it was worth $421.43, whether the person answered the phone or not. Last year, it was worth $542.85,” he explains.

For 2003, St. Pedro plans on adding 15% to his sales volume, across all lines of business. According to St. Pedro, its important to spread your production across a number of different product lines. And while he may not achieve a 15% increase in every product line he offers, he says they should all balance out–as they did for him in 2002.

“Last September I was ahead on variable products by about 7%, but in October it started to slack off. I was thinking things werent going so well until I saw that my fixed business was up 300%,” he says.

When setting his goals, St. Pedro says its important to break them up into different categories–otherwise you may be overwhelmed. He sets short-term, long-term and personal goals every year.

Some of his short-term goals include: reaching Top of the Table, being one of the top four producers with his broker-dealer, and adding one estate-planning case per quarter from someone with a net worth of $4 million or more.

As part of his five-year plan, his long-term goals include what he wants his business to be worth and the amount of assets under management he would like.

By breaking his short-term goals down exactly to how many calls he needs to make every day, he feels that all his goals will fall into place. “If I make those phone calls every week and see that many people, somethings going to come out of it,” he says.

Frank DeFederico of Financial Directions Inc., in Toronto, Ont., Canada, recently changed the way he looks at setting goals. “I used to gear everything to dollars and cents, but I decided I wanted to do what was important to me,” he explains. “And its important to me to work less.”

First, DeFederico decides how many days he wants to work a year, then he determines how much income he wants to earn, and, like St. Pedro, breaks it down to a daily production level.

For example, DeFederico explains that if he wants to work 100 days this year and make $200,000 of first-year commissions, he knows he needs to average $2,000 in first-year commissions every workday.

“If I dont earn it, then thats fine, but I keep track of it,” he says.

DeFederico keeps track of his production by using the One Card System, an agent activity management system published by The National Underwriter Company. Hes been using the One Card System since 1973.

“I continually stay on top of it. If I see myself shifting off, then I know why because of the One Card System. Its usually because Im not making enough calls. Or, if I am making enough calls, then Im not making enough appointments, which means I had better start rehearsing what I say on the phone again to get my appointments,” he explains.

Last year, DeFederico planned on having 90 workdays; he actually worked 91. This year, hes set the same goal of 90 workdays.

But the veteran producer explains that hes only able to do this because hes established a large client base, and a lot of his new business comes by referral.

New producers, he says, “have got to take a look at the dollars coming in and the number of days they want to workits not going to be 90; its probably going to be closer to 200 or more.”

By setting goals and progressively increasing them, DeFederico feels new agents will be on their way to success. This may sound like nothing new, but according to DeFederico, “The business itself has changed, but the work habits have not.”

While many agents have set goals around production levels or taking time off, Cheryl Johnsons goal is to make a change in the way she conducts her practice.

Johnson, a planner with Sutter, Johnson and Associates, a financial advisory branch of American Express Financial Advisors, Rochester, N.Y., wants to move toward a fee-based planning business model. “Its definitely the number one goal for 2003,” she says.

Johnsons practice involves a lot of comprehensive financial planning, which may include annually reviewing wills, beneficiary designations, and even the best way to refinance a home. She explains that a lot of what shes doing is not product-based.

“Its things people need to talk about and review periodically, but theres no commission,” she says.

Johnson has taken a good look at her business model and has begun making this transition over the last couple of quarters. So far its been well received, she says. “It makes you wonder why you waited so long.”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 20, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.