Do you ever feel stressed out, overwhelmed or inefficient? Do you come home at night to your family, your most important client, feeling exhausted and irritable? Most will answer “yes” to those questions at some point in their career. I was answering “yes” to those questions too often, so I decided to do something about it.
You can transform your practice from a highly stressful, chaotic practice into a well-structured, lower-stress operation with well-defined parameters.
Key #1: Create a perfect day. Ask yourself: When am I most energetic, happy and enthusiastic? Am I a morning person or an afternoon person? How long do my appointments take? How much time do I need between appointments to dictate case notes and get to my next appointment? Where do I want to see people: my office, their office, their house, a restaurant? How many people can I see per day and efficiently process into my system? When do I want to be home at night? Answering all these questions will allow you to see people when you are at your best, when you want to see them, where you want to see them, and how many you want to and can see in a day.
Heres how it works for me. I am a morning person. I get up between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. depending on the day. My appointments last about one hour. I need 30 minutes between appointments to dictate case notes and get to the next appointment. I prefer to see new prospects either in their office or at a restaurant, current clients at my office or theirs, and initial closes at my office. My operation can efficiently process up to six people per day. I want to be home every night for dinner with my family by 6 p.m.
Therefore, I have set up my perfect day with appointment times at 7 a.m., 8:30 a.m., 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m. and 4 p.m. This allows me to see the majority of my clients/prospects when I am at my best–in the morning. This also allows me to see people in the afternoon, if I want, or to schedule other noncritical activities at that time. Most importantly, this allows me to be home every night with my family.
On Monday morning from 7:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., I meet with my assistant to review case preparation for the week, discuss any underwriting and/or client service issues that have come up and discuss goals for the week. Each days files are sorted into hanging folders labeled Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so we know exactly where those files are and feel confident they are prepared properly.
If you know exactly when you are going to see people, it will decrease your stress levels. Youll be more effective when youre seeing people on your terms and at your times.
Key #2: Hire an assistant. If you already have one, consider hiring another one to further increase the amount of time you spend face to face with prospects and clients.
Outside of my Monday meeting with my assistant, I rarely see her during the day and communicate with her primarily through dictation, voicemail and phone calls. A typical day usually fills one side of a micro cassette recorder. At the end of the day, I stack that days files and a micro cassette tape in my assistants inbox for her to pick up and take care of the following morning. She then transcribes the tape and prepares the file as much as possible for the review at our next Monday morning meeting.
Key #3: Keep your calendar full. Set at least 25 appointments ahead of the coming week. This requires a daily dedication to phoning. This also requires us to have a sense of urgency on the phone. I try to set at least three new appointments during my “new” phoning time (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday between 2:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.) and my assistant usually sets between one and four appointments per day as well with existing clients for reviews and birthday meetings. When phoning, I will suggest one of my specific times to meet.
I know exactly when I am going to see people each day. If I am not seeing someone, I am either on my office phone or my cell phone. I call referrals from my office and follow-ups from my cell phone to set them during my drive time to and from appointments. I try to return calls only while in my car–using office time to set appointments. I forward any service calls to my assistant to handle. I sync my palm pilot once a day to let her know what appointments I set and find out whom she set.
Key #4: Master your approach. Develop conversational but specific approach language that you have mastered.
In the personal marketplace, my approach is always the same and goes like this:
“Mr. Prospect, I appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule to meet with me today. I know you are as busy as I am, so I will be as brief and productive as possible. As I told you on the phone, Ive done some work for (referrers name), and he/she thought youd at least like to be aware of some of the ideas that many of our clients have found exciting. I just wanted to introduce myself to you, tell you a little bit about the kind of work I do, how I do it and then Im going to leave. We can then decide if I leave forever, put some ideas together for you, or just table our discussion for another time. Does this sound fair?”
My mission is to inspire people to define, develop and achieve their personal, professional, and financial goals and dreams.
Then to set the agenda for the days meeting, I ask the following question: “When you and I are meeting here just three years from today (June 2005), what would have to happen personally, professionally and financially to feel happy about your progress?”
About 99% of the time, I do my approach and take a fact finder in the first meeting. The fact-finding appointment usually takes about an hour.
Key #5: Set closing appointment. At the end of every fact-finding meeting in which I think a case is open, I will set the closing appointment. Usually a prospect will not be able to commit to an appointment without checking his or her calendar, or checking with a spouse, so my assistant will follow up and schedule them for one of my open time slots.