Uncover The Silent Killers Of Your Sales Growth Measure Your Practice Against This Checklist For Success

By Kay Dempsey

Whats the difference between the sales process of a $1,000,000 commission producer and that of other “successful” financial services professionals? The answer is that the million dollar producers have all learned how to avoid the drain on their resources and their time. As Scott Peck wrote in “The Road Less Traveled,” if you want to avoid pain and suffering, you cant operate at higher levels.

After more than 20 years as a Brokerage General Agent, Ive learned that the differences are transparent. Heres a check-up for your sales process to uncover the silent killers of your growth:

1. Make a list of what you should be doing vs. what you are doing each day.

The top one-half of 1% of our industrys performers have a consistent focus on allocating time to their highest and best use. Simply put, are you in surgery or are you on the scrub team? Are you asking clients to do business with you or are you in sales interviews most of your day? How much time do you work at too low a level in a quagmire of administrative issues? Do you delegate but refuse to let go? Do you hold others accountable, or do you lower the bar if they fail to support your efforts?

2. Dont say, “When my revenues increase, I will hire another assistant.”

Investing in your practice will yield quantum increases in pay, many times over, for the support. Its the difference in income of producers who track attending physicians statements rather than being in front of a client.

3. Have a process of networking for referrals.

Do you first refer business to other professionals who respond in kind? Do you use a telemarketing firm for your leads? Are you an advocate of issues that are important to your clients? Do you drill down for prospects within the same industries? Rather than fishing for a market, do you find a market and fish it? What is your level of community involvement? Do you find opportunities to speak to groups? Do you make clients of your referral sources?

4. Dont think that financial services is just the offering of one product.

While it is dangerous today to be a generalist rather than a specialist, have you formed strategic alliances for ancillary lines of business that may not be your focus? Recently, the chief executive officer and the president of a community bank were lamenting about lost business. Meanwhile, one of their own directors had just spent $400,000 in insurance premiums to complete his estate planning. The bank missed the opportunity to provide the solution.

5. Learn to say “No” to business.

When a client calls you, obviously there is a higher degree of interest than usual. But as the conversation progresses, does it start to become clear that this client has been unhappy with past advisors?

Example: A retiring CFO of a major Atlanta business became a client of an investment advisor I know. The CFO was a sophisticated investor. His retirement fund was transferred for management. The amount of income he began to tap was contrary to the advisors recommendation. The advisor warned the plan would not hold up if he continued his spending pattern. The client would not take the advice. Now, the advisor is embroiled in an arbitration.

Watch for the signals. You must be prepared to resign the account of a client who patently refuses to accept your counsel.

6. Look at your profits over the past 12 months and the sources of that profit.

If 80% of your time is spent on 20% of your revenues, it is time to find a junior partner or simply resign any account that does not provide an adequate return for the investment of your time.

7. Become aware of how good your follow-up is.

Peak performers follow up not just until the deal is completed but to make certain the client has taken action on the details. One RIA we know lost a $3 million account because he waited 4 months to follow up. His competitor, a NYSE broker, followed up the day of the first appointment and each week until the accounts were transferred. After the close, the reminders continued on action needed.

The follow-up principle is centered on caring first about the client and a commitment to problem resolution. Follow-up principles are built upon patience, if the client is the right one.

8. Make it easy for clients to get to “Yes.”

After 20 years of evaluating the most effective visuals, Ive learned that the highest income earners keep it to one page based on exposing the clients current position and how to improve it.

9. Dont let fear keep you stuck in the middle.

Mark Victor Hansen wrote, “Some will, some wont, so what, someones waiting.”

How easily we forget the baseball greats and how often they strike out, even if they are among the league leaders in batting average or home runs. The fear of losing faceor controlkeeps us in the middle. No pain, no gain, so keep asking!

10. Be open to new ideas and be willing to learn.

Or do you form opinions without the facts on the worth of an idea? Whether it is premium financing, or turning accounts receivables into a performing asset with insurance, know the advantages and disadvantages. Are you licensed in securities so that you can address objectively the negatives and positives of variable life or annuities?

11. Understand what the long-term effects of stress in your practice are.

It is OK to play golf in the middle of the week. You are your most valuable asset. The American Medical Association tells us that 80% of disease is related to stress. The more horsepower you have, the more you can handle stress. Invariably, top earners play more and take more time off. They also engage in fierce conversations rather than avoidance of conflict.

Leaders challenge and cannot be peace mongers.

12. Reflect on how well you know yourself.

We are 100% accountable for the quality of our relationships. Maturity is taking responsibility for our emotional field. Sharing our experience helps us become more aware.

Be willing to be wrong, and find out what is beneath your anger. High achievers have learned to manage the threads of insecurity. It is maintaining a non-anxious presence in an anxious system.

Be clear about your own values and goals. It means charting your way from your own internal guidance system rather than constantly watching to see whether others approve.

Bill Graham, the concert producer, said, “You dont want to be considered just the best at what you do. You want to be known as the only one who does what you do.”

Kay Dempsey, CLU, ChFC, is president of The Dempsey Companies, an annuity and insurance brokerage firm in Atlanta.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, May 14, 2004. Copyright 2004 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.