The primary role of most top-producing agents is similar to that of an actor. They set up presentations and perform a well-scripted routine. You all know the old adage in this business: memorize, professionalize and then personalize the script for a polished presentation.
The great challenge all of us face is getting ourselves on stage as often as possible. The day-to-day operation of your business and your ability to delegate tasks are the tools to keep you on stage more often.
Our presentation should help you visualize how best to structure and manage your own performances. We will review how to set up your back office, identify the production team players, how to assess the skills and abilities of the players (including you), and how to break down your practice into the different performance areas.
In our business, a series of repeating steps is necessary to produce results. Each step is divided into segments that can be completed easily and that add to a successful performance. The segments are:
o Reception and administration.
o Executive assistant/para-planner.
o Wholesale and product partners.
o Underwriters/asset management teams.
o Presentation material preparation.
o Junior partners.
o Your coach.
Each one of these segments needs to have a person responsible for the successful completion of the tasks. Assuming you have associates working on the backstage segments, take stock of their skills and abilities. How do we identify the natural talents of our “behind the scenes” team?
The first step is to describe the job and expectations of the position you are delegating. Spend time to develop good questions and check the r?sum?s and backgrounds of the candidates. Then have them answer a profile questionnaire that can identify their interests, strengths and things that motivate them.
We use an online questionnaire tool, created by a company called Kolbe, which divides natural talents into four categories: fact finder, follow through, quick start and implementer. The weighted score of the four categories details the likely natural talent areas in which candidates are strongest.
Steps To Success
Assuming you have identified, tested and trained appropriate employees, the following are best practices ideas to follow in running a business.
Administration and reception
Because the office reception area is where first impressions are made, the entry should be clean, uncluttered and comfortable. Having coffee, tea and water service available invites clients to settle and relax.
The front-desk person should manage the reception area and initial greeting services. In our practice, we hold a significant percentage of appointments in our office. The “sales” process begins with this positive greeting.
The flow behind the scenes starts with client scheduling. To make best use of our time, we designate specific days for case preparation and review. We control when we see the clients and where we meet; by having those days pre-planned, our office environment is set up to be “client-ready.”
Our practice is run on a financial planning model. We charge all clients a fee for service to create a comprehensive financial plan. Client meetings, which I run, are attended by my para-planner. We take notes, ask questions and gather the many details necessary for plan creation.
Before leaving, the client is given a checklist of other needed items. We also provide a contact point person for information and help, i.e., the para-planner. This individual assists with case preparation, more particularly drafting of the financial plan document. The para-planner and I review draft plans so they can be completed on the “non-client” days.
Wholesale and product partners
We delegate preparation of sales presentations to our insurance and investment wholesale vendors. For example, internal specialists in the various life insurance companies create, print and outline our life insurance proposals for deferred compensation. Managed asset proposals in glossy color print and professionally bound are created by our broker-dealer support team. These internal specialists are experts and have at their disposal significant dollars to help complete the sale of their products.
Vendor partners also assist us with our marketing and promotion. We annually support golf outings and charity events, so the vendors provide golf balls, golf shirts, wind shirts, putters, clubs and other prizes. We also annually invite old and potential clients to professional sporting events in private suites. What better way to get to know someone than spending four hours at a ball game in a captive environment.
When working on complex sales cases, the product partners have field associates that will work with you. If you don’t have a local expert to partner with, these internal specialists are there to help you present and complete more advanced sales.
Underwriters and asset management teams
Moving clients through the underwriting process for life insurance can be an arduous task. We need to schedule medical exams and financial disclosures and get attending physician statements, all of which can delay issue of contracts.
Time spent in developing a relationship with an insurance carrier’s support personnel can be critical to the timely issue of policies. It also is important to create strong relationships with the underwriters who issue these policies. Leveraging of wholesale and product partners enables us to do higher levels of business without having to hire, train and support additional staff.
Backstage management goes beyond the people; it also includes managing the resource tools. Our ability to delegate details is simplified by leveraging modern financial tools and software.
For financial planning, we use different software products to demonstrate clients’ current financial situation and the impact of future assumptions respecting growth and inflation. For real estate and business planning, other programs help calculate depreciation and re-capture, tax impacts, valuation and key-person contributions.
Great programs are available to help with asset management. Using them, we can prepare analytical reports to help clients make informed decisions on investments, allocation and risk.
Still other programs can pull multiple provider holdings into your program to keep financial plans updated. Your client can have accounts with Smith Barney, Schwab, etc., and you can transfer current values directly to your plan document.
Our backstage department for presentation materials is connected to our major life insurance company home offices and broker-dealer support areas. Working with off-the-shelf materials is more than adequate for most situations.
If you work in a referred-lead or introduction-based client-building program, creating unique marketing approaches will not be necessary. Your business will be built on a relationship model, not a sales model. Off-the-shelf materials will be more than adequate for educating clients.
Junior partners/joint work
The knowledge required to be an expert in the insurance and financial services business takes years to obtain. There is no better way to obtain this knowledge than by jointly working with a senior advisor. Over the years, I have provided group education meetings to new associates. And I conduct workshops showcasing areas of complex planning.
I also have created a succession plan by selecting individuals to join my organization and pursue the partner level. An associate in my office assists in developing these “junior partners.” Our mentoring model creates joint work opportunities and profit centers for the business. And it offers us an opportunity to impart skills to the next generation of advisors.
We all have unique abilities, goals and objectives. We, like our clients, need someone to hold us accountable, to help keep us on track.
As a result of coaching and practice management, I now am working only on the areas that interest me most. As a dyed-in-the-wool quick start, I enjoy constantly modifying my process, developing new ways of meeting clients and promoting my practice. Through coaching and delegation, I am able to work four days per week, have more free personal time and am making more money than ever.
Creating a successful business enterprise involves more than just making the sale. Delegation to the right people, breaking down the details of your own process and working in the areas of your unique abilities will help you take your business to the “Oscars.”