In meeting peak performers, I have noticed several common characteristics they share. Over the next few columns, I will detail a few of the traits and techniques they use to outdistance the competition, work a whole lot less, and make a whole lot more.

Put your activity on a point system. Low activity is the single biggest reason that producers fail. In my interviews with million-dollar commission producers, I have discovered they combat this problem with tremendous self-discipline. Nearly all set daily–and sometimes even hourly goals for themselves.

Top producer Belen DeJesus of Manila, the Philippines, is one of the highest-paid sales pros in the South Pacific. DeJesus realized early on that if she were to make a living in the competitive financial services industry, she must not only set hourly goals but must also develop a system for keeping herself committed to those objectives when her enthusiasm waned. Her method was to make 10 phone calls in the morning before her first a cup of coffee. She would force herself to ask each client for referrals before she left the closing interview. Forgetting to ask, meant depriving herself of participating in a favorite hobby for that week.

Don Speakman, a Pittsburgh-based advisor, also has an effective method of keeping himself on track. He works on a daily point plan. He assigns 10 points to a face-to-face interview, five points to a phone call by which he is trying to sell, and one point to dialing the phone. His goal is to hit 50 points–or he does not go home.

Speakman believes that activity equals success. Who can argue with a guy who makes more than a million dollars in
commissions? Sometimes he takes his sleeping bag to the office, knowing that a busy day is no excuse for avoiding the prospecting routine that makes him money.

The kind of discipline DeJesus and Speakman demonstrate is what makes true winners. It is virtually impossible to be stopped short of success when you are doing the right things so consistently.

Make the first sale a client-builder, not a quota-maker. One of the things top producers consistently do is develop relationships for the long term. The advisor who just wants to make quick money asks for the big sale first. The one who understands the importance of relationships knows that big money comes only after trust is developed. When you have trust, commissions and fees fly into your arms. Concentrate on getting your prospect to buy the relationship with you, rather than a given product or service — cost matters little.

Clients will give you enough money to test the trust that they have given you. Then, they will observe how you treat them after the check is cashed, so protect those relationships like the precious assets they are.

One of my coaching clients, Bill Smith, loves to hear a prospect say at the outset that he will only gain a portion of their assets. He knows it is only a test to see if he has built a relationship instead of a transaction.