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The Only Secret

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I know the only secret to spectacular sales success. If you keep reading, you will too.

That’s a bold statement. However, since I have individually coached as well as otherwise helped create some of the spectacular successes in this industry, I am prepared to venture into this dangerous territory.

My search for the “only secret” goes back to 1989. At that time, I was writing for Registered Rep magazine. I wanted to know: Is there one thing that those at the top of the heap do (or don’t do) that is missing from the activity matrix of those who don’t make it to the end of the rainbow? What is it?

To answer my own question, I designed a survey, which turns out to have been my first of many “work habits” surveys. I asked about every possible thing I thought it could be. I received something over 1,200 replies, and when I tabulated the survey I was initially dismayed. There was no “secret of spectacular sales success.” No matter how I tabulated, no one thing jumped out.

So perhaps, I thought, it’s not one thing. There may be several secrets. Once again, I pored over the surveys, and gradually “the secret” emerged from this smoking pile of data.

The fabled “only secret,” was simply: those who made it to the end of the rainbow did a little bit better at practically every aspect of the business. To put it another way, the only secret is: master more “best practices.”

Since then, my focus has been to identify the best way to close, develop referrals, provide great service, stay in touch, mass market, do promotion and deliver seminars. As I have focused my clients on these best practices, their production has soared.

But a question I constantly pose to myself is: Did I get it right? Did I miss anything?

After a lot of thought on the only secret, I answered myself, “Yes, I got it right but …”

Remember that wonderful statement from George Orwell; “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.” In the area of best practices, his statement translates to “All best practices are equal but some best practices are more equal than others.” Of all the best practices that you could implement, which is the “most equal”?

Time Management

It’s your time management strategy.

Everyone coming into this industry as a rookie is exactly equal to everyone else. There are no favorites. There are no hidden advantages. While personality, communication skill, drive and a whole host of intangibles do count, each rookie has exactly the same amount of time available. Those who spend it the best are more likely to go the distance than their more talented peers who squander this most precious resource.

My “best practices” time management strategy has two components: Your team determines how much time you have available. Your Model Day determines how well you spend the time your team creates for you.

The Optimum Team

In all modesty, the team structure I have designed is the best practice for building a team. There is really no other structure out there except ad hoc. I have compiled my team building articles from Research into a single white paper, available at along with a Model Day Worksheet, all free for the taking.

To get you to high six and into seven figures, you need a two-and-a-half person team consisting of a full-time service assistant, full-time sales assistant and part-time computer operator.

YOU: “Bill, I can’t afford a separate service assistant, sales assistant, and computer operator. Can I just hire one person and have her do all three?”

ME: “Sorry. It doesn’t work. You need a separate person for each position. If you can’t afford a full-time service assistant, hire a part-time service assistant. Then hire a part-time computer operator. Then get a part-time sales assistant. Then cycle back and convert your part-time service assistant to full-time. Increase your sales assistant to full-time. And ultimately, get a full-time computer operator.”

In my experience, top producers started building their team long before they could afford it.

The Optimum Day

If the purpose of a team is to create the maximum amount of selling time possible, the purpose of the Model Day is to spend that time in the best possible manner.
A Model Day consists of several time blocks, each of which focuses on a single type of activity. I call each of these time blocks a “mini-day.” I use this terminology to stress that each time block, just like a 24-hour day, comes to an end. At midnight on Monday, it is pointless to think, “I really liked Monday. I think I’ll take a couple more hours of it.” No, it’s done, over, finished. Same with a mini-day.

The five most important mini-days are:

Planning. Of all of the time blocks, this is the most important as it creates the others. The primary activity of planning is to prioritize actions within time blocks and (rarely) move time blocks around.

Calling. To sustain a calling mini-day, you need the help of your team. If you think you can have a calling mini-day without someone to screen your calls, you dream. Nothing will blow it out of the water faster than an incoming 45 min. service call.

Your calling mini-day is just that: outgoing calls or scheduled telephone appointments. Your outgoing calls can be anything from cold calling, touch base calls with clients, telephone appointments for reviews or anything else but service calls. This is a time for sales contact.

Admin. Certainly as part of your job, you need some time every day to work on your plans and reviews, and do the investment research required to do a good job in your plans and reviews. This is your “admin day.” I have seen countless advisors spend far too many hours doing this for the simple reason that they have an open-ended block for this activity. Without an end to the “admin mini-day,” you certainly won’t have time for calls and appointments.

Appointments. Ideally, your appointments are all in the office. They are stacked up back to back with a short period of time between for notes and other administration. At a minimum, you should be seeing 15 people a week. This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road. This is where you get paid. This is what you came in the business to do. But if you don’t set an amount of time for it and then create the appointments for that time, it will not get done, and you’ll number among the legions of also-rans in this industry.

Service. The only reason you need a “service mini-day” is that your service assistant has not yet achieved a condition in which he or she handles all client service problems. Optimally, the advisor has a service assistant or service team with such a good reputation with clients that the clients do not even think to ask for the advisor about service. Schedule your service mini-day toward the end of the day.

Marching orders for your service assistant—even a shared assistant—should be: Do your very best to answer all phone calls and handle all service problems. Any problems you cannot handle, schedule them in my service mini-day.

Your service mini-day should never be more than an hour. After a few months, it should be zero.

The Only Secret

So here it goes. The only secret to spectacular sales success is: master more best practices, especially time management.