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From best to better: How to become an extraordinary producer

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Insurance and financial services professionals assembled for this year’s Million Dollar Round Table might believe they can rest easy because of their superior sales production. But that would be a false assumption, one that could put their practices at risk, according to Mark Sanborn.

President of the consultancy Sanborn & Associates, he conveyed this warning at “MDRT Speaks,” a fast-paced series of innovative business concepts presented on Monday at the annual meeting being held in New Orleans. To continue to excel, he told agents and advisors attending the session, you must strive always to “be better than your best.”

“I’m here to tell you how to turn ordinary success into extraordinary success,” said Sanborn. “Nobody can prevent you from choosing to be extraordinary.”

To be anything less, he added, is tantamount to jeopardizing your practice. That’s because of relentlessly rising consumer expectations. The more one provides clients, he said, the more they come to expect. Thus, you have to continually grow your value proposition to stay at the same perceived level of service — and to keep competitors who are coveting your clientele at bay.

“The great football coach Woody Hayes said that you’re getting better or you’re getting worse; the status quo is not an option,” said Sanborn. “The reason why people become successful but don’t stay successful is because their competitors are improving their quality of service relative to them.”

To up your game with clients and prospects, he added, you have to ask yourself three game-changing questions:

Am I achieving my practice goals?

Am I striving to fulfill my potential? 

Is my service oriented towards clients’ success?

To become the best at what you do, said Sanborn, you have to surpass in performance what you’re able to accomplish today. You have to “make your best better.” Yet so many advisors falter or languish in their practices after achieving a measure of attainment because they don’t continually improve.

And that requires a change in behavior, to wit: focusing on skills and best practices that will enable you and supporting staff to grow professionally.

“All increases in production and all increases in efficiency, profit and client success derive from your ability to grow yourself and your supporting team,” said Sanborn. “If you don’t have a learning agenda, then you’re not committed to doing better.

“You have to always ask yourself, ‘What’s the one thing that will most impact my business and the success of my clients?’” he added. For many advisors, the missing element is an emotive one: elevating the client experience through the positive feelings it generates in the individual served.

To illustrate, Sanborn called to mind a salesperson who, stranded on a highway because her car needed servicing, faced a dilemma: whom to call using a cellphone that was nearly out of battery life. If she had called her client to reschedule their appointment, she would not have had enough power in the phone to call to a towing service. Conversely, a call to the latter would have left the former in the lurch.

Instead, she contacted the dealer representative who sold her the car. The rep rushed to meet her on the highway, gave her his cellphone to reschedule the client appointment and lent her his car while her vehicle was being serviced at the dealership. And before returning the car, he gave it a thorough washing.

It’s outstanding service like this, Sanborn said, that leads to happy and loyal clients — people who can be counted on to spread the good word about you to friends, family and colleagues.

How close are you to achieving such excellence in your practice? To make a proper assessment, said Sanborn, you need to ask clients these questions: (1) what do you like best about doing business with us? And (2) what do you tell others about us?

If the client has been extraordinarily well served, then praise and accolades will follow. And making just one client very happy can have an huge impact on an advisor whose practice is new or in a growing phase.

“Tell everyone on your team, ‘Do a good job for everyone, but find one person – one client – that you’ll do something extraordinary for,” said Sanborn.

“If you choose to live your life in an extraordinary manner, then you can shift your thinking and change your behavior,” he added. “But first you have to change what you think is possible. The next time someone asks you what is possible, you tell them anything is possible.”

“Why would you choose to be ordinary when extraordinary is within your grasp?” he continued.