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Practice Management > Building Your Business

Be nice and be reliable

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Are you a nice person? Could that be said of you? In fact, do people remark that you are a pleasure to be with? Do they tell others? I read a book some time ago that impressed me on the value of being a nice person. It was called “The Power of Nice: How to Conquer the Business World with Kindness.” That book really expressed the importance of being nice and what it means to business. At the time, my wife Carol told me that I was not very communicative and friendly in social situations. I have a tendency to be a loner and stay to myself. Small talk is not very interesting to me.

I had to learn to be nice. It has been a difficult journey. I have to pay particular attention to others around me and not only acknowledge their presence, but be sincerely interested in interacting with them. I am a type A personality and don’t see the point in non-essential discussions. It’s not easy sometimes, but very important. I am getting compliments.

Can people expect you to come through…every time? Gaining a reputation for reliability is critical to getting referrals. Paying attention to small details is a critical part of reliability. An incomplete task screams “unreliable.”

I was encouraging a young man on his desire to build a lawn-care business. Upon observing his work, I noticed that his edging wasn’t sharp because he was rushing the job to get to the next yard. One of his problems was that he was relying on low price to get yards for lawn care. I encouraged him to slow down, and improve his quality. That would allow him to increase prices and make more for less work. The neighbors would also be impressed with his work and want his service.

This is good advice for producers as well. We all have the same products to sell. So what can make us different? Reliability!

Can your clients get you on the phone easily? Do you get answers in a timely manner? Do you follow up to be sure that the effort was helpful for the client? Your clients should be able to call you even for simple requests. They should not feel like they’re putting you out, annoying you, wasting your time or made to feel unimportant. If you feel a client is unimportant there is something wrong with your qualifying process. You should try to engage clients that are profitable enough where you are compelled to go the extra mile. If you aren’t earning enough to be reliable, then it will cause you to be resentful and therefore unreliable.

Any survey that asks the question, “What would you like in a financial advisor?” would most certainly be answered with, “A person I can rely on to be trustworthy, attentive and act as a fiduciary when helping to decide on best strategies.” The foundation of that statement would be reliability. Where will your next client come from? Are you relying on some method or on your performance and reliability? Clients should be compelled to brag about you. They will do so if they have enough to brag about.

I was working with an attorney on some joint work cases. The relationship started well, but I soon discovered that he treated my clients very poorly. It would sometimes take days to return phone calls. He took much longer than should be necessary to prepare legal documents and after he collected his fee, it seemed like he dragged his feet with every stage. I lost credibility with several clients and had learned another lesson. Be very careful about referring clients. The reliability of the service reflects your judgment.

I’ve said many times that a fellow with just a high school education can make a very good living in the insurance industry. Reliability does not require a college degree but it can be more valuable.

Being a nice person doesn’t require any more effort than being otherwise. Why not go the extra mile with a smile and excellent follow-up?

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