In college, my roommate Jack announced his big New Year’s Resolution — to finally stop smoking. He was a long-distance runner and was seeing the toll his habit was taking on his performance.
By mid-January, however, it was clear that his resolution was was not to stop smoking cigarettes, it was to stop buying them. Every time he felt the urge to smoke, he asked to “borrow” a cigarette from one of my other roommates. By February, his resolution was forgotten.
Resolutions don’t work. Think about the thousands of people who sign up every year with a local health club, resolving to go a minimum of three times a week for the year to finally get in shape. The owners and managers of those clubs love this time of year because they know that by February, most of those people will have stopped coming on a regular basis, but they’ll have to continue to pay on their contracts until year’s end.
As you’re reading this, financial and insurance professionals everywhere are making 2017 New Year’s resolutions to make more calls, or to make and keep more appointments — to make more sales. But by the end of January, those resolutions will most likely have been forgotten as well, and these professionals will be back to the habits of 2016.
This year, create a real, detailed, working business plan. The difference is in the details. Resolutions fail because they are the expression of a wish — something you want to try to accomplish. They don’t include details, planning, an analysis of where you are and what needs to change, smaller process goals and periodic milestones. These are things that go into a business plan.
If you want to move from the incremental growth of 2016 (if you had any growth) to exponential growth in 2017, a resolution won’t cut it — but a written, detailed, working business plan will give you a fighting chance. I’m not talking here about the kind of business plan that someone prepares for investors. I’m talking about something that will make 2017 your best year ever.
Here’s what you need to do to create a Business Plan:
1. Determine what your mission for the year will be. What’s your ultimate goal? How many new applications do you want to open? How much more do you want to add to assets under management? How much more money do you want to earn? How many people do you want to help so that they can retire comfortably when they’re ready? What’s your “burning desire” — as Napoleon Hill called it — for 2017?
2. Identify your sales and personal goals. What are the smaller goals that fit into that mission? Do you need to get healthier to improve your available energy to meet the mission? What sales goals will be key performance indicators?
3. Analyze what’s working for you, what isn’t. In the business world, this is called the SWOT analysis: Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. What are you good at that you can leverage, and what opportunities are out there that you can take advantage of? What will hold you back — internally, and in the world around you? You’ll need to address all of these.
4. Choose the client you will build your plan around. Your ideal, target client should be clearly defined before designing your plan around this prototype.
5. List and schedule the activities that will get you there. Starting with the end in mind, figure out what needs to be done daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly to accomplish your mission by the end of the year.
6. Set milestones. Where should you be at the end of every month? Know where you are now and adjust what you need to adjust to get where you’re trying to go at each checkpoint.
7. Have someone other than you hold you accountable to stick to the plan. Most advisors — most people — aren’t sufficiently disciplined to hold themselves accountable. Give someone a copy of your plan and report your progress to him or her, both when you’re on track, and when you’re not.
Sandy Schussel has been a coach and practice development consultant for insurance and financial professionals for the past 20 years. He is an approved MDRT coach and has served as the national sales training director for First Investors and Foresters. He is the author of two books, The High Diving Board, about overcoming fear and Become A Client Magnet, about attracting and keeping clients.