Is it true that you are where you are today based on the choices you have made in the past? Then it also stands to reason that you will get where you want to be in the future based on the choices you make in your present. This fundamental truth is the basis for this article.
I have identified 12 clear choices that are turning points in the careers of virtually every financial professional. Every producer makes these choices either deliberately or by default. Six of these are best presented as positive choices that consistently lead to greater success and six of these choices are best presented as commonly unmade choices that lead to failure, or worse: mediocrity. Here are the 6 positive choices.
The 6 positive choices:
1. A choice of self-reliance. It has always amazed me when a producer says that they would attend a seminar, a training course, or workshop provided they can get someone else to pay for it. Make a choice to pay your own way and take TOTAL responsibility for your success or failure.
2. A choice to have a comprehensive, long-range business plan.
Would you buy stock in a company whose CEO had no plan?
3. A choice to take more time off.
Eddie Bauer has a powerful advertising slogan: “Never confuse having a career with having a life.” Make it your mantra.
You see, when you decide that you are only willing to work a certain number of hours or days per week, but you want your income to go up anyway, you become more resourceful and skilled at producing more results in increasingly smaller amounts of time.
4. A choice to be paid what you are worth.
Stop giving your services and value for less than they are worth. You have known this for a long time. It’s time.
5. A choice to be on the path of continuous improvement.
You have heard it before. Everyone has a next level. We live in a world and have chosen a business that changes rapidly. This means that you become comfortable learning, growing and continuously improving.
6. A choice to be clear about you do, what you don’t do, and do only what you do well.
One of my friends and mentors says, “I am very good at what I do because I only do what I am very good at.” This is a very smart way to live.
I suggest you create an informal, honest self evaluation. Simply rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 in each of the 6 positive areas we have discussed and then begin to make incremental improvements. “The truth will set you free” is not just a Biblical reference, it’s the truth. Be honest with yourself and make a commitment to make the choices that will propel you to your highest level of success.
Besides owning and operating a training and coaching company for financial advisors for over 21 years, I have been a regular consumer of personal and professional development for almost 30 years. In that time I have developed a point of view about how to choose a program and / or a coach. I was recently asked to comment about how I would advise a friend to make a good choice in this area. Here’s what I recommend.
First of all, let’s examine some distinctions between training and coaching.
Financial advisors tend to participate in training programs, some with support. The support element is often referred to as coaching, largely because coaching has become cool. As in, “Tiger Woods has a coach and so do I.” Because the term coaching has become more fashionable, what are actually training programs are frequently called coaching programs.
Training programs have pre-determined content, processes, and systems which are taught. The participants participate because they want to learn and implement these methods, usually created by a subject matter expert. Over time, the subject matter expert builds out their curriculum to be more comprehensive and develops a team of people to help them run the company, attract new clients / students, and deliver the training and coaching.
Some training programs have a coaching element and some don’t. What matters is that you are getting good content and good coaching so that your results improve.
How do you decide which program is right for you? Here are some questions and ideas to consider in order to make a good decision.
1. If you invest the money they tell you to invest and do what they tell you to do, will you get somewhere you want to be in a reasonable time-frame? In other words, is there a clear and compelling description of where you will you be in, say, 4 years if you actually do everything they teach and coach you to do? If so, is that somewhere you want to be?
2. Does the program last forever? Some programs brag about how long their participants stay in the program. Personally, I’m a bit leery of programs who want you to participate for life. That said, I don’t think you ever out-grow self-improvement. However, as you grow, develop, and achieve your goals it’s likely that you will need a different type of training program or coach to help you grow and develop in other areas of your life.
3. Is the program content specific or general? If you want to build your business, work with a company that specializes in that.
4. Expensive isn’t necessarily better, but cheap is always a red flag for me. In the area of training and coaching, you do tend to get what you pay for. Your greatest asset may well be your undeveloped potential. Don’t be skimpy in tapping your potential.
5. Can these people at this company really get you there? How well do they interview you before they begin “pitching” you their program? Does their offering seem plausible or too good to be true? Is there a step-by-step game plan and someone to help you implement? How do you get your questions answered and get supported?
6. While you should see some tangible and measureable results in the first month or two, remember there is no “silver bullet.” My observation is that many advisors jump from program to program looking for something that doesn’t exist: an easy and inexpensive way to build a highly successful and sustainable financial services business. Are you being realistic in your expectations? Will you do whatever it takes to achieve your goals?
- Are you ready for serious coaching?
- Another observation, as both a serious student and serious trainer / coach, is that almost every program works. I may have philosophical differences or even ethical concerns with some of the training and coaching programs in our industry, but they all produce some or all of the results they promise, IF the advisor actually implements. As I mentioned earlier, many advisors don’t follow through well. Thomas Edison once said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”
- This is sometimes the fault of the advisor because some advisors are simply not coachable. And this is also sometimes the fault of the training company and / or coach because they aren’t holding advisors accountable to implement.
- Why would a person who is not coachable enroll in a coaching program? I don’t know, but it happens more frequently than you might think. And who wants to admit they’re not coachable?
- Is there real accountability to implement?
- Since the biggest obstacle to our success is always ourselves, do you have a coach who is really, truly willing to hold you accountable to the activities necessary to achieve your goals?
- Is there enough “tough love” to keep you on track to do the work required or is the “coach” really a salesperson who is unwilling to risk losing your revenue stream so they hold back in what they say to you?
- This can be a fine line, but you really want a coach who will tell you the truth and hold you accountable to do the work YOUR goals require to achieve them, not withhold the truth you need to hear that might inspire you and jolt you into action to do what needs to be done, even if it’s uncomfortable. Norman Vincent Peale, the author of The Power of Positive Thinking said, “Most people would rather be ruined with praise than saved by criticism.” If your coach is just blowing smoke it should be obvious. You want someone who helps you move outside your comfort zone because it’s not possible to be successful and be comfortable. You want, and probably need, a coach who combines inspiration and “tough love” so you stay on track.
- Industry specific?
- That’s my preference, but there are good programs and coaches that are not financial services industry specific. The argument for non-industry specific is that you can learn things from people in a variety of industries. Unfortunately, what you learn from other industries can be very mass-marketing oriented and a more product-centric sales approach. I don’t believe that financial services should be “sold” like copy machines, for example. Another drawback is that you can end up investing your time and money to educate your coach about your business.
- How do you begin?
- You’re probably already aware of the better known and effective coaching programs in the financial services industry and have colleagues in those programs. If not, they are not hard to find.
- You might first want to go to their websites, read their value propositions, and determine which resonate with you.
- Call and ask a question like, “I’m considering enrolling in a training / coaching program. How will you help me make a good decision about whether or not your program is right for me?” What happens next will speak volumes and help you make a good decision. Is there even a process to help you make a good decision or just a sales pitch? Their process should be a reflection of what they are teaching / coaching. If it’s not, what does this say about the program? In my opinion, you want to do business with companies and people who walk their talk.
- Do they ask good questions and really listen?
- Do you feel like the individual you are speaking with truly cares about you as a person and not just as a prospect?
- When it is time to “present” their program do they do so in the context of your goals and your values or does it feel like a generic features and benefits presentation to you?
- Is the person you are talking to the person you are going to work with to help you implement the program if you ultimately enroll? Or do you get a salesperson to enroll you and only after you are in the program do you meet your coach, if there is one?
- Ultimately, the best way to evaluate a program is probably some form of personal experience. Just because the program has a great reputation or your friend or colleague loves a program doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Do your own due diligence and be careful of getting involved because “everyone is doing it.” That’s how Bernie Madoff duped all those supposedly smart people.
- You might want some sort of less expensive and less time-consuming real-world evaluation process to help you make a good decision before you have to plunk down more serious money to be involved.
The bottom line is that personal and professional development is a good thing. Among other things, it helps you learn from the experience of others. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.”
Bob Veres commented on Bill’s November article in FA Magazine: “Bachrach says that the important part of the communication process is not the data, it is the validation of the individual client sitting across the desk from you. Those communication skills are the key to whether clients or prospects trust you and whether they follow your advice. From there, he offers some quotes from communication gurus.” Bert Decker, author of You’ve Got To Be Believed To Be Heard, says that the quality of your communication determines the quality of your life. Patricia Fripp says that “Specificity leads to credibility.” (In other words, don’t use words like “stuff” for the actual word you’re searching for, or words like “kinda” and “sorta.” Motivational speaker Giovanni LIvera says “When you connect people to their heart, you connect them to you.”
Dianna Booher, author of Voices of Authority and Communicate With Confidence says that the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth should not be three separate things. The truth should not include spin, hype, exaggeration or embellishment.
“Bachrach suggests that you review the script for your meetings (do you have a script?), and see if you’re asking purposeful questions and listening with empathy. Is the conversation valuable for the client? He says the most successful communicators will record their meetings with clients with digital hand-held recorders.” (Financial Advisor Magazine, November 2009 issue – p. 48)
To read the article: “Talking the Talk” published in the Financial Advisor, November 2009, go to:
What were the most inspiring moments of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver for you?
Did you watch certain moments and find yourself saying something like, “If he or she can do THAT… what’s possible for me?”
I hope so, because that’s one of the biggest benefits of watching sports that most of us only watch every four years. There are valuable lessons to be learned. Let’s not miss them and, more importantly, apply them to our own lives.
When was the last time you crossed your finish line at the end of the day and screamed with the joy, relief, and satisfaction of knowing you laid it all on the line? Think about Lindsey Vonn after her gold medal downhill run.
Did you watch some of the cross-country skiing or biathlon with amazement as competitor after competitor collapsed as they crossed the finish line wondering what your own life would be like if you pushed your limits just a little farther? I didn’t catch his name, but one of the cross country skiers commented about how his sport is the only one where it’s normal to puke after practice. That’s commitment. I’m not suggesting that you should throw up at the end of good day’s work, but maybe you could leave a little more on the “field of play.” What do you think?
Who will ever forget 24 year-old figure skater Joanne Rochette whose mother, to whom she was very close, passed away unexpectedly shortly after arriving in Vancouver? Instead of packing it in, just four days later she skated with extra inspiration and won the bronze medal. Could there possibly have been a dry eye in the house or living rooms around the world when she looked to the heavens at the conclusion of her program? It’s no wonder she was awarded the Terry Fox award as the athlete who best exemplifies courage and selfless qualities.
My favorite quotes from the games were:
“Before you go to sleep at night ask yourself one question: Did you do every single thing you could today to make sure that you did your best? It’s hard to answer ‘yes’ every single day.” – Apolo Ohno; Short-track speed skater
“The more awkward positions that I become comfortable with, the fewer situations I’ll be uncomfortable with.” – Graham Watanabe; Snowboarder
“I don’t like to look at it as competition. It’s about me conquering myself… me being able to face my own fears, distractions, and weaknesses and say that I overcame them.” – Apolo Ohno; Short-track speed skater
How does this apply to you? What if being a financial advisor was an Olympic Sport?
How good would you have to be to make the team? Where would your client service experience and client acquisition skills have to be in order to compete with the rest of the financial professional “athletes” on the world stage? How good would you and your team have to be to earn a spot on the podium or win the gold medal? These are great questions for you and your team to consider as you continually look for ways to be your best.
Fortunately, being a great financial advisor is not a zero sum game with only one gold medal. And you don’t compete against other financial advisors only against your own potential. There is plenty of business for all of the great financial advisors in the world. As the saying goes, “it’s only crowded at the bottom.”
Take some inspiration from the athletes of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, Canada and use it as propellant to achieve your next level of success.
Remember… anything is possible.
How much of the winter Olympics did you watch? Apolo Ohno was certainly a hit with winning so many medals. During various interviews, he said a few things that I thought you might want to ponder and consider how you can apply what he said into your life for even greater success.
“Before you go to sleep at night ask yourself one question: Did you do every single thing you could today to make sure that you did your best? It’s hard to answer ‘yes’ every single day.” Apolo Ohno; Short-track speed skater
“I don’t like to look at it as competition. It’s about me conquering myself… me being able to face my own fears, distractions, and weaknesses and say that I overcame them.” Apolo Ohno; Short-track speed skater