So, I’m at the gym. It’s just another day at 5 a.m. I have a set routine: every Monday I work chest, on Tuesday, it’s legs, and so forth. But here I am, second-guessing my routine because of the volume of people that are here. Did I mention it’s 5 a.m.? Where did all of these people come from? Welcome to early January in any fitness center! My gym added more than 60 memberships in December. All those New Year’s resolutions, fitness goals, and promises to lose a pound, gain a pound, lift a pound. I guess all of these newcomers have the intention of hitting the gym every day at 5AM. Good luck!
Don’t get me wrong, this is good news. I admire people that want to improve themselves and get in better shape. But here’s the bad news. By the time February rolls around, I’ll never see these people again. It happens every year. So what does my gym do to keep these people motivated, focused, and retaining their memberships? Nothing! Big problem. Bad business. And so it goes.
In the insurance industry, the exact same problem exists. Hire new people, lose new people. In fact, nine out of every 10 financial advisors hired will fail. This is not a January thing, it’s an industry thing.
Setting true goals
Here’s the solution. All new financial advisors (and gym members) should be made to establish specific goals and hold true to them. I know it sounds like common sense, but in every firm I’ve worked in, this doesn’t happen nearly enough. Advisors get licensed, learn about a few products and then it’s off to the natural market to sell.
There’s nothing new under the sun and the concept of goal-setting has been around forever. But most financial advisors are bad at setting goals and even worse at achieving them. So a goal becomes more of a cliché than an important part of a business plan. In order for goals to work, they must be focused on the right things, for the right reasons. They must be part of your everyday. If they’re not, you won’t achieve them. Simple as that.
In the spirit of being true to your goals, let’s discuss the importance of setting what I’ll call “true goals.” True goals are focused on what you want to accomplish with a result in mind. It’s January, so ‘tis the season. Here are some guidelines to follow.
1. Be SMART about them.
Your true goals must be SMART, which is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Timed. Specific enough to be understandable, measurable enough to be tracked, actionable enough to prompt activity, realistic enough to be achievable – but just barely – and timed enough to have a start date, end date, or both.
2. Be held accountable.
How will you hold yourself accountable? Advisors notoriously struggle with this. I’m very visual, so I keep whiteboards loaded with names, companies, and initiatives that I must keep top of mind. (In fact, I’m looking at my true goals for the year on my whiteboard as I write this.) Even my workout routine is posted on the wall. If you need to, have a fellow advisor hold you true to your goals and you can do the same for them. Certainly, your sales manager could be involved too. What gets measured gets done.
3. Write them down.
Do this the old fashioned way – grab a pen, pencil, or Sharpie and write your true goals down. That’s what the whiteboard is for! There have been studies that suggest that actually writing your goals down (pen to paper) make you five times more likely to recall and act upon the information. There’s something about the touch and feel of your goals that make them true. Did you jot that down?
4. Make them visible.
You have to be constantly reminded (as I do) about what you need to do and by when. I have a copy of my true goals where I write my daily agenda. Having my goals on hand forces me to read them and insure my daily agenda is on track. (Yes, I read them every day.) Somehow, someway, my daily tasks better be linked to my true goals or there’s something wrong. You can post your goals somewhere in your office (again, the whiteboard), hang them on your bathroom mirror, or keep a post-it with your goals on your GPS in your car.
5. Be passionate.
Passion is simply excitement about something. Many advisors are passionate about golf. They’ll move time just to play, invest money and energy to get better, feel a sense of loss when they don’t feel they’ve played well and get excited just talking about it. Do you feel that way about something? That’s passion! Imagine what you can accomplish if you feel this way about your true goals?
6. Seek alignment with your self-image.
If there is some aspect of your business that you don’t like or bothers you in some way, your goals can’t be focused on it. For example, if you have no interest in delivering seminars due to a fear of public speaking, your goal can’t be to deliver more seminars – unless you’re passionate about overcoming that fear. I was once asked to help a new advisor that had an extensive background in public relations and an impressive body of work. As we were discussing her goals, she shared with me that she couldn’t believe she was selling life insurance. I told her there was no point in setting goals, because she wasn’t going to succeed as a financial advisor. She lasted three months.
7. Be about process, not results.
Your goal can’t be about earning a certain level of income, commission or premium. You can have those numbers in mind, but that’s the result of doing other things consistently well. What are those other things? That process reflects your true goal. An advisor that wants to deliver four educational seminars a month has an ambitious goal. But it ends there. What needs to be done from a marketing, compliance, and logistical standpoint to make that happen? And by when? Those are the true goals.
Here are some examples of possible true goals.
- Implement a social media campaign focused on promoting my financial seminars to the manufacturing associations in the New York tri-state area by February 1st.
- Establish a target market within the health care community by developing business relationships with the hospital administrators in the 3 local hospitals, 5 physicians, 5 surgeons, 5 nurses, and 5 pharmaceutical reps by March 1st.
- Hire or establish a partnership with a junior financial advisor to manage 100 of my smallest accounts by April 1st.
Each of these true goals will provide smaller tasks or action steps, which become part of your daily activities. And all three of these true goals will result in more business.
True goals can have a tremendous affect on other aspects of your life as well. They can focus on your personal relationships, finances, sense of adventure, health and fitness, sports or professional development. I wouldn’t have too many goals, probably up to five if you’re going to expand into other areas of your life.
Make a note for yourself right now to create up to three true goals. Yes, do it now. If you’re in the middle of something, write out a post-it indicating that on Friday (or whenever) you will set aside some time to re-read this blog and handle the “true goal” thing. Hold yourself accountable. Stay focused. See you bright and early at the gym.