For those new to the financial services profession, perhaps the biggest challenge is finding people to talk to about your products and services. The No. 1 reason why agents and advisors leave the profession is because they run out of prospects. To achieve continued success in financial services you need to develop the habits necessary to create and fill your prospecting pipeline.
To gain some insight into these habits, we turned to subject matter expert Mickey Straub, the president of Sales Activity Management, Inc. Mickey has spent over 20 years helping agents and advisors execute the critical habits needed to succeed in financial services. Here are some of his insights.
There is no magic formula to prospecting, and there are many factors beyond your control. However, you do have control over more than you may think. It begins with applying three basic principles that form the foundation of success in any endeavor.
Principle 1: You can’t manage time, only activity
There’s an old saying, “Agents and advisors don’t fail in financial services because of what they don’t know, but because of what they don’t do.”
Success in this profession is a function first and foremost of managing activity. That is, doing enough of the right things well.
This was a realization (and a problem) I had as an experienced agent trying to get my business back on track. My initial response to my stagnation was, “If I could just manage my time better, I could turn things around!” So, I became a time management “junkie” of sorts, using various planners, attending the associated seminars and even listening to them in my car. After trying every conceivable time management system, I realized that you can’t manage time — at least not literally. The term time management is really a misnomer. The only thing you can control is your activity. It hit me that my earlier success resulted from the careful management of my sales activities, not time. To get back on track I needed to set clear activity goals and execute them daily. So, every day I committed to, and made, a specific number of appointment-setting calls, service calls, and so on.
Principle 2: You reap what you sow
Activities produce results; they always have and they always will. Furthermore, the quality of the activity usually determines the quality of the results. Steven Covey, one of the most prolific writers of our time, framed it this way: “The harvest we reap is proportional to what effort and resources we put into preparing and nurturing the crop.” Thus, if you want to reap new clients, you must sow the right seeds, or activities, in both quantity and quality, to find and nurture qualified prospects.
Principle 3: Keeping score
There is, however, one more component of sowing and reaping — keeping score, which is another way to say measure and monitor activities and results. Why keep score? Because in sales, you can easily quantify the impact of your activities and any changes you make to them. Sometimes, making small changes can yield big results. A simple example would be increasing the number of referrals you ask for. We all know that it is a great idea and just one more per week could increase our business dramatically. But, how are you going to know if you don’t keep score?
Principles In Action: Important Metrics to Track
Now let’s look at three important metrics to track in the sale of financial services products:
- Closing Interviews
- Closing Ratio
- Average Commission or Case Size
I like to call these metrics “vital signs,” because each one is vital to your sales success. After all, if an agent or advisor wants to increase income, they ultimately need to ask more people to buy (Closing Interviews), get more of them to buy (Closing Ratio) or sell more expensive products (Average Commission). A small increase in any one of those metrics can yield measurable results!
For example, if you were to start out already conducting 10 Closing Interviews per month with a 50 percent Closing Ratio and Average Commission of $1,000, and made some small increases in one or all of them, it could result in a significant cumulative increase in your income! But, how are you going to know if you don’t keep score?
Here’s how it works.
If you were to increase your Closing Interviews from 10 to 12 per month, which is only about one more every other week, your income inthis examplewould increase by $1,000/month or $12,000 annually. Improving your Closing Ratio from 50 percent to 60 percent would also result in a bump of $1,000/month or $12,000 annually. Adding $300 to your Average Commission, would boost your income by $1,500/month or $18,000 annually. The first two changes would both result in 20 percent higher income each. The third change would increase income by 30 percent. (View the graphic in detail here.)
Finally, if you improved all three at once, you might be happy with a 70 percent bump in income (the sum of all three changes). However, with the cumulative effect of all three, you would actually see an 87 percent improvement in income or production! But, again, how are you going to know if you don’t keep score?
Keeping score doesn’t just apply to sales, either. Every profession on the planet measures performance to some extent. Bakers and chefs use measurement in their recipes, and everyone from bridge builders to airplane mechanics measure and monitor what they do. It’s even more obvious in professional sports; you can’t tune into a sporting event without hearing statistics like how many yards a quarterback throws for, a hitter’s batting average, or a basketball player’s three-point percentage.
So, if you aren’t satisfied with your sales results, identify what you did to obtain them and what you will do differently to improve them. Manage your new activity goals and keep score. And, at the end of the day, it’s all a matter of mathematics, and of cause and effect.
The content of this post was supplied by Mickey Straub, president of Sales Activity Management, Inc. and the author of “BIG GOALS…Short Deadlines.” A long-time supporter of GAMA International and NAIFA, his company has tens of thousands of producer and manager clients annually across most financial services companies. In addition, Mickey is mayor of Burr Ridge, Ill. (a Chicago suburb) and a Congressional Record Recipient for his historic 50 Capitols in 50 Days journey done in honor of Abraham Lincoln and our Veterans.