All financial professionals have certain tasks in common regardless of the channel they are in or the demographics they serve.
The Pareto Principle is universal: 80% of your production typically comes from 20% of your clients. That principal also applies to advisors on the macro view. That is, 20% of the advisors in the world generate 80% of all production. And that top 20% of advisors got to the top not by doing 1,000 different things, but by doing a few things very well.
Heres one more way to think about it: just as 80% of your revenues come from 20% of your clients, 20% of your activities generate 80% of your results.
The trick is to identify those top activities and then to emulate the best practices of the top financial professionals.
Armed with that knowledge, you can improve the way you manage clients, staff and, ultimately, manage yourself.
First, you need to determine the best practices that you can emulate to manage your clients. You will need systems for prospecting, systems for client service, and systems for closing and submitting business.
The best advisors do most of their business by referral because they make sure they are serving their existing clients so well that they get those word-of-mouth recommendations constantly.
If the clients child needs a job they help arrange interviews. If its the clients birthday, they send a gift to their office like balloons, flowers, or snacks. If the clients car is in the advisors parking lot during the meeting, they have it detailed while they wait.
Bear in mind, you shouldnt do all of these things for every client. These are simply examples of over-the-top service that the top 20% of advisors tell me about. But also keep this in mind: when you provide great service you have earned the right to ask for referrals and get them in multiples, not dribs and drabs.
Next, you need systems to provide service that goes beyond the expected. All top advisors I know have segmented their client base so that they can better manage the clients needs.
Some clients may need four meetings a year; some may only need a call now and then. The best practice is to have this process systematized and implemented.
Finally, top advisors have outstanding yet simple presentations for the products and services needed by their clients.
Too many advisors present services that the client needs only to be turned down because of a poor presentation.
Advisors generally have four buckets of products: investments, insurance, annuities and financial plans. Often they only focus on investments and neglect the other three. This means the client has gaps in their finances unless they have other advisors filling those needs.
The reason for all this is largely because of poor presentation skills by the advisor. They may feel uncomfortable with the hard-sell approach, so they need to make sure their presentations are polished enough that the client implements what is needed.
Top advisors service all these areas for the entire family, not just the clients investment portfolio. And once business is closed, top advisors have systems to submit business with the latest technology to reduce time and errors.
An example of this might be using e-signatures, electronic forms, and a paperless office system.
Next, to become a top 20% advisor you need systems to manage staff.
Top advisors spend roughly 12% of their time training staff while the average practice spends less than 4%.
Top advisors have dedicated meeting time for staff to review tasks and provide feedback. Average advisors meet with staff when they make a mistake.
Top advisors hire for strengths and keep staff focused on what they naturally do well. Average advisors have staff multi-tasking a lot of things which can increase mistakes. For example they want the same person to set appointments and research investments.
Calling people requires a certain degree of pleasantness as well as persistence because not everyone is available when you call.
Researching investments requires a different skill set; namely, the ability to look at research and make forward-looking projections. If both tasks are assigned to the same person what are the chances they do both things equally well?
Advisors instinctively realize this but are sometimes limited in who is assigned to work for them. It is better to realize someone simply doesnt have the strength to make outbound calls instead of not seeing clients because no one set appointments.
The same would go for having a person research investments who is simply bored by the task and gave bad advice.
Top advisors provide recognition constantly when staff deserves it. The average advisor knows this is important but forgets and only does it sporadically.
Top advisors are slow to hire and quick to fire if they find that work is not getting done.
Finally, top advisors are exceptional at managing themselves.
They know their strengths in business, they work out regularly, and they under-promise and over-deliver to clients.
They are booked weeks in advance, not days in advance, and focus on running their practice, not having their practice run them. The top advisors I know are great strategists and looking to constantly improve their practice. Top advisors are not afraid to test new strategies just because they have never tried it before.
Average advisors, on the other hand, are locked into the same way of doing business day after day for years.
It is not because the average advisor is lazy. Sometimes they just need more confidence to try new things.
Top advisors follow the markets but are not consumed by them. The thing that gets them out of bed in the morning, but can also keep them up at night, is a constant focus on client service not their paycheck.
I hope at least one of these ideas catches your eye. Test it out and try something new.
The worst that can happen is that it wont work the way you expect and you are right where you are now.
Todd Colbeck is president of Colbeck Coaching Group. He can be reached at