The secret to success is that there is no secret, only effort. You need to put in twice as much effort to improve something that is already good, and five times more to become a champion.
International speaker, trainer and president of JPL Communications, Jean-Pierre Lauzier says that too many people are still looking for “the missing element in the success equation.” Instead of dissipating their energies in trying to discover the mysterious trick to success, he says advisors should practice winning habits unwaveringly... adding some kind of improvement each time.
He told the audience at The 2012 Insurance and Investment Convention in Montreal that this was the only way Jennifer Abel and Émilie Heymans were able to win their medals at the Olympics in London. The two Canadians won bronze medals last summer in the three-meter springboard synchronized diving competition. “Émilie Heymans and Jennifer Abel already knew the recipe for perfect diving. The more difficult part is to repeat it thousands of times without tiring, and to improve slightly each time,” says Mr. Lauzier.
The speaker staged a demonstration to prove his thesis. After showing a video of champion golfers Tiger Woods and Dermot McElroy, he invited one of the several audience members who said they were good golfers to come on stage. He then gave him a golf club and asked him to demonstrate his swing. “What is the difference between this movement and the one you have just seen on video?” asked Mr. Lauzier. “It is imperceptible.”
“How is it that Tiger Woods earns $100 million per year to play golf if there is no difference? Is there a secret? It’s not as if Woods is using a screen to hide his swing “ In fact, the Woods and McElroys of this world are constantly finding ways to improve their game and reach what Mr. Lauzier calls the 5% mark.
“If mastering 90% of your trade or profession is your definition of what is good, raising the bar to 95% will take twice as much effort as it did for you to reach your ‘good’ level. To raise it to 98% or even 99% will require five times as much effort,” says Mr. Lauzier.
To achieve this higher level advisors must, like the athletes, dive into an attitude of continuous improvement by consistently exceeding your goals. “Using better words and better presentations that will help you get a better clientele. Use a model that you can improve upon each time. Challenge yourself and leave your comfort zone,” says Mr. Lauzier.
He does, however, have a warning for advisors: repeating the same business practices for 20 years will get you nowhere, and will even have disastrous consequences. “Why not validate your prospecting, client approach, and sales interview techniques with successful advisors? They will tell you if you are on the right track or if you need to change your approach,” he comments. “Once you have a winning strategy, set yourself apart. To stand out, you must determine what you’re passionate about and hungry for.”
More human than technical
You should also think about what you want to be in life. “I asked people attending this conference which qualities they thought best defined the ideal financial advisor. They replied: ‘listening, patience, honesty, integrity, empathy, interpersonal skills, competence, dedication.’ I conclude from this that the human elements make much more of a difference than the technical ones.”
Technical expertise is, however, important. “You want a dentist to do your fillings, not a plumber. But more than that, you want a dentist who is understanding. The person who knows how to develop a human relationship with each of his clients will succeed,” says Mr. Lauzier.
He also says that advisors should stop being “balloon salespeople”. This salesperson makes multiple cold calls to get an appointment, goes to the interview which has miraculously survived out of the inevitable cancellations, and somehow manages to close the sale. The “balloon” then deflates. The advisor goes through the same routine in order to reinflate it.
“We were all ‘balloon’ salespeople at one time or another,” he says. “Some decided to get out of that vortex and start afresh. They said ‘enough is enough, I want to move forward and devote this extra effort towards excellence.’” In his opinion, this is the proof of the fact that knowing “how to succeed” is not enough. “Make your mark by adding value,” he suggests. When he asked the audience to choose the most important thing on earth, they replied that it was good health. “What is health? Eating well? Getting exercise? So why do 90% of people not do it?”
Value and expertise
Mr. Lauzier says that advisors must also provide value to the customer through their expertise. “Continue to develop your expertise based on what your customer perceives to be a value-added and not according to what you believe to be valuable,” he says. “You may believe that your financial planning expertise adds value to your client, while he is more excited by the confidence that that your approach inspires in him. Improve on that further with lectures and seminars.”
Go above and beyond their needs. “Every customer has specific and unique needs,” he comments. In general, the client will look for an advisor who is able to choose a product based on how well it is suited to his specific needs, and not according to the rate of commission. This is the best way to put word-of-mouth into action and obtain referrals. “To discover and understand these needs, listen and ask more questions,” suggests Mr. Lauzier. “It is often in this area that insurance advisors are lacking.”
Summing up, he urged advisers to action: charge at it, even if you fall sometimes. And above all else, do not simply rely on your experience.
“Twenty years of experience is often twenty years spent doing the same thing. Some have a great deal of talent, but make little progress because they rely on it. Others have to work harder to achieve the same level. I know you already listen to your customers. I am asking you to listen to them at least 1% more closely every time.”