Creating a constructive outlook for the coming year.
William Blake once wrote, “If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.” At the risk of trivializing his statement, Blake's wisdom means something to reps — specifically that limitations on a practice are often self-imposed.
How we view a situation establishes the basic assumptions that shape and guide how we function. Psychologists and linguists refer to this as framing. My goal is to begin 2005 by helping advisors to develop the habit of “constructive framing.” Understanding and applying good framing techniques can do more to propel the development of an affluent client base than any marketing strategy or sales gimmick.
Constructive vs. Destructive Framing
Think back over the last quarter of 2004. How many troubling, stressful experiences did you encounter that pulled you off your critical path? Hopefully not many, but the specific number is irrelevant because one is too many. Indulge me for a moment and think about an encounter with a difficult client, a presentation gone wrong, a new firm policy or initiative you didn't like, a canceled appointment, a systems failure or anything that got you thinking negatively about your business. Once you've recreated this destructive framework, picture yourself face-to-face with a new affluent prospect. Think about how the negative feelings and assumptions could influence and shape this encounter. Left unchecked, this destructive framework can become a performance-inhibiting habit.
Now let's turn the tables: Let go of that destructive state and think back over the last quarter of 2004 to something positive, where everything worked out exactly right. Next try to recapture the enthusiasm, the energy and the confidence you felt as you emerged from that situation. Remaining in that constructive frame of mind, picture yourself face-to-face with that new affluent prospect once again. With that constructive framework defining your perception of reality, there will be a significant difference in your performance.
By choosing a positive view with each subsequent situation you encounter, that constructive framework will become a performance-enhancing habit, raising your lifeline to higher achievement.
If you had a choice, which framework would you choose? It's a no-brainer of an answer, but deciding to go forth with a positive attitude often must be a conscious decision, because every advisor encounters negative experiences.
Stay on Target
I want to share a recent situation as described to me by two financial advisors, both dealing with the same challenge. Their firm was in the midst of changing computer systems and Murphy's Law was in full force. Client statements were wrong, information was inaccessible and everything that could go wrong did. No one was pleased.
Bill, like many advisors, was beside himself. Irate clients were calling with questions, and soon the troubles were dominating his every waking moment. He knew he needed to make things right because he thought it would be impossible to conduct business under these conditions, but he didn't know where to start, believing much of the troubles were beyond his control. Without realizing it, Bill had locked himself in a destructive framework. He found himself approaching each day looking for problems. He was usually successful in this quest.
Carl, by contrast, framed this unpleasant situation another way. He chose to view it all as an opportunity to connect with his clients. Working within this constructive framework, he met face-to-face with each of his key clients, apprised them of the system challenges — which he needed to do anyway — and skillfully repositioned himself as their primary wealth advisor. Choosing to put a positive spin on a problem, Carl got out of the office and spent valuable time with affluent clients and prospects. In short, he declined to let anything pull him off his critical path.
Life involves a series of choices, and the choices we make as we encounter new situations quickly become habit. However, people often don't realize they have a choice when determining their state of mind. The choice of constructive-versus-destructive framing is arguably the single most important habit to develop in your quest to achieve. It defines you professionally.
Carl raised over $8 million of new money from existing clients and put three large insurance cases into his pipeline. He also brought in four new affluent relationships during that time. Bill's business, as you might expect, was down.
You don't have to be confronted with Bill or Carl's challenges to relate. Financial advisors are bombarded with “stuff” that needs immediate framing all the time. How you frame this will either pull you off track or have you making adjustments that enable you to remain proactive and focused on activities that are linked to your goals.
To consistently frame constructively takes discipline. Constructive framing requires developing the habit of looking for something constructive in every situation, framing it and then acting accordingly. With a little work, constructive framing can become an ingrained habit, and 2005 can become your year of personal affluence.
Writer's BIO: Matt Oechsli
is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.