RECENTLY, I HAD an eye-opening discussion with one of my largest clients while reviewing the prior year and setting goals for the next year. During this discussion, my client suggested several critical "Keep Doing, Start Doing and Stop Doing" items that he felt would help us to be more effective. These same concepts can help you build your investment or insurance program.

Keep Doing

In every organization, and with every individual within the organization, there are things that must be done to drive results and achieve the goals that have been set. Whether your business is research, logistics, finance, athletics, or education, managers should identify the "rocks" that must be moved daily in order to achieve your goals. But identifying the rocks isn't enough. You also have to identify the daily, weekly, and monthly activities that lead directly to the rocks being moved in order to achieve your desired results. In most cases, just a few activities directly lead to that outcome. Everything else is just "stuff."

For your financial advisors, the goals may be:

  • Find and develop new relationships to grow your business.
  • Help individuals achieve their personal financial goals, including such important life events as education, travel, retirement, etc.
  • Provide advice and peace of mind so that your clients feel financially secure.

Have a process of reporting activities and results, such as a weekly sales huddle. There is nothing as powerful as being part of a group. Peer pressure is hugely motivating.

To achieve these goals, the advisor's "rocks" or activities might be to:

  • See prospects that fit your identified prospect profile.
  • Qualify those prospects to see if they meet your definition of a prospect—Do they qualify to do business with you?
  • Help these individuals make timely decisions that will help them achieve their financial goals.
  • Set specific review and goal-setting meetings with your top clients in order to provide proactive advice.

An important distinction in the financial advisory world is that when you "sell" something to your clients, you are, in fact, helping them reach their financial goals and financial security. This approach is a motivating and positive mindset that will help advisors do these activities on a consistent basis and, in turn, will help grow their business. But we need to make sure our salespeople stay on top of their priority "rocks" and activities. This is not always easy, and it sometimes takes courage. To execute as sales managers, we must be able to have fierce conversations with our reps when activities aren't being performed. We must be able to manage our own activities and yet be strong and flexible enough to function as a team. We must be able to encourage each other when we have fallen behind. We must have the endurance to do this day in and day out.

It's easy to get discouraged and frustrated when these activities don't lead to results immediately. But if your business plan is solid, your sales activity success formula is based on real data, and you review and manage these sales behaviors regularly, these good business practices will lead to the accomplishment of your goals.

Start Doing

When I was 9 years old, I convinced my dad that I wanted to try out for the Hammonton Hawks youth football team. On the first day, as I finished the end of my practice laps for conditioning, I ran to my dad who was standing just outside the end zone talking to my coach. Dad asked me, "How did it go? What do you think?" I replied that I was going to go to college some day and play football. Dad said, "Well, if you want to do that, then you need to start running. College football requires that you be in great shape, so you might as well start now. Go ahead and run eight more laps (2 miles)." "OK, Dad." And off I went. Nine years later, I played football for the University of Connecticut on a full scholarship.

As a sales manager, you need to help your advisors start doing what they must do to be more successful at selling.

Here are some activities that can lead to success in selling and to which you should be coaching your people:

  • Determine specific goals, including your personal as well as professional goals. Start with 100 goals, boil that down to the top 10, and then filter out the top three non-negotiable goals. Remember, people achieve sales goals to reach personal aims, not company targets.
  • Advisors should have a specific plan to reach their goals. If they don't have a plan, help them create one.
  • The plan should include specific activities required for success and set "standards" for each of these activities.
  • Have a process to honestly measure achievement of these standards. Are they executing the activities to the standards required to be successful?
  • Have an accountability program. You must be sure your advisors are held accountable (by you or, better yet, by themselves).
  • Have a process of reporting activities and results; we suggest a weekly sales huddle as the venue. There is nothing as powerful as being part of a group. Peer pressure is hugely motivating.
  • Be a life-long learner. Being in the business 20 years is not good enough. You and your advisors have to be better and more knowledgeable today than you were last year.
  • Adjust to the marketplace. This goes beyond dealing with the volatile economic climate. Technology has changed how many people receive information and how they buy. There was a time when consumers relied on the salesperson to provide virtually all the information needed to make a decision. Now much of the information (as well as the ability to make a purchase) is available on the Internet. Today's advisor's role is to help clients identify their financial goals, make the right choices to reach them, and then implement the appropriate steps.

Typically, when companies (or individuals) create a business plan, they focus on the things they are going to start doing when what they really need is to focus on what they will stop doing.

If you take the time to help your advisors analyze their business practices to identify what they need to do to be successful, you will have taken an important step toward accomplishing your goals—and theirs. So, start now.

Stop Doing

Several years ago, I heard Verne Harnish, author of Mastering the Rockefeller Habits, speak. As part of his presentation on the "1-Page Business Plan," he challenged the audience with the following question: "What will you stop doing?" Typically, when companies (or individuals) create a business plan, they focus on the things they are going to start doing when they really need to focus on what they will stop doing. Let me provide a personal example.

Determine specific goals to include your personal as well as professional goals. Start with 100 goals, boil that down to the top 10, and then filter out the top three non-negotiable goals.

As president of our company, I have the responsibility of driving revenue. I have always felt that, if I could sell more, we would be successful. I was right about that while our business was new. However, as we have grown and established a goal of building a sellable business, I have had to realize that I cannot be solely focused on selling; to better accomplish my goal of building a sellable business, I must focus on developing those same skills in others. In addition, I have to stop doing certain time-consuming activities if we are going to get to the next level of building a sellable business.

We have worked with thousands of sales managers over the last 15 years, and the No. 1 reason given for not spending sufficient time coaching their people is time. Their time is eaten up with other priorities, such as operations or paperwork or meetings. However, you have to rise above this. You must determine what you can and will stop doing.

To help you get started, here are some potential "stop doing" activities you should consider:

  • Stop allowing your salespeople to make excuses for their lack of activity.
  • Discontinue those lengthy conversations and refocus them on getting the activity done.
  • Stop getting so immersed in operations and finance. Find the right people in your organization with the perspective to understand what they must do and what you must do to get the whole job done.
  • Stop dropping and doing everything for your salespeople. Schedule specific time for discussions with your reps and avoid those interruptive drop-ins. By doing that, you will help them to solve many of their own issues. Your door cannot always be open.

It's your turn now to determine what you need to "Keep Doing, Start Doing and Stop Doing".

Tony Cole is President and CEO of the Anthony Cole Training Group. Information about Anthony Cole Training Group can be found in the Registry/Services Directory section of the BISA website, or you may contact Tony directly at