1 Step Back, 5 Steps Forward

There are many responsibilities Luke and I have at our firm. While all the responsibilities are important the main reason we are here is to bring in new 401k clients. This means we are responsible for identifying prospects, qualifying them, contacting them, setting appointments, and ultimately closing the account to bring them on board. We are 100% supported by our firm and have had a ton of help along the way. We couldn’t do it all by ourselves.

Luke started in his position in December of 2016. I started a few months before in October. We took a little time to get settled and began in earnest January 1st to start selling. We both had previous sales experience from different industries. We generally knew how sales works and what some of the processes are even thought we did not have a total mastery of our new industry yet. We put our heads together to come up with some marketing ideas and started to pound the pavement.

The first iteration of our sales materials and process wasn’t that great looking back. But it was infinitely better than some other “guy down the street” not doing anything. We knew there would be improvements but we just wanted to start. So, with our rudimentary marketing materials ready we set a goal. We had a number in mind that we wanted to reach for the year, a goal of assets to bring in under our management for the year. We then did some simple math with some simple assumptions to arrive at a number. It was the number of contacts we had to make per month to get to our goal at the end of the year. That number was 120, combined.

The first week of January came. We were ready. We hit our numbers that week and every week that month. We walked through the doors, delivered our materials, and came away with only 1 appointment. We only got one appointment. Not great, but something.

In addition to our sales responsibilities we also spend a significant amount of time learning about our new industry. During that first month of 2017, we had our eyes opened to a whole new way of thinking about how sales work. We got hooked on Hubspot. We learned some fresh ideas that needed to be incorporated into what we were currently doing. We knew we were doing more than most other advisors but we want to do the most and be the best. So we made the decision to take 1 step back.

We stopped marketing after the fourth week in January. We cleared our calendars completely. We scheduled time in the conference room to put together a strong sales process that combined our real world experiences in January with the new sales information we had just learned. It took us a whole week of long days and hard thinking to get the process hammered out. Then we began to polish it.

I will give you a simple idea of what we came up with. It is a sales process that starts with a first contact. We deliver an assessment of a company’s 401k plan either by mail or by hand. Then we follow up with a call. If we don’t get any traction we have a series of letters, brochures, and other materials all followed by phone calls that get sent out. At the end of the intense initial process if we still don’t get any response the prospect moves into the long term drip campaign. This campaign is very long term and extremely low pressure.

So, at this point we thought “Great, we are ready to go back out on the road and start knocking on doors”. Well, real life showed up and quickly put us in our place. There were many issues that slowed us down that ranged from compliance and approvals to getting materials designed and printed. The combined time we were off the road and kept from selling turned from a planned 1 week to multiple months in a row. It was frustrating and honestly disappointing. However, we always kept the long-term goal in mind. We did not lose sight of what we are trying to accomplish and we got back on the road eventually.

We are at the point now where we have been implementing our process with prospects for about 5 weeks. The results are significantly better than our first try in January. Luke and I are both getting good quality leads almost every week. We believe that the time off spent working on the process was hugely impactful and beneficial. The time off didn’t just create one step forward but 5.

So, how did we end up with such a big return on our investment? If we had continued down the road we had initially started with we probably would have been somewhat successful, or maybe not. To perform better we first recognized that we able and willing to be much better. We recognized that we didn’t know everything and we wanted to learn. More importantly, we not only recognized it, but we admitted it out loud to each other AND took steps to act on that admission inadequacy.

The recognition and admission led us to a doorway that when walked through would allow us to improve upon our sales process. That doorway is called humility. Humility leads to a reduction of ego, a trait that is completely counterproductive to success. As soon as we believe that we know it all and there is nothing left to learn and success plateaus. There is no more growth, there is no higher level to reach. We freely admitted we didn’t know it all. We are never too proud to change course or world view if we learn of new academic research or quality evidence that points us in a new direction. To not change in the face of that information would lead us down a path that moves away from our goals. Not towards it.

It’s hard to admit fault. It is hard to admit when we do something wrong. It is extremely hard to change your mind once you have made a decision on something. It’s hardest of all to admit that we don’t know what we are doing. We don’t always succeed at keeping our egos in check. I get over confident often. I think everyone is guilty of holding on to beliefs or actions for longer than they should. Like everything else in this world, it takes practice to get better at letting it go.

And we should practice. There are only positives associated with letting go of your ego. Many aspects of your life will get better once you try.

So, Luke and I could admit that we didn’t know it all. We took the time to reevaluate what we were doing. Our egos do get in the way sometimes but we overcame this time. The results speak for themselves. We are marching down our path and we are getting to our destination faster because we know that ego is the enemy.

 

Chris

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