Set great Performance Goals for 2015

I wrote a few months ago about the important role that goal setting plays in getting your whole team pulling in the same direction. We’re now going to dig a bit deeper and set out a few thoughts on how to develop really effective goals to help to drive your business forwards.

Align the Goals

In my previous article on this topic, I set out the importance of alignment between the goals of each individual and the actual goals of the organisations. This might seem obvious, but sometimes I come across obscure goals that really have no relevance to the objectives of the organisation – this can happen when the process is rushed or not thought through properly.

Focus on Behaviours as well as the Numbers

Again (and for the last time!), as covered in the previous article, don’t just set quantitative goals. Behaviours drive activity, which drive results. So focus goals on behaviours, as well as on the numbers.

Create effective goals

Easier said than done? Well maybe… Goal setting does take time but it is time very well spent. Effective goals will help to drive effective behaviours, giving a better chance of better results. I don’t think that you can go far wrong if you check that each of the goals you set display SMART characteristics. SMART goals are ones that are;

  • Specific – The goal must be clear to the individual and not ambiguous at all – they must clearly understand what is expected of them.
  • Measurable – The goal must be capable of being measured fairly so that the individual can clearly see the progress they are making in achieving the goal.
  • Attainable – The goal must be realistic and fair. If it is completely unachievable, the individual is unlikely to be motivated to achieve the goal.
  • Relevant – The goal must make sense in terms of the “bigger picture”. The individual should be able to clearly understand the purpose and reason behind the goal.
  • Time-bound – There should be a specific time period (often the calendar year) in which the goal should be achieved. It can’t just be left open-ended.

Involve the individuals in setting their goals

In a previous organisation that I worked in, the employees themselves developed the first draft of the goals. This was a very effective method as it created an immediate level of buy-in to the goals. That’s not to say that the manager immediately accepted them though! There was inevitably a level of negotiation involved in finalising the goals, but the initial buy-in remained.

Set the goals in time

A gripe of mine again based on prior experience… Many organisations don’t take goal setting seriously or don’t give it the priority that it deserves. This results in delays in getting the goals finalised – I’ve seen calendar year goals getting finalised in May or June, when the year is half over!

Don’t set too many goals

It’s important of course to set goals that will help the individual to deliver the behaviours that you are seeking and of course the results that your business is striving for. But don’t get over-enthusiastic and start getting lots of goals to cover every base. If someone has too many goals or too many different measures feeding into their goals, the whole process can become too daunting for the employee as they feel they are juggling too many balls in the air. A good rule of thumb is to set no more than 5 goals.

Don’t try and be too clever!

I’ve also seen situations in the past where goals are set that try to cover every base – remember Specific in SMART goals. I’ve seen single goals that have been constructed as “…achieve €x in income from y group of clients while ensuring z% retention levels in business from that group and overall profitability of xx%!” Is that 2 or 3 goals rather than a single goal? The employee in this case will probably feel that they’ve very little chance of achieving the goal, as there are so many hurdles to be negotiated.

Don’t be afraid to change them!

This can be a tricky one but sometimes a review of goals is the only sensible option. However this needs to be a two way street… If goals are set at the beginning of the year and the company subsequently changes direction, the goals may no longer make sense. So don’t be afraid to review them. You’re better off with updated goals that make sense and a newly motivated employee, than a disgruntled employee who has no hope of achieving his/her goals as a result of factors that are not of their own making.

And finally, reviewing goals together regularly throughout the year is an important part of the process. It also can be very motivational for the employee, who will see you “pulling” for them, helping them to achieve their goals. Remember if the goals are well aligned, everyone will be a winner if the goals are achieved!

Adding lots of value to your clients? Tell them about it!

A lot of advisers today are really starting to effectively demonstrate their value to new clients in their initial meeting. Using powerful presentations or other marketing material, they are setting out their advice processes and how these processes are really valuable to the clients.

However many advisers still struggle with reminding their clients of the ongoing value that they are adding, year after year. They’re providing great ongoing advice, adding value to the clients throughout the year but the clients just don’t seem to see it – they don’t realise the value added… So how can you keep reminding your clients of the tremendous value that you continue to add?

Here are two ways that I think are really important.

Have brilliant review meetings

This is a very obvious one, but there are some financial brokers who consider it a “win” if the client says they don’t need a review meeting! The review meeting going ahead is certainly not a win. Yes it might give you an extra few free hours, but the opportunity cost of reinforcing your value is significant.

Of course there is the “hard yards” in review meetings of reviewing a client’s portfolio, getting up to date values and potentially even writing a short review report. But this is balanced with the business opportunity of potential top-ups, a review of protection benefits and policies and new financial products needed. However the real opportunity to demonstrate your value on an ongoing basis to clients rests outside of the traditional review meeting agenda. Why not take a little extra time and set out for your clients some financial benefits that you’ve delivered to them such as;

  • The growth in actual euros of their investment portfolio
  • The tax saved as a result of their pension plan and any other tax efficient policies
  • The actual money saved in euros and cents as a result of a protection review you carried out previously.

 Now your ongoing fee / trail commission starts to look very small! However there’s still a lot more you can do at these review meetings to demonstrate further value to you clients.

  • Help your clients with their household budgeting. Trust me (as a consumer), this can add huge value to your clients!
  • Talk to them about their broader financial needs where you don’t provide the solutions. You can add value by tapping them into your network of solicitors (for their will or enduring power of attorney), tax advisers (tax advice) or accountants. Now you’re the person pulling all of the strings!
  • Obviously if you carry out future cashflow planning with your clients, this is an exceptionally valuable exercise every year.

Client Calendars

There are lots of activities that you carry out on behalf of your clients during the year. The challenge is getting them to notice the work that you’re doing on their behalf and then reminding them about it in an engaging and memorable way. One of the ways that you can do this is by providing your client with their own calendar of your services every year. Obviously you would create a nicely presented version of this, but the main content for your key clients might look something like this, if presented at the end of each year;

  • January: Client newsletter,
  • February: Investment rebalancing
  • March: Annual Review Meeting, client newsletter
  • April: Investment seminar, update on major market movements
  • May: Investment rebalancing, client newsletter
  • June: Golf outing
  • July: Client newsletter
  • August: Investment rebalancing, meeting with your accountant
  • September: Half Year check-in, client newsletter
  • October: Budget update, tax deadline review
  • November: Investment rebalancing, client newsletter
  • December: Christmas lunch

Now the client sees you working for them throughout the year, not just at a single point in time at the review meeting

If you’re delivering both of these supports in a structured and engaging way, how likely is your client to start arguing over your trail commission?

Treat the first meeting like a first date!

Let me start by saying that none of my friends ever took dating advice from me! So while I certainly can’t be considered a modern oracle on the art of dating, by going back in the depths of my mind I can just about remember some of the golden rules. And the funny thing is, many of these rules apply to that all-important first meeting with a prospective client which is central to one of the most common challenges that financial brokers ask me for help with; turning more prospects into clients.

So going back 20 years to when this innocent twenty something year old was doing his best to even get a first date, what were the important things to remember and how are they relevant to the first meeting of a financial broker with his / her client today?

Be Prepared

Starting with the old Scouting rule, this was always very important. Having a plan and trying to stick to it. Thinking ahead and trying to work out what were the most important buttons to press to ensure that the date went well and would potentially turn into something more…

Equally with the first meeting with a prospective client, you need to have a plan. This will normally be an agenda or a finely tuned process that you use at these meetings. And in relation to the buttons that you press, you’ve got to recognise the main challenges that you face in this first meeting. The potential client is internally asking the questions;

  • Is this broker the right person for me?
  • Do I trust him/her?
  • Is he/she going to add value to me, and address what I think my issues are?
  • Do I think he/she is being open with me, do I understand what I’m getting into here?
  • What does this office say about the broker?

They are not thinking about products – so nor should you at this stage. You’ve got to mentally tick off the above listed questions to ease your client into a relationship with you. So don’t start with a barrage or personal questions (the factfind) – this never worked on a first date either…

Be interested

I found out to my cost (more than) once that a sure-fire way of destroying any potential interest that my date had in me was to spend the first hour wittering nervously on and on about myself. Instead there was more to be gained from letting her do the talking, and as a result learning about her values, her interests and her expectations.

Back to the business meeting the same is true. You don’t really know at this stage (you might think you do) why the potential client is in front of you. So now is the time for gentle but strong open-ended questioning. You want to find out what the client wants, what their values are and their expectations of a business relationship with you. Indeed this helps you decide whether they are potentially a client for you. Letting people talk about themselves will help to put them at their ease, once you don’t probe too deeply at this stage.

Win some trust

Back on the dating scene, this started by putting the lucky lady at ease in my company and convincing her that I wasn’t an axe murderer, or that I was going to leave her with the bill at the end of the night – I had to win some trust.

So in the business meeting the same applies. You need to convince the client firstly that you can be trusted, that you are in the business of making them money and not losing them money, that you are indeed someone that they would like to work with and have a follow-up meeting.

To me, a short visual presentation of how you advise clients is at the core of this. Demonstrating a robust advice process builds trust, gives an understanding of what you do and how you do it, and helps the client recognise why you are the right person to manage their affairs. And still products don’t come into it yet – that’s because the client just expects you to be fully knowledgeable in that area and product knowledge will rarely be a means of differentiating yourself from your peers.

If you want to use any support material to strengthen your case, show some real testimonials and case studies of innovative advice solutions you used in the past.

Remember, your aim at this stage is to build rapport with the client, rather than problem solving. You are trying to demonstrate your capability as an adviser and your suitability as the right broker for the client.

Then demonstrate that you are the only person in town for them

On the date, the wine was now hopefully starting to flow.  Then it was time to show that I was actually quite a likeable and interesting guy, before eventually convincing her that I was definitely worth seeing again! This usually entailed being willing to discuss & confront some tricky issues… Openness in this regard always helped.

This comes through in the first meeting with a client. Once that initial trust is won, don’t lose it by skirting around some big issues. For example if the client raises this the question of how you are paid. Be crystal clear and open, discussing with clients at this first meeting the value that you will be bringing and how your remuneration will be based on this.

Get the location right

The choice of restaurant was always crucial. However if my house was going to feature at all at this early stage, it was very important that it was at least clean!

The same applies to your office as this will help form that first impression. Will the client think that this is a really professional outfit that they’ll happily trust their affairs to, or does it all look a bit all over the place? They will perceive the environment as a reflection of how you manage your clients’ affairs.

What about afterwards?

So the first date has all gone swimmingly. Now it’s important that you get the follow-up right. Not too pushy but at the same time you want to move things along a notch. Well the same applies to your business meeting. Hopefully you’ve got off on the right foot so now it’s time to follow through with the professional approach you outlined at the first meeting.

Trust me, I failed more than once at the dating game! However I hope that some of my lessons bitterly learned will help you in your first meeting with your clients.

If you’ve any thoughts on what’s important at the first client meeting (I’m not looking for dating tips!), please leave your comments below.

Building a Rock Star Sales Team!

A number of businesses that I’ve been dealing with have identified clearly the value of having really excellent people in their sales team. They’ve seen quite significant differences in the performance of their most successful people as opposed to their weaker people. They’ve also noticed that these performances tend to get repeated, pretty much year after year. So what can you do to build a rock star sales team that will help you exceed your sales goals, year after year?

Know your team – scientifically!

Yes, I know it sounds very obvious but how well do you really know your sales team and do you judge them fairly? Or are your “best” sales people seen as such by reputation only, or as a result of long held beliefs that you’ve had in relation to their talent? Yes, reputations and your own gut feeling count for a lot, but on their own they are not enough.

If you are going to trust your brand to your sales team, you’ve got to make sure that they have the competencies and attributes to carry this out, every bit as well as you would do it yourself. So spend time working out what are these attributes (drive, professionalism, integrity, resilience etc.) and competencies (relationship building skills, advice approach, technical knowledge, writing / presentation skills etc.) that you value.

Once you have these identified, score all your sales team against these factors. In addition, you cannot ignore both their previous results and also the quality of their clientbase / territory – these should be brought into your analysis too.

Finally and most importantly, seek out the views of others. Get colleagues who also know the team well to score them too. Also, if possible, talk to some of your key customers. It’s quite probable that both of these other insights will throw up some surprises for you. Maybe they’ll uncover a “blind spot” you’ve had, which has resulted in you consistently under-rating / over-rating some individuals and maybe, just maybe it’s you who has to change!

Once you’ve done this exercise, you can be pretty confident that you’ve a solid view of your team and can recognise its strong and weak points.

Increase the number of winners

Winners need to be rewarded and with more than just money. Yes, money is very important but is usually not enough on it’s own. Winners like recognition; they like to be celebrated, both inside and outside your company. They also like to be listened to – properly. They’re successful for a reason so their views and insights should be heeded and where appropriate, acted upon. Winners also like to see where their success is going to take them over the longer term. So think about their career paths and future opportunities – before they take this decision out of your hands….

There will be quite a large group of people “in the middle” who are doing a competent job but probably not consistently shooting the lights out. These are the people that you need to challenge to move into the top tier. A mixture of setting appropriate goals for them, creating personal development plans that will increase their skills and driving the team harder in some cases will achieve this! Also let your stars demonstrate to these people how they are getting their great results. Your stars may help you raise the performance of some of these middle tier players.

Unfortunately you’ve got to be equally assertive in dealing with the serial under-performers who are also lacking in the attributes and competencies that you require. Remember when it comes to sales, “bad breath is worse than no breath” as these people run the risk of irreparably damaging relationships with some of your clients. So find new roles for these people or move them on. Get them out of your sales team. You’ll also gain more respect from the wider sales team for your willingness to act in relation to underperformance.

What happens when a rock star leaves the band?

That dreaded moment. Your best sales person comes to you saying, “Can I just have a minute” and you know what’s coming… So what do you do?

Do you try and stop them leaving? Yes unless the price is too high, you’re going to be a hostage to them in the future, their head is already gone out the door or by clinging on to them, you will completely unsettle the rest of the team to try a similar move!

You then need to consider how replaceable they actually are – internally or externally. If you have a strong “bench” of support people waiting for a sales opportunity, then maybe you just wish your star performer well. Also if you have a clear external recruitment plan for this very scenario ready to go, well then maybe it’s time to implement this now.

And of course, don’t forget your clients in all of this. Make sure you reassure them completely that your organisation will continue to meet and exceed their needs going forwards, even without this important sales person.

So, get really clear on the strengths and weaknesses of your team, have different approaches for your different players and remember, when the star leaves, it’s not necessarily the end of the world!


Have you any more thoughts on how to build an excellent sales team… or even what’s your favourite ACDC song! All comments welcome below.

How can you secure your ongoing revenue stream?

Many of the advisers that I talk to regularly speak of the dual challenges of earning enough revenue today from new business to pay the bills (while hopefully having a bit left over), and also moving their business model towards building up a growing, recurring revenue stream. While there is a plethora of articles written that look at the new business challenges, this post is focused on the latter challenge, moving towards building up a stable and secure ongoing revenue stream.

The products…
Indeed, when it comes to protection products, a number of the product providers are helping advisers in this regard with the emergence and growing acceptance of new commission models that offer attractive spread commission options without the dreaded commission clawback in the event of policy lapses. This allows advisers to build up their ongoing revenue stream. Once the client continues to require (and can afford) the cover, and the adviser ensures that the cover in place continues to be the best available, the adviser stands every chance of this revenue continuing.

The situation in relation to pensions and investment is a bit more complex. Historically ongoing income only came from regular premium products in the form of renewal commission. However this situation has changed significantly in recent years with many advisers moving away from large upfront commission payments on both regular and single premium business, towards lower upfront payments (by commission or fee) and a share of the ongoing annual management charge (AMC) by a trail commission.

While building up revenue through trail is challenging in the early years while asset amounts are lower, this basis is obviously more attractive in the long run as the adviser’s funds under management grow. Trail also removes the dependence on future premiums for future remuneration. Trail is also easier to explain to a client as it aligns the interest of the adviser with that of the client. Both gain from growth in the funds.

Observations from abroad
While the UK market certainly doesn’t dictate what happens in Ireland, there are often changes in this market that are worth observing. It’s interesting to note that trail commission is outlawed on business written since the Retail Distribution Review (RDR) came into effect on 1st January this year. While this was done as part of breaking the link between products and adviser remuneration, time will tell over the next few years whether this was taking a hammer to crack a nut.

However a lesson that I believe we can certainly take from the UK is that to justify ongoing remuneration, be it by adviser charging in the UK or by trail or fees in Ireland, the client will rightly expect something back in return. In short, trail commission will have to be earned. In fact (with my final reference to the UK, I promise!), there was a case taken by a client against a wealth manager who had been paid £10K in trail, but who the client claimed had provided no value. Could this happen in Ireland? The answer is, why not. So you need to ensure this doesn’t happen to you by delivering and showing your ongoing value to the client.

A clear ongoing advice proposition
To do this, you need to have a clear ongoing value proposition for your clients. Ongoing work needs to be a core part of your proposition, not a “by the way” 10 second conversation at the end of the initial product implementation. Clients do not want to feel “sold to”. This is exactly how they will feel if you don’t have a strong ongoing advice proposition to offer them. Delivering this is a natural move for those advisers who are shifting their focus from a product sale approach to an advice based offering.

Apart from obviously reviewing a client’s financial plan and product portfolio to ensure they are still on track to achieve their objectives, a structured and well thought out review approach offers you a great opportunity to remind your clients where you’ve added value to them over the year. This is where you can remind them of the growth they’ve achieved in their investment portfolio that you put together for them, the tax they saved as a result of the retirement plan you designed for them, the money they saved by you restructuring their protection portfolio and health insurance etc. Indeed one of the great benefits for those advisers who provide future cash flow modelling for their clients is it creates a natural and very valuable engagement with the client every year.

Benefits for you!
You as an adviser also benefit as a structured and well thought out review will surface any cross-selling opportunities that may exist. However the critical benefit to you is the strengthening of your relationship with your client, increasing your chances of retaining the client as their assets under management, and in turn your trail commission, increase. Surely this is a better approach than just hoping the client won’t be tempted away by another adviser who simply undercuts your trail commission amount?

And of course one of the main aims of many advisers is to build up value in your business. This is best achieved by being able to demonstrate a strong, stable revenue stream. Now is the time to develop your ongoing advice proposition to help you build up this valuable revenue stream.

What do you believe are the critical factors to help you build up your ongoing revenue stream? All your comments are very welcome below.

Do your clients know the value that you bring?

Are you very clear about the value that you add for your clients? Yes, I think most advisers are clear of the value that your advice offers to clients. How good are you at proactively discussing this with potential clients? Hmmm, I think there are a lot of advisers who are much happier talking about products rather than their advice process. How many of you have your advice process written down and actually walk through this with your clients? From my experience, not too many.

I’ve had the privilege over the last year of working with a number of advisers, helping them develop really compelling value propositions. The reason I was asked to work with them was because these advisers felt that they just weren’t turning enough leads and prospects into clients. They were meeting lots of people but weren’t successfully bridging the gap from that pre-sales point to actually engaging the clients in the advice process.

We identified that this was because they weren’t clearly articulating the value that they offer to these potential clients through the advice that they give. From my experience, advisers are often more comfortable getting straight to the solutions (products) rather than spending time talking about the advice process, which is where you add your value!

So with these advisers, we mapped out their advice processes, articulated the value gained by the client at each step, wrote these down and turned them into presentations of their advice propositions. So now the initial discussions focus on where the adviser adds value to the client. The result is prospects now understanding the value of the adviser, more of them turning into clients and much easier justification of fees and charges as the client now has a clear sense of the value added by the adviser.

So what are the steps to winning more clients with a strong value proposition?

Clarify your advice process and the value of this
First of all, think through all the stages of your advice process. Think about how you start your advice meeting, how you move through your fact finding stage and build your client profile. Then think about how you go about making recommendations to identifying and implementing product solutions. Finally think about the value at each step for your client, what they gain by having you involved.

Make it visual
The next step is to develop this advice process into a visual diagram. Many clients don’t want to read long documents but you really want them to see this one……so capture it in a simple graphic that you can walk through with them.

Also capture your advice process and the value to clients longhand in a printed document to be given to every client that you have an introductory meeting with. This will ensure that it remains with them after the meeting.

Make it a critical new step of your process
So now before you start giving advice to a client, you should now explain the journey you are going to undertake with the client, rather than just diving in.

I suggest that you build an introductory presentation about you, your business and what you offer to clients with this being the nub of that presentation. This presentation in my mind should be delivered using technology rather than paper, and an iPad or other tablet being far preferable to a laptop as it removes the screen as a barrier between you and the client.

Is this worth doing?
Well first of all I agree that it’s going to take a bit of effort to actually map out your process and identify the added value, turn it into a presentation and a takeaway document for clients. Indeed it also will mean that your initial meeting will take longer than before as you walk through the presentation.

However the benefits will significantly outweigh these negatives. First of all, I believe that showing this value will help get more prospects “across the line” and to the factfind stage. Secondly taking the time to set out your advice process and the value to clients will help you win that all-important trust of the client. They will take comfort in you demonstrating a robust process behind the advice that you give, that your advice is well structured and well thought out. This is likely to increase their willingness to commit with you.

Finally the client will “get” what you do. They will see the expertise that you bring and the value this offers to them. And the benefit of this? A greater understanding and acceptance of the fees and/or commission that you receive to provide advice to them and help them to achieve their financial objectives.

How do you portray your value to clients? Do you use a particular approach? Please feel free to leave your comments.