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I came across this impressive article edited by Advisor Today Magazine, featuring top practice management tips from industry experts Leland “Lee” Davis, LUTCF, Danny O’Connell, John Enright, and Bob Artz, CLU, ChFL, LLIF. These guys show amazing discipline; I challenge you to integrate some of these methods into your daily practice!
Are you constantly asking yourself whatever happened to the time you thought you had, even as you look at a to-do list that appears to be getting longer and longer? Do you sometimes feel as if you are working harder and harder, but are not seeing the fruits of your labor? If you do, it’s time to learn from these top producers who know a thing or two about making the most of their work day.
Working four to five hours daily and getting 10 hours of work done is simple, but it is not easy. I must have 3-4 highly productive client/prospect meetings daily. Here’s how we do it.
1 Email Detonation. Email is the biggest time waster ever, unless it is leveraged to your advantage. So my Top Ten Rule: I only look at my email messages during the last 10 minutes or the first 10 minutes of the hour, between meetings. I reply by voice (see “Dragon” in next column). Delete, Junk and Unsubscribe are my best friends. We use Outlook Rules & Quick Steps for immediate auto replies like, “Thank You!”, “Got It, thanks!”, or “I’ll call you,” with a forward to my assistants for quick action. One click and it is done. An Email Inbox Sub folder for each teammate gets copied for our Daily Briefing (see below). The “After 5” subfolder gets any non-production-related message I want to look at further. Then, I’m done. I empty all of my email messages daily.
2 Teammate Briefings. Monday morning’s highly structured team meeting and a daily 15-minute briefing with my scheduler and advisor assistant keep us on target. An agenda keeps us laser focused and efficient (we have an agenda for every meeting). I have several great teammates, who are the biggest time savers of all.
3 Turbocharged Technology. In no particular order, my fast laptop/tablet has a clean, clear desktop and is highly organized. Microsoft One Note (cloud based) is used for ALL notes across ALL devices—no use of pen or paper. Dragon Naturally Speaking voice software is used for almost everything (I can talk three to four times more quickly than I can type). A Plantronics Edge Bluetooth earpiece and a phone headset keep me hands free. A 4-minute or less Copytalk dictation immediately follows every single call and meeting. Our scheduler then cuts and pastes precise details, actions, tasks and more into our Contact Manager CRM. She keeps the data clean. I move on.
Advisor Mobile puts our full CRM on my Galaxy Note Phablet/Smartphone or any other internet-enabled device. And yes, I have a Moto 360 Smartwatch when I give the Rolex or Omega a rest. Texts, emails, weather information and more appear magically there. By the way, two-thirds of our meetings are via WebEx, sharing my screen and webcam with great clients to close cases efficiently.
4 Amazing Meeting Prep. A Meeting Checklist and Action Folder, with the Naviplan financial plan, proposals, articles and all forms with signing tabs, is fully prepared and ready in advance for each meeting. We use E-signatures or FedEx to speed up the process.
5 An Hour at Night. I spend one hour or less most nights reading, studying, dictating and finishing the “After 5” Folder, following my afternoon (most days) round of golf. There. Now use those other four hours you have freed to go have some fun!
6 Taking a Client’s Call. Whenever someone calls in to our office and I am not available, I have the staff ask them if they can help. If they say “no, I need to speak with Danny,” I have my staff member let the person know when I am available for a call. At that time, the caller might say: “Well, I am only calling about X,” and it can be resolved. If it cannot, I have my staff member schedule the call and ask what it is about so that I can be prepared for it. At that point, the person might say: “It is about X.” Again, my staff person can usually handle it. If he can’t, then it is placed on my calendar so that we do not play “phone tag.” Also, I know exactly why they are calling and I am prepared to hopefully resolve it.
7 Handling Telephone Appointments. When I got started in this business, I would spend 30 minutes driving, spend an hour with the client, and another 30 minutes driving back to my office. I now conduct most of my initial appointments over the phone. Since so many of my prospects are referrals, this has not affected my closing ratio and it allows me to conduct 4-8 as many appointments in the same time it took me to conduct one appointment when I first started.
8 Writing the Closing Email. We all know that taking some time to prepare in advance for anything will save a lot of time on the back end. This is a lesson I have tried to instill in team members: If we do it right the first time, it saves us so much time on the back end. Once I have confirmed what a client wants to move forward with, I send them an email with confirmation of our next appointment time, along with a bullet-point list of what I will need from them to help them get prepared. The bullet-point list is important because it easily shows the client what is needed and they feel good once they know they have completed it. This also makes the most use of my time, as well as that of my staff.
9 Getting the Apps. For all the main carriers I do business with, every January I email my reps requesting the most up-to-date applications or forms that I use. I then save those to our server so that when we have something sold, we already have the paperwork and can start completing it. I try to complete as much as I can on the application prior to the meeting.
Also, we now complete the paperwork over the phone with the client–filling in the .pdf and emailing it to them to review, and asking them to send the signature pages back to us. In this way, the client has the complete set of paperwork and can review it. This process takes about 10 to 15 minutes, compared to the 90 minutes we used to spend on going to see them and driving back to the office.
10 Time block. Schedule at least 1 full day a week to work on your practice and the team, preparing for client meetings, returning calls and addressing problems. Do not have any client meetings on these days. I use Monday for this activity. Schedule days when you are focused only on seeing clients or centers of influence and fill those days up well in advance.
11 Stop answering the phone. It took me a long time, but finally I am at the point where the phone in my office does not ring. My team handles all incoming calls. Most incoming calls are related to service needs and if you are performing those service needs, it is time to hire someone to help you. You should be focused on business development. The result is that you do not need to answer incoming calls.
12 Create a list of the things you do over the course of a week. Be diligent about this so that your list is complete. After doing this for a couple of weeks, turn to the list and highlight the things you enjoy doing the least. Those are the things that your next hire needs to enjoy doing. When we are forced to do things we do not enjoy, we can’t help but procrastinate, just as I am doing now so I don’t have to do my meeting debriefs. When we get around to doing tasks we don’t like, we become easily distracted, and it takes time to get back to the task at hand. This is wasted time.
13 Create or adopt systems and processes. Identify the repeatable activities that you or your team members perform, either in front of a client or behind the scenes, and acquire or create systems and processes to create significantly better efficiencies. We have invested heavily over the years in systems and processes, and the result has not only created a great deal of time savings, but also a much higher level of confidence.
14 Commit to doing your most important activities. Ever wonder how the top sales performers manage their time every day and stay organized? They determine and commit to accomplishing their most important, high-value activities. High-value activities are actions that increase the bottom line by keeping their sales funnel filled and getting them in front of prospects and clients systematically. This is absolutely not negotiable to them–they do everything they can to achieve this goal. This is accomplished by an organized and systematic effort.
Here are some of the things top producers do to make effective use of their time:
• They “time-block” their day, week and month. Top producers schedule everything. They create a timetable for what needs to be accomplished and break the tasks down to what needs to be done daily, weekly and monthly. And they stick to it. They very rarely deviate from this schedule. So let’s take a closer look at what they schedule:
• Appointments. They decide how many appointments they need each week and “time block” them in their calendar. They set the specific times they will schedule appointments.
• Prospecting. They don’t forget to keep the potential sales pipeline filled. They don’t get lost in the business of client presentations, proposal preparation and daily administrative tasks. They don’t neglect to schedule time to prospect. Prospecting should be a daily habit. They block out time every day that is dedicated to finding new prospects and expanding their client base.
• Office and administrative. We all need time daily to deal with paperwork, customer questions, and things that come up in the course of business. These tasks are very important to business, but top producers don’t let them interfere with their goals of accomplishing their high-value activities. They schedule time each day so that they can handle these responsibilities and they don’t try to do them as they come up. They know that if it is not scheduled, their focus and their energy will be pulled elsewhere all day long.
• Emails and phone calls. We often feel that we spend the entire day answering emails and phone calls. Top producers respond to their calls and emails, but they control when they do so. They dedicate certain times, perhaps 3 or 4 times a day, to this activity. Scheduling when to check their email messages and phone calls allows them to stay focused throughout the day and not to go in different directions constantly.
15 Try not to multitask. Whatever job top producers decide to do, they stick with it until it is done. All of us think we can multi-task, but the truth is that we can’t. We can only do one thing at a time well. Top producers complete a task before moving on to the next one because they know this will result in a higher productivity level.
I hope these tips will inspire you to make some changes to your daily habits. Remember that the key to effective time management is governed by the decisions you make each day about how and where you invest your time.
The choice is yours.