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Five Habits for Success

Develop these traits and watch your profits grow.

By Gregory B. Gagne, ChFC

What are some key steps you need to take to enhance the financial-planning services you offer your clients?

1. Seek first to understand before being understood. Are you a good listener? Find out during your next meeting. Who is doing most of the talking—you or your prospect? Focus your efforts in the meeting on asking questions that enable your prospect to articulate his hopes, dreams and goals.

Get a clear understanding of what your prospect wants and then help him accomplish those goals. Many advisors are so eager to tell a prospect all they know that they confuse him with an abundance of information. Clients retain you for your expertise. If they want to know everything, they would research and do their own planning. Spend more of your time focused on being an active listener, and then explain the appropriate course of action. You will gain the confidence and trust of your prospect.

2. Specialize. Review your book of business. What type of planning brings you the most satisfaction? What part of planning do you dread? Focus on the area of planning that makes you feel as if you have a real sense of accomplishment and delegate the other areas. Do not try to be all things to all people.


When I first started in this business, I was in the business market, the personal market, the college-planning market, the retirement-planning market or in any market that I could get in front of a prospect. Several years ago, I made a decision to focus only on retirement planning. Once you begin targeting a market, you will start to add real credibility to your practice. In my practice, any case that is not retirement-related is shared with my colleagues on a joint basis. This creates a win-win situation—the client gets the best advice from the specialists in each area of planning, and we do not walk away from the business.

3. Stay organized and keep records. How many appointments did you have last week, last month and year to date? How many were new appointments and how many were review meetings? How many cases have you written so far this year? Are you on track for the Million Dollar Round Table or your company’s leaders club? If you can answer these questions, you are probably doing a great job. If you cannot, you are probably not on track to achieving your goals. Top producers keep records of their records. Maintaining accurate records of productivity enables you to better plan for the future based on the performance of your past. If you do not already have a business plan, make one.

If you have been lax in keeping records, begin today. Take out your schedule book and a sheet of paper. Make three columns: New, Old and Written. Write the names of all new appointments under the New column and the names of any review meeting or second meeting under the Old column. If you wrote some business, write the date and what you wrote in the Written column. Record the fee or commission you received from the case.

What are your results looking like? Are they in line with your goals? You must know where you have been to plan for where you are headed.

4. Do what you say you are going to do. This is a habit that has been mentioned many times before but it is critical. Not following this habit will lead to failure. If you say you are going to do something, do it. Unfortunately, many people have the greatest intentions in the world about what they are going to do but they never seem to get around to doing it. This could be a broken promise to a client, a broken promise to your family, your staff, and most importantly, yourself.

Many people use the excuse “as soon as” to mean that as soon as they have the time, as soon as they have the money or as soon as something else happens, they will take action. This behavior leads to “should have, would have and could have” and ultimately regret. If you are not getting it done, change your behavior by making the decision to do what you say.

5. Read, study and learn. The final habit is to always read, study and learn. To be successful in today’s financial environment, you must schedule time to read, study and learn on a daily basis to stay current with the latest methods, rules, regulations and techniques. One way to do this is to read a financial publication like Advisor Today. Or you can attend NAIFA events, and if you qualify, MDRT meetings.

Reading, studying and learning will give you the edge you need to win over the competition. Become your clients’ educated advisor. Your ability to help make the best choices after listening carefully to your clients’ goals, hopes and dreams is what will make you a valuable player on their advisory

Gregory B. Gagne, ChFC, is the founder of Affinity Investment Group, LLC, immediate past president of NAIFA-New Hampshire and a member of MDRT. You can reach him at

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