The Ultimate Checklist for Financial & Insurance Advisors to Close Off the Year
by Jonathan Bega
So over the last week, the snow has been coming down hard and it’s been getting chilly. I’ve been feeling this particularly harshly as I’ve been taking care of my parents’ dog while they galavant on a cruise ship through the Panama Canal, and there’s no cold like roll out of bed to go walk the dog before you’re even fully awake cold. So why am I ranting about the cold? Well, because the cold can only mean two things:
- It’s time for spiced rum and eggnog to become a staple of your diet
- It’s time to build a checklist to close off the year and prepare you for a hugely successful 2017
So, if you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know that I love process. As such, checklists are 100% what I’m all about. And the end of the year is a great time to put together a checklist around the health of your business, as well as planning for how to do it better next year. Plus, as a financial / insurance advisor, the next few weeks are likely free as clients go on vacation and everything slows down to a halt.
As such, today’s blog is the five-point checklist I think every insurance and financial advisor should do during the next two weeks, as well as the corresponding activities for each item on the list. Basically, I want you to take stock of how things are currently going, and use that to really push forward a process-driven plan for crushing 2017!
So, on that note, let’s go through the checklist items that really matter:
Checklist Item #1: Grade Last Year’s Performance
So the very first item on any financial service professional’s checklist should be grading his or her performance in the previous year. Now, when it comes to grading, I recommend breaking it down into two sections: quantitative and qualitative.
On the quantitative section, this is a good time to go through your book over the previous year and make sure you understand how your business is doing. This is in both top-line numbers and in metrics that are valuable. For top-line numbers, get a health check on:
- Top-line revenue – How much revenue did you generate?
- Year-over-year revenue growth – What percentage of growth did you get in revenue from last year to this year? More growth is always better than less growth! To calculate:
- Profit margin – For every dollar of revenue, how much of it do you generate in income? The higher your profit margin, the healthier your book. How does it compare to last year’s profit margin?
- Total Profit – Nothing tells you how well your business is doing like the profit it generated. Spend some time to figure this out.
These top-line numbers give you a nice snapshot of what’s going well and what’s not. If you’re seeing revenue growth but a drop in your profit margins, then figure out where the extra expenses went this year. If you’re good revenue but no growth, think about where next year’s growth could come from. Next, I’d turn to some of my favorite metrics to understanding your clients and business at a slightly deeper level:
- Cost of acquiring a customer – how much did it cost you to gain new customers (read how here)?
- Churn rate – How was your retention / churn rate for your customers (read how here)?
- Your LTV:CAC ratio – Are your clients returning value relative to what they cost you (read how here)?
I’ve written at length about these metrics and how they help you diagnose your business. If you’ve bookmarked it before because it’s a long read, the period between now and New Year’s Eve is probably the best chunk of time you’ll have to read through these posts and do the groundwork necessary to get on top of these numbers for yourself. I cannot recommend enough that you use some of the upcoming downtime to really get a handle on your business numbers – building it out at first is the hard part, but as soon as you’ve done it once, updating it over time is simple.
Okay, so once the quantitative review is done, it’s time to turn to the qualitative review. To start, I’d like you to do a simple exercise. List three things that you did really well this year and three things you did poorly. These listed items could be connected to your metrics, but try to make them concrete. That is, don’t list “gained revenue” as something you did very well because it is reliant on too many other factors. Instead, you can say you did great at “hitting my cold call numbers” or “converting first meetings into sales.” Or maybe they’re unrelated to your metrics. Maybe you did very poorly at “keeping track of my clients after they close” or at “forgetting to follow-up with clients in my pipeline.”
Whatever your list is, take some time to think it over. For the activities you did well on, do you know why? For example, if you did great at hitting your cold call numbers, is it because you scheduled time to cold call daily? Is it because you started targeting a specific niche market you’re really smart at? Likewise, is this success something you can maintain and is there something you can learn from your experience that will be applicable to the rest of your business?
For the activities you did poorly on, what was the problem? What actions can you implement to make it better next year? Try to think about the processes you can adopt to ameliorate any issues you bump up against. If an area of weakness is losing track of clients after the close, create a reminder process that keeps you in check. If you’re not doing your cold calls often enough, set aside a period of time each day (or a few times per week) where you will put everything away and do those calls. Use process-driven thinking to tackle your biggest problem areas.
Checklist Item #2: Categorize Your Clients by Rank
The second item on your checklist revolves around organizing and ranking your clients. The purpose of this activity is to generate a few categories of clients. That is, figure out who your ‘A’-level clients, ‘B’-level clients, and so on, so forth, are. There are a few values to this. First, it provides you with a bird’s-eye-view of your current clientele. Very quickly, you can see how many clients you consider ‘A’-level versus ‘C’-level. This may be a cause for concern (you have a ton of ‘C’-level clients and very few ‘A’-levels) or it may not be. It’ll also help you set some internal beliefs on the difference between the different categories of client. This becomes especially interesting around edge cases. What makes an ‘A’-level client different from a ‘B’-level client who’s nearly an ‘A’? What could you do to bump that person over the edge?
Having a categorized list of clients will also help you in determining the proper processes to put in place for each. Your ‘A’-level clients may require more touch-points after the deal closes than your ‘C’-levels. Maybe you will send out a Christmas basket to your ‘A’-levels, but only an email to your ‘C’-level clients. By ranking clients accordingly, you can set up the appropriate processes for each category of client.
More than a few top-notch financial and insurance advisors I have spent time with use this sort of ranking system, helping it guide the actions they proactively take towards their clients. That is, when they define their customer success processes for a client, it’s based on this ranking. If you haven’t been doing this yet, the slow period between now and the new year is a perfect time to do a first cut of which clients belong where, and start thinking about how you can interact with them differently.
Checklist Item #3: Define an ideal client persona
The third checklist item involves defining your ideal client persona (ICP). First off, let’s define the ideal client persona:
“An ideal client persona is a fictional, general snapshot of your ideal client that helps personalize your marketing and sales efforts. It is a description of the client you want to do business with, of who you want to attract.”
Creating an ICP is hugely valuable in deciding who to target. Trying to be all things to all people is not just incredibly difficult, it’s patently impossible. The ideal client persona is a thought experiment / tool to help you really list out what your target client should look like. Once you know this, you can start actively targeting this subset of the population more effectively. So how do you develop an ICP? Well, first off, go through your most profitable clients. Before, I asked you to rank your clients. Now think about what the similarities amongst your ‘A’ clients are. These similarities can be on a number of dimensions, such as:
- Industry / Career
- Education level
- Values / Beliefs
- Income level
This is a non-exhaustive list – there are likely many other dimensions you can think about. The point, however, is to see if there are any other similarities between your best performing clients. You are trying to understand what the ideal client should look like. Now, notice that this is different from who you wish your client would be. Instead, you’re using past experiences to inform your future strategies. This doesn’t mean that you’ll never target clients who stray outside of this ICP profile. What it means is that you should set up your marketing and selling strategy to primarily target this ideal client.
Once you’ve defined your ICP, I recommend putting together an empathy map around them. An empathy map is a great tool to try to walk a mile in the shoes of your ideal client. It looks like this:
Your goal is to fill out this empathy map while thinking about your ideal client. You need to consider what your clients are thinking & feeling, seeing, saying & doing, and hearing when you talk to them about product. The answers to these questions will help guide you towards better understanding your clients. Finally, you need to think about the pain your services will solve, and the gain your clients will enjoy. The purpose of the empathy map is to be able to really understand what your clients are experiencing when you spend time with them. It can help give you some insight into the inner workings of your clientele. It’s also a great exercise to do with a team, as multiple viewpoints will generally beat out a single one. For more information, check out this article on the subject.
Checklist Item #4: Do Something Nice For Your Clients
Okay, so we’ve taken care of the bigger business strategies for the upcoming year. Now let’s delve into a tactical gesture – do something nice for your clients. Use the categories you generated above. For your ‘A’ clients, maybe send them a bottle of wine with a card. For your ‘B’s, call them to wish them a happy holiday. And so on, so forth. If you can, do something that stands out and that they’ll appreciate. Remember, in a relationship business, rapport is everything. Nice gestures are a great way of strengthening your relationship.
Checklist Item #5: Drink a Lot of Spiced Eggnog
It’s delicious and makes you feel warm on the inside. Need I say more?
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