7 Actionable Goal Setting Tips For Financial Advisors

Having clearly defined goals is critical to your success as a financial advisor.

In my years of working with financial advisors to help them build their businesses, I’ve found that having long-term goals helps them persevere in the face of short-term difficulties.Too many people live their lives with little or no direction. Fortunately, you can give yourself an immediate sense of direction by setting goals.Here are some of my favorite goal setting tips for financial advisors…

1. Examine Your Current Situation

The first step you should take when trying to improve anything - your bank balance, your productivity, or even your blood pressure - is to get a baseline. Because to go from point A to point B, you must know the exact location of point A.As a financial advisor, you already do this with your clients. When they come to you for help, you likely examine their starting point. How much money do they have in savings? Are they properly insured? How much income do they have? These are all questions you ask to get an accurate baseline and you should do the same thing when setting goals.I encourage you to examine the following three things:

  • Your environment. Where are you spending your time? Who are you spending that time with? Unfortunately, most people’s environments are not conducive to their goals. You can’t soar like an eagle when you surround yourself with turkeys.
  • Your knowledge and skills. If you knew how to accomplish your goals, you would’ve reached them by now. A lack of knowledge and skills is one of the biggest obstacles to goal achievement. Make a list of what you will have to learn to get what you want.
  • Your present results. Because I help financial advisors get more clients, I’m approached by advisors with their marketing-related goals. When that happens, I immediately ask about their present results. If a financial advisor wants to set six appointments per month with email marketing, I need to know if he/she is currently getting five appointments per month or zero because my approach will vary based on the answer.
  • I’ve also realized that it’s much easier to build upon a solid foundation than it is to reinvent the wheel. For example, a financial advisor may be consistently setting appointments with email marketing (which I’ve found to be one of the best marketing strategies ever for advisors). If that’s the case, the advisor would be better suited to set a goal based around email marketing.Of course, you want to have multiple marketing strategies but when you begin operating at a high level, optimization becomes critical. And optimization is virtually impossible without having a baseline.

    2. Combine Outcome-Based Goals And Activity-Based Goals

    This is extremely important for financial advisors because they’re prone to set outcome-based goals like these:
  • “I want to get an additional $20M AUM this year.”
  • “I want to bring on six new clients in the next three months.”
  • “I want to get five referrals from existing clients after my annual review meetings.”
  • While these goals can be indirectly influenced, they’re not under the advisor’s direct control. A much better set of goals would be activity-based goals, such as the following:
  • “I want to build a pipeline of a hundred people who all have at least $1M in investable assets.”
  • “I want to reach out to fifty people per day, every single day, for the next sixty days.”
  • “I want to ask all of my clients for referrals during their annual review meetings.”
  • However, this doesn’t mean that outcome-based goals aren’t important. They’re critical. Because setting an outcome-based goal allows you to get clear on what you want to happen. After you set an outcome-based goal, you can connect your activity-based goals to them.Setting only activity-based goals with no connection to outcomes can be a recipe for disaster. Just because the activities get completed doesn’t mean the desired outcome has been achieved. Lots of people are “busy bees” but never accomplish much.Researchers from the University of Chicago coined the term “idle aversion” to describe how people are drawn to being busy regardless of how busyness harms their productivity. This means people are literally using being busy to hide from their laziness and fear of failure. They cling to activity-based goals to keep themselves busy, whether or not it propels them toward the desired outcome.The lesson? Don’t be a “busy bee”. Combine activity-based goals and outcome-based goals to be a “productive bee”.

    3. Break Your Goal Into Smaller Steps

    One of the most effective ways to achieve important goals is to break them down into smaller steps. Doing this will ensure you always have a clear next step.One of my most popular podcast episodes was one called, “How To Get To $1M/Year As A Financial Advisor”, where I talked about this concept in-depth. The example I gave in the show was about an Inner Circle member who charged $2,500 for a full financial plan. For him to generate $1 million in revenue, he needs to do 400 of these plans. If he works 250 days per year, he needs to do 1.6 of these plans every single day he’s working, on average.Once he knows all needs to do is do 1.6 plans per day, he can start brainstorming ways to make it happen. He can get referrals, leverage LinkedIn marketing, do Facebook marketing, revamp his website, and more.He can also adjust his business strategy, if necessary. He could work more days or find a way to make more money per client. My point is that breaking down the goal helps you think about all the different approaches you can take.The coolest part is that this particular advisor also has other income sources - he manages money, has team members who help with tax planning and prep, charges monthly retainers, and more. He could go through each one of these income sources and brainstorm how to make $1 million per year in revenue from each source to generate ideas.Learning how to break down your goals into smaller steps is a skill you can teach your clients, too. If one of your clients sets a goal to save $50,000 in two years, you can break it down into saving $2,084 per month.Setting these smaller milestones can also help you build psychological momentum. Saving $2,084 per month seems a lot less intimidating than saving $50,000. You might even encourage your client to celebrate the progress he/she makes with every $10,000 saved so there are five smaller milestones.

    4. Make Sure Your Goal Can Give You Feedback

    If your goals can’t give you feedback, then they aren’t good goals. Period.Your goals should be so simple and so clear that you could explain them to a six-year-old and that six-year-old could tell you if you’re getting closer or not.As an example, if you set a goal to get three targeted clients this month and you plan on reaching out to them via LinkedIn, you can set a goal to send out one hundred relevant messages. If the six-year-old asks you, “How many messages did you send?” and you say that you’ve only sent fifty, you both know that you aren’t on track to reach your goals.That’s feedback.One of the classic examples in the self-improvement space is the idea that a pilot doesn’t just take off from the airport and check back a few hours later. Like proper goal setting, the pilot is continuously responding to feedback and making adjustments throughout the flight.The pilot may make thousands of course corrections throughout the flight, which is another great point because not only should you be getting feedback, but it should be frequent. The more frequent, the better.Email marketing has been working extremely well for the financial advisors who follow me and every so often advisors will tell me about their goals to grow their email lists. This is a goal that can provide excellent feedback because you can look at your number of subscribers and instantly know if you’re making progress. If you want to get ten new email subscribers per day, you can log in to your email software and see whether you did or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you can go back to the drawing board and try a new activity to get new subscribers.Without feedback, you can’t optimize your progress.

    5. Assess Your Risks

    Ask yourself what could go wrong. Then, plan in case that happens.Your mindset about building your business should be similar to the mindset you have when purchasing insurance. You should hope for the best but plan for the worst. Hopefully, you never have to execute your “negative thinking” plans but they’re there just in case.I believe that when you minimize your threats and get the obstacles out of your way, everything else tends to take care of itself. As human beings, I think we’re always moving towards some type of goal - it’s up to you to exercise control and choose the goal that’s right for you. Assuming this is true, then it makes sense that all we must do is remove the obstacles. Once we remove them, success comes naturally.So, plan for obstacles.However, be careful not to ruminate over what can go wrong. There’s a real danger of being stuck with “analysis paralysis”. All you’re doing here is assessing your risks and deciding how you will mitigate them.

    6. Build Systems

    Are there any parts of your goal that can be automated?Earlier, I gave an example of someone who may want to save $50,000 in two years. That person can set up an automatic withdrawal into a separate savings account.I gave another example of a financial advisor wanting to get ten new email subscribers per day. This is easy to automate - you can use software to share articles on social media, run online ads on autopilot, and so on.However, systems don’t have to be automated. They can be habits you form that push you toward your goal.For example, writing a 50,000-word novel is intimidating. Writing for fifteen minutes per day is much less intimidating. You can write for fifteen minutes every morning while you sip your coffee.One of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned is this: winners and losers have the same goals. Goal setting suffers from survivorship bias because we focus on the winners and mistakenly assume that their goals led to their success while ignoring all the people who set the same goal but didn’t succeed.What makes the difference? Systems.Champion football teams may set a goal to win the Super Bowl… but so does every team. The difference is that the winning team focused on getting better, working harder, and making continuous improvements to help them win every step of the way.One of the best systems financial advisors can implement into their business is a prospecting system. Financial advisors typically succeed to the degree that effective prospecting becomes systematized. They may make it a habit to prospect every day, to have an assistant follow up with prospects, to send out direct mail letters every two weeks, to connect with their niche on LinkedIn, and more.“Your systems are perfectly designed to get the results that you are getting.” - Stephen R. Covey

    7. Get Help

    You may be worrying about how you’re going to achieve your goals when you’ve already got a full plate. If you’re a successful financial advisor, your calendar is probably already jam-packed.That’s why it’s important to get help.I often hear advisors say stuff like, “I’ve been doing this for X years… why do I need help?” It’s not that they need help with the basics or even knowing WHAT to do. They just need help maximizing efficiency.In the same way that a personal trainer helps you get the most out of a gym, a good consultant can help you get the most out of your business. I don’t hire a personal trainer because I have no clue how to squat or do a bench press; I hire a personal trainer to help me maximize every workout and tweak things to get the best possible results.The bottom line is that getting help accelerates your success. Sure, you can probably accomplish your goals on your own. But a little help can get you there much faster.

    Now, I've Got Good News And Bad News...

    I’ll give you the bad news first - your life is 100% your fault.Where you are right now is the result of all the choices and decisions you’ve made in your past to get you here right now. If you’re not in a good space right now or not where you thought you’d be, it is TOTALLY your fault.The people who fail in life are the ones who try to blame everyone else. They think it’s their parents’ fault… their mentors’ fault… the market’s fault, and more. It always has to be someone else’s fault because they can’t take any responsibility for their actions.Yet, here’s the good news - your life is 100% your fault.This means YOU are in control and you can change everything. The first step is to set a goal.

Related: How Financial Advisors Can Make A Phenomenal First Impression