Many advisers are simply getting through each day in default mode.

They probably have enough success that they can keep doing what they are doing, and they will be fine. Still, they may feel frustrated, because they know they could achieve more.

They are just unsure of what they need to do to get to that next level.

The question advisers should ask themselves, then, is: What is the best possible future I can envision for myself, my practice and my team? If they understand the answers and stick with the right plan, they should end up taking the right consistent actions.

The key? This three-part formula for success:

Clear Goals + Informed Focus + Effective Execution = Success

It sounds simple, but it takes effort and discipline to bring it to life. Let’s look at each of these steps, and what they entail.

Clear goals
There are three clear goals that should be the foundation of all advisers’ efforts.

1. Have a hugely positive impact on clients. The best way to provide outstanding client service is to help them maximize their chances of achieving their most important financial goals, beyond just investments.

Find and implement ways to help clients with needs that so often go unaddressed such as business and personal tax mitigation, charitable giving advice, and estate planning services. Addressing these issues, especially through a team of specialists, will help an adviser stand out.

2. Create tremendous economic value in the practice. When advisers deliver value, they earn a higher income. And by doing so consistently, advisers create sustainable increasing equity in their practices.

Systematize the new client acquisition process by building referral relationships with strategic alliance partners, including attorneys, business consultants and CPAs who work with the same types of clients.

If the firm has a process for generating a steady stream of pre-qualified, pre-endorsed ideal new clients, it will generate much more equity value than firms that rely on word-of-mouth marketing or take whichever clients they stumble across.

3. Enjoy a great quality of life. We don’t always appreciate this fact: We aren’t in business only to get more business. Ultimately, we are in business to generate a great quality of life for ourselves but also for our families, our teams and, of course, our clients.

And advisers need to build a great life for themselves first in order to bring greatness to others’ lives.

Action step: Advisers commonly block out time on their schedules for client meetings, during which they won’t accept phone calls or other interruptions. But they rarely do the same for other important tasks from business planning to exercise.

Advisers should make regular appointments with themselves and block out that time on their calendars and treat it as sacredly as they do the time they reserve for clients.

Informed focus
Armed with goals, advisers can establish an informed focus. There are three key areas on which to concentrate:

1. The existing client experience. Advisers must fully understand clients’ needs, maintain effective communication, improve their satisfaction and build stronger relationships. To accomplish all those tasks, advisers should hold a rediscovery meeting in which they review clients’ most important goals, needs, relationships and values.

This tells clients that the adviser is actively engaged in making sure they are up to date.

2. New client acquisition. Now it is time to attract qualified prospective clients. One way to do so is to focus on serving a select niche market of affluent clients.

This helps create a value proposition that competitors find difficult to beat. Don’t forget to be deliberate and thoughtful.

Determine exactly who the ideal clients should be, and then focus on attracting them. Don’t worry about saying “no” to prospects who aren’t a great match.

3. Practice management. Practice management actions such as joining mastermind groups of like-minded successful advisers and outsourcing non-core tasks have the greatest impact on income and success. These are tasks aimed at increasing the efficiency of the business and retaining high-quality team members.

Effective execution
Focus and goals don’t mean much without targeted action. Here are a few of the most effective moves.

1. Gain a deep understanding of every client and prospect. A formal discovery process is needed. To begin, there are seven things about clients that, taken together, provide a total profile.

· Advisers: Any other financial-services professionals with whom they work such as other advisers or planners, lawyers, or life insurance agents and how they feel about those relationships.

· Assets: Basics including sources of income, how clients save and invest, their investment holdings and tax situation, and how these things might change in the coming years.

· Goals: What the client wants to do for their children, parents or the world at large, and what they want their wealth to help them achieve.

· Interests: From hobbies and weekend pursuits to favorite causes and charities.

· Process: How active a role clients would like to take in managing their wealth and how they prefer to be contacted by advisers.

· Relationships: The people who are most important to the client, from family members, to coworkers, to people in their communities and religious circles.

· Values: What is important to the client about money and wealth.

This process of discovery will help clients and prospects connect with the adviser right from the start.

2. Regularly communicate clients’ key issues and concerns. When an adviser has meaningful and regular and interactions with clients, they will be much more inclined to hand over more assets to manage.

· Be interested in their lives. Affluent clients don’t want to be seen simply as a balance sheet. Talk with them about topics including current events, family issues, hobbies and sports. These types of conversations will build personal relationships that help generate more trust.

· Be personal. Pick up the phone or send a personal email. Use a smartphone to record and send a quick video greeting to clients on their birthdays. Send along magazine or newspaper articles that would be of interest to a client.

· Be systematic. Affluent clients prefer, on average, 28 contacts per year from their advisers, according to our research. That frequency of contact won’t happen by chance, so leverage customer relationship management technology to prompt regular contact.

3. Serve fewer but ideal clients. Too many advisers spread themselves too thin by trying to work with every investor they meet. But the key to earning more by serving less is to focus on a small number of ideal, highly profitable clients.

Meanwhile, clients are better served and enjoy a closer relationship with the adviser.

There are plenty of actions to take to pursue goals and boost success with clients. But to maximize the probability of success, advisers need a framework to clarify goals, and provide the laser focus on what actions really matter.

Advisers should arm themselves with the tools that will truly close the gap between the reality of who they are and the vision that they have of their future success.

This story is part of a 30-30 series on smart strategies for RIAs. It was originally published on Aug. 30.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Financial Planning content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access

John J. Bowen Jr.

John J. Bowen Jr.

John J. Bowen Jr., a Financial Planning columnist, is founder and CEO of CEG Worldwide, a global coaching, training, research and consulting firm for advisers in San Martin, California. Follow him on Twitter at @CEGAdvisorCoach.