3 steps to overcome your plateau and boost your productivity

It happens to us all. You’ve worked very hard for a long time, and you’ve made outstanding progress. All of a sudden, though, putting in more effort doesn’t mean more money anymore. Your case count levels out. Your revenue stagnates. You lose your enthusiasm. You might even slide backward.

You’ve plateaued.

The popular advice was “work your way through it,” as if banging your head against the wall helped your head or made a dent in the wall. It doesn’t.

There are some simple ways out of it that are a lot easier on your head. While doing more of the same will only get you more of what you’ve got, making a few changes will get you back on the way up. In the process, you will transform your business, making you much less likely to plateau again.

Dabbling in business — trying to be everything to everyone — causes plateauing. It can happen at any performance level to anyone. It doesn’t have to be permanent, though. When you narrow your focus in three key ways, you get sharper every year. You don’t accumulate one year’s experience 20 times over. You get 20 years of experience built one on top of the other. You develop excellence from expertise and experience.

Here’s how to blow the lid off your plateau.

Step 1: Tighten up your audience

Go where you have natural influence. It may seem counterintuitive, but the narrower your market, the broader your potential. Adding new markets mostly just dilutes your influence and reduces performance. Be more specific in the type of people you choose to work with. Become their authority. The more of an expert you are, the more you are introduced with confidence to others in that market. More quality introductions mean more people call you, and that leads to more business. Your plateau shatters.

Your best audience is the one you like and understand, understands and likes you back, and has the business potential you want. You’re on their side and they know it. They take your calls, heed your advice and call on you regularly. They introduce you to their friends too.

This is plateau smashing. Nothing else you do will have as big an impact on business as focusing on a narrower group of prospects.

Step 2: Reduce your services

Do less, but be more. One of the fastest ways to choke off your performance is trying to do too much.

Plateaued advisors routinely discover that they have been trying to do too much for their prospects and clients. They end up doing a lot less. As far as positioning is concerned, less truly is more. Unfortunately, most advisors learn this lesson after a crisis.

Why wait for a crisis? Get ahead today. Crisis prevention is much easier and cheaper than crisis reaction. Do what you do best and where you get the most appreciation and fewest complaints.

To break through, you need more marketing to the right market, not more markets or services. Following either of these first two steps will drive your performance immediately. The third will take you to a higher plane altogether.

Step 3: Build and lead an expert team

Once you’ve narrowed your audience and sharpened your service, you still need to find a way to provide all the financial services your audience demands.

You don’t provide them yourself. You build the right team to do it right. You become the general contractor, or the architect, for clients’ financial plans.

When you coordinate a client’s financial construction project, it gives them a significantly better product than they could ever hope to arrange themselves. It’s the only sensible way to provide one-stop financial shopping in the 21st century. Clients will be much better off with your help than without it. You’ll be indispensable.

These three simple tactics will recharge your batteries and re-energize your business. You’ll blow past your previous limits and keep reaching higher and higher. You can be either a flashlight or a laser beam. One lights up your path — the other can light up the moon.

This was first published in the January/February 2009 issue of Round the Table, and this post is excerpted from that article [MDRT members only]. Jim Ruta is a coach for financial advisors and managers.

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