This article original appeared on ProducersWeb.
No pain, no gain. Exercise aficionados have been repeating that mantra for years. It’s what they tell themselves when their routine pushes them so hard that they want to quit. When I was young, jogging and powerlifting were the norm. Today, CrossFit and boot camps have taken center-stage. The means may change, but the end-goals do not. Athletes know that making progress, lifting more or running farther, requires a degree of discomfort. To push their bodies to new limits means breaking through the old limits. The process may not be pleasant, but the rewards can be great.
So they push.
The idea that growth requires discomfort rings true outside of fitness. Maintaining the status quo in our lives and in our businesses is easy. The status quo is familiar. We know how it works. And it is relatively easy to maintain because the hardest work, the transition, is behind you. Staying within the box is easy because it feels safe and ordinary. Unfortunately, if you stay within the box with the crowd, you are aiming for the middle and are unlikely to grow, personally or professionally.
The bottom line: those who force their own discomfort grow.
Take, for example, the story of Walgreens. Now famous for their corner drugstores, Walgreens was featured in Jim Collins’ bestselling Good to Great because it outperformed the stock market more than 15 times from 1975 to 2000. To achieve that success, Walgreens cut more than 500 restaurants from its business so that it could focus exclusively on running exceptional drugstores.
This pivot occurred over five years, and with a company history deeply entrenched in food service—with restaurants named after the then CEO Charles “Cork” Walgreen III—the change was not pleasant. The company was not failing, but it was not excelling either. Walgreens may have been able to linger within their status quo indefinitely, but to be great, they knew that they had to focus on a singular specialty.
Are you willing to endure discomfort if it means moving your business to a new level of success?
In our space, we frequently see producers relying on referrals to fuel their new business efforts because engaging with a new referral is relatively easy—low stress with high potential. In these sales scenarios, the prospects are already familiar with the services a producer offers and, based on the recommendation of a trusted colleague, is already thinking of becoming a client. Once a producer’s business has grown to the point that referrals come in with more regularity, it is not uncommon for that producer to leave behind his or her other efforts to initiate new relationships, even if those efforts are what sparked the flow of referrals in the first place.
Instead of relying on referrals alone, you can use an appointment setting campaign to generate consistent activity, a flow of new prospects that may not be a part of your natural network.
Most producers have had exposure to the concept of an appointment setting program and the exponential growth that such a program could generate, but even an appointment setting program—where the opportunities are served up for you—comes with its own growing pains, and that can be enough to spook even the most seasoned producers. One of our most successful clients admitted that for the first few months his appointments “bloodied his nose,” but he recognized that he was meeting with worthwhile business owners and decision-makers. Seeing the potential rewards, he pressed on and rose to the challenge of adapting to the nature of cold appointments instead of treating them like referrals.
For this producer, his appointment setting program now not only pays for itself, but it has become a key part of his sales pipeline, producing consistent and growing returns.
Before you dive into an appointment setting program, here are the growing pains you should be prepared to overcome:
- Cold appointments are unique sales opportunities that require an approach that differs from referral opportunities.
- If you have staff members that play a role in your sales process, they may need coaching to adapt to this approach.
- Set appointments may not produce instant returns, but if you have a well-organized follow-up system you can build the rapport that you need to get the sale over time.
- The success ratio of an appointment setting program is about 20 percent, which is still highly profitable but may seem low when compared to the success of your referrals.
- You may feel like prospects at times question your expertise or are hesitant to give you their full story right away like they do in a referral.
These are uncomfortable feelings, but you have to give your program enough time to generate rewards. Like a workout, you will not instantaneously set a new personal record, but given the right mix of patience and adaptation, you can achieve great success.
Appointment setting is not the end all of new business generators, but it can be a game-changer in the hands of a producer willing to learn the ins and outs of succeeding in this sales environment. We have seen producers rise to the challenge and walk away with exponential growth in new clients and assets under management after a year of set appointments—which does not include additional wallet share or referrals that may come about as a result of these new relationships. At the same time, we have seen producers abandon appointment setting programs because the learning curve was too painful or too long.
Whether you are looking to appointment setting or some other new client initiative to grow your business, recognize that discomfort is an important part of the process. Talk to experts about what to expect, do your best to prepare, and be willing to learn from your missteps along the way. Remember that the greatest rewards are rarely immediate. Nobody becomes a champion overnight. Professional golfers miss millions of putts in practice so that they can sink the putt that counts on the Tour. Professional basketball players turn to the foul line practice after practice to perfect their form. Even the world’s strongest men look at their accomplishments and say to themselves, “I can do better.”
To harken back to our Walgreens example, 25 years of prosperity can be preceded by five years of toil and uncertainty.
Whether you measure your practice in number of clients, assets under management, or revenue per client, it took you time to get where you are. You fought and worked hard to achieve your success. You pushed through various stages of discomfort during your development. Don’t stop being uncomfortable. Keep growing. Keep learning.