If you are reading this, you probably survived arguably the most difficult year of your career. As a reward to yourself, you need to attack 2009 with a vengeance: Approach the careening market, sagging economy, and your anxious clients with gusto, a focused swagger and renewed confidence. It is with this spirit that I ask you to make three promises to yourself.

Promise #1: Client Commitment

Our research paints a rather bleak picture of how well advisors are handling clients: Less than 14 percent of financial professionals spent more time with their affluent clients during 2008, despite the horrific challenges everyone faced. Even though this Category 5 financial tsunami demolished the “trust factor” previously enjoyed by major financial institutions, affluent trust in individual professionals is on the rise. As the chart at right indicates, the wind is at your back despite the challenges of the current market. But you must deliver. The fact is that the affluent are scared and skeptical; they are craving personal attention and knowledgeable leadership in this time of crisis.

Your commitment to clients must be twofold: You must provide comprehensive wealth management solutions, use outside experts, organize and update all financial documents and make certain all investments are risk appropriate. You must also provide personalized service, proactive contact and fully understand your affluent clients' family needs far beyond their investments. Be honest with yourself about those areas that need improvement.

Promise #2: Rainmaking Commitment

I firmly believe we are in a “perfect storm” for acquiring new affluent clients, a.k.a. rainmaking. Nearly 90 percent of them are not being served properly, which makes the vast majority of the affluent in your community qualified prospects ready for your contact.

Even so, very few advisors were proactive in their prospecting efforts throughout 2008. Making the commitment requires two decisions for 2009: First, determine the profile of the ideal affluent client you want to attract. Second, determine the number of new ideal clients you want to bring into your practice during 2009. Once you have made these two decisions, your next step is to develop a proven marketing plan that will enable you to bring this second promise to life.

Promise #3: Work Ethic Commitment

Marketing has a sexy ring to it, but without daily personal discipline, you will never be able to keep your first two promises. In order to attack 2009 with a vengeance, you will need to work harder and smarter than ever. Your focus will need to be laser sharp, your attitude will need to shift into a “can-do” constructive mode, and your actions must be consistent and linked to promises one and two.

With all three promises working in tandem, you will have activated your “achievement cycle,” which requires fixed daily activities (work ethic commitment) regardless of what you might be thinking or feeling at any particular moment. Your work ethic commitment requires you to execute on days when you'd rather be doing something else — whether it's reviewing an affluent client's financial plan or getting that personal introduction.

Let's face it, everyone would be successful if all they needed to do was execute properly when they felt like it — which is why so many business plans and marketing plans are not worth the paper they are printed on. Make these three promises to yourself and be true to them, and you will end 2009 like a master rainmaker.

Writer's BIO:

Matt Oechsli is author of Building a Successful 21st Century Financial Practice: Attracting, Servicing & Retaining Affluent Clients.
oechsli.com