Anyone who’s ever seriously engaged in competitive activities, be it sports, sales or anything that involves scoring or ranking one individual / entity against another, understands the importance of the mind. They recognize that the difference between winning and losing, maximizing potential or underachieving, isn’t always talent. More often it’s a strong goal commitment combined with a willingness to consistently do whatever necessary to succeed.

In his book The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg writes about “the habit loop.” The ideas is, rather than being forced to break bad habits, good habits can simply replace them. Duhigg’s habit loop begins with a cue—a trigger point that prompts activity, which leads to a reward. This is much like preparing your workout gear before going to bed so it’s one of the first things you see in the morning. It serves as a constant reminder to get your daily exercise.

Here are some examples of how this habit loop worked for three elite advisors who were part of our coaching program. By sheer coincidence, each had set a personal goal of bringing in $25 million of new assets in 2012, and each advisor surpassed their goal.   

Daily Trigger:  These advisors’ daily trigger was to review their weekly marketing activities on an Excel spreadsheet early in the morning every day.  This triggered their focus on the marketing activities they had planned for the upcoming day, and also enabled them to determine where they stood relative to their weekly marketing activity targets and make whatever daily adjustments necessary. 

Action:Each advisor’s planned activities differed slightly, but they were a variation of high-impact affluent marketing activities: sourcing names, asking for introductions, offering second opinions, power lunches with a client/prospect/referral alliance partners, attending targeted social events, conducting prospect meetings, asking for the business, and so on. All of these activities were evolved from our affluent and elite advisor research.

In less than two months, but longer than the proverbial 21 days it takes to develop a habit, these advisors no longer had to think about executing their planned activities. There was no more of the, “How am I going to source a name today?” They would simply act, as their daily execution had become a habit.  They would look at their Excel spreadsheet, which triggered habitually carrying out the activities as planned. The beauty of this success habit is that it eliminates overthinking and action paralysis.

Reward:The main reward takes the form of results: new assets acquired. Each new affluent client or new assets added serve as a tangible reward, and this habit loop continues.

The ultimate reward is developing this elite advisor success habit. These three advisors all surpassed their goals, acquiring $26.4 million, $28.7 million and $32 million, respectively. But these advisors were equally excited about 2013. Each has a very healthy pipeline, thanks to their newly acquired success habit.    

Reflect on Your Habits:As we enter into the second month of 2013, take an assessment of your habit loop. Have you developed this elite advisor success habit? Are you in the process of developing it? Are you focused on your goals?  Do you have a routine to ensure that you execute your daily plan? If not, it’s time to get serious. The habits you develop at this stage of the New Year are likely to define your entire year.

To take charge of your habit loop, you need something to trigger your daily activity. You also need a clear daily activity plan that is linked to your 2013 goals.  Your trigger can be looking at your business plan each morning and reviewing the marketing activities you’ve planned for the day. The execution of these activities on a daily basis will lead you to a weekly reward of accomplishment (a bottle of wine, dinner, a latte – the choice is yours). Soon the second part of the reward starts appearing in the form of new clients or assets.  

Your ultimate reward will be developing this elite advisor success habit. We are all creatures of habit. They can either work for us or hold us back. In either case, habits are relatively simple. Elite advisors get their habits to work for them.  Some have figured out this habit loop on their own, others had the assistance of coaching. Regardless of the origin, this is what sets elite advisors apart.

Matt Oechsli  is the author of The Art of Selling to the Affluent. His firm, The Oechsli Institutedoes ongoing researchand coachingfor nearly every major financial services firm in the U.S. To take the first step towards coaching, complete the pre-coaching business profile for a complimentary consultation.