As we begin the new year, the worst of the 2008-2009 financial upset seeming to fade into memory, many financial advisors are still questioning everything they learned about success.

And that's a good thing. No longer can a financial advisor's confidence be determined by swings in the market; market's up and advisor swagger is back, market's down, advisor attitude sinks. This vicious cycle is far from healthy.

Instead, confidence should be wed to an advisor's ability to meet specific benchmarks. That, after all, is what sets high achievers apart from the rest in every field. The best of the best aren't smarter. They're not better educated. They're goal-focused and self-aware, and they engage in deliberate practice and self-regulation.

Let's take one of the NFLs elite quarterbacks as an example. At the end of each season Payton Manning compiles a notebook with a list of his perceived weaknesses and specific areas he plans to improve. He then meets with his coach and devises an off-season plan tailored to correct his weaknesses. This plan involves specific goals, an awareness of his improvement and the ability to self-regulate throughout both his practice and actual performance during games.

If you truly want to join the ranks of our New World Advisors, the industry elite, let's approach 2010 a little differently.

Goals: Rather than focusing on a specific production number, focus on specific performance gaps you need to close, like:

  • New Services Offered — upgrading the advisor / client relationships, becoming the “go-to” financial quarterback — the family CFO — and fully monetizing each relationship (consolidating assets, insurance solutions, planning fees, etc.)
  • Affluent Client Loyalty — 100 percent retention of affluent clients through providing outstanding service, the complete menu of wealth management services, and strategically ‘surprising and delighting’ each client, turning them into true advocates.
  • Business Development — bring in new affluent relationships throughout 2010 by sourcing names and familiarizing yourself with your top clients' centers-of-influence, creating new strategic alliances, and exploring your own centers-of-influence.

Self-Awareness: If Payton Manning can keep a log of his weaknesses, and areas he would like to improve, so can you. Think in terms of the services you are delivering to your clients versus what our research tells us the affluent want.

  • Your service model — what are you doing to ‘surprise and delight’ your top clients? Birthday cards and phone calls don't count. It may be a nice touch, but it's not enough.
  • Do you know enough about your clients? If not, how are you going to gather more personal information about them without stalking?
  • Rainmaking — are you bringing in 10 or more $1 million and up clients a year? Most advisors are not and need to work on some combination of mindset, marketing activities, and sales skills. By the way, elite achievers are extremely tough on themselves in terms of self-awareness.

Deliberate Practice: Most people think of practice in terms of working to improve areas where they are already fairly competent; whether it's a quarterback throwing for distance or a financial advisor studying investments. Deliberate practice is working on areas of weakness. Target performance in specific areas where you either aren't doing anything or are doing it poorly. For instance, a Rainmaker I'm coaching ($190 million of new money YTD) has committed 2010 to:

  • Being more natural and relaxed during social events; having more fun while prospecting in social settings.
  • Sourcing a name a day from top clients and centers-of-influence (team members also source).
  • Sourcing personal information for ‘surprise & delight’ purposes (team members also source).
  • Putting his ego in his back-pocket when meeting prospects and centers-of-influence.
  • Communicating more constructively with his associates (team members).

This Rainmaker is like Payton Manning — hard on himself and committed to improving. You can do the same. Give yourself this gift in 2010 — it will keep on giving.

Writer's BIO:

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