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New Financial Advisors – Numbers Game or Emotional Game?

New Financial Advisors – Numbers Game or Emotional Game?

Are New Financial Advisors Led Astray by the “Numbers Game” hype?

By this point in your career you’ve heard it a million times – this job is a numbers game. As a new financial advisor all you need to do is see enough people and everything will work out, right?  I disagree.  This is a mental game long before it is a numbers game.

To see just how far emotions rule the day, just turn on nearly any reality TV show. Contestants strive to do their best under situations that are designed to be pressure cookers. Invariably some break down in tears or fits of rage. After a decade of reality TV we recognize that these outbursts have been created for our viewing pleasure, but does this mean the pain is not real? No. It hurts to lose. It hurts to put your dreams on the line and then be told that you don’t make the cut. Your world as a financial advisor is not so different, is it?

No, you are under a great deal of pressure. Clients are not predictable. Prospects bail half way through a large case. Even when you get a deal the home office can misplace paperwork or ask for extra signatures which can jeopardize all of your hard work. When you are behind on your quota and your contract is in jeopardy, the “numbers game” theory goes down the tubes.

Frustration is real.

Under trying circumstances that are common in this career it is perfectly normal to get upset, so give yourself some time to vent. However, as advisors we get into trouble when we allow this frustration to rule us. Frustration can turn into dwelling, second guessing and doubting our career choice. This is a dangerous place to be. Spend too much time here and you will be calling it quits in no time.

It takes practice to back away from the edge. For me, I had to get my head out of the doldrums. Moving on — to the next project, the next client, the next piece of analysis, the next cold call — worked for me. It provided me with the pattern interrupt that I needed. Before too long my thoughts were back in the land of possibility rather than dwelling on impossibility.

For me I have seen that the emotional game comes before the numbers game. It is like the foundation to a house — you can’t afford to get it wrong. If you are going to invest your time or money anywhere invest in your ability to bounce back from defeat. The good news is that you will invariably build this muscle more and more the longer you are in the business.

New Financial Advisors – Fail, Observe, Recover

How New Financial Advisors Can Recover from Failure

In my previous post on What to do with Failure?, I mentioned that new financial advisors tend either to internalize their failures (it is always my fault) or to externalize their failures (it is always the prospect’s fault).  We move toward one of these two extremes naturally; however, you stand to learn a ton by just taking a moment to carefully examine what led to the failure.

Consider the list below.  At one end is self-blame, and at the other end is blaming everyone else.  The sweet spot is right in the middle.  You stand to gain the most from the failure by pausing for a moment to take stock of what happened — observe and recover.

  • Internalize & overwhelm
  • Observe & recover
  • Blame & avoid

As a New Financial Advisor, How Do I Recover From Failure?

There are several age-old formulas that can be used to take stock of the situation.  Here are just two:

  • Start, Stop, Continue.
  • What went well? What didn’t? What would you change?
  • Phase by Phase postmortem

Start, Stop, Continue

This one is most common in performance evaluations.  For your latest prospect meeting, seminar or other client facing moment, simply write down what actions or behaviors you would like to see yourself starting, stopping or continuing for the next time you perform this activity.

What went well? What didn’t? What would you change?

This is quite similar to start, stop, continue from above, and is most commonly performed with a coach or any person who has an outside perspective.

Phase by phase

The phase by phase postmortem is perhaps the most thorough.  This method is often used when you are critiquing a client facing meeting and you are using at least one step in your sales funnel.  What you do here is simply to document what you learned at every step of your sales process.

  • Did you transition well between your opening small talk and your initial discussion?
  • Did you transition into your fact finding segment well?
  • What would you do differently next time?
  • Did you find enough emotion when drilling down into what the client wants to achieve in their future?


When you encounter your next failure, don’t blame yourself.  Don’t blame others.  Just take a minute to assess what happened.  No matter what path you choose, at least do something to write down and capture what you experienced.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you can hold all of this in your head.  You must write it down.  I have known new financial advisors who have a bit of a library of lessons they have learned.  It takes a bit of discipline, but the paybacks are well worth the investment.

A Compendium of New Financial Advisor Articles

new financial advisor

New Financial Advisors


A Big Collection of Articles on what you can expect

I did a pretty broad search on the net today to find some of the best resources possible on what you can expect in your new career as a new financial advisor or a new insurance agent.  My results cover a fairly broad spectrum of producers with wire houses on one end of the scale — traditionally producers here collect assets in the form of mutual funds, 401(k) accounts, IRAs, stocks, etc.  On the other end of the spectrum we have property and casualty (P&C) who traditionally sell home owners insurance and car insurance. There are a variety of roles in between who sell a mix of investments and life insurance.  Your job probably lies somewhere along this spectrum.


Forums for New Financial Advisors or New Life Insurance Agents

My largest area of surprise is how many forums exist for producers in the financial services industry.  One in particular is  I managed to find one thread on the challenges that life insurance agents face.

The National Association of State Farm Agents also has a forum that is an invaluable resource for new life insurance agents in the P&C world. is another forum that even includes a section for General Agents. New insurance agents will want to check out the Getting Started Selling Insurance section on the forum.

There is even one small exchange on new life insurance agents on

Interviewing with companies?  For those of you who are considering becoming a new life insurance agent or a new financial advisor, this exchange between newbies and interviewees is very enlightening.


Articles for New Financial Advisors or New Life Insurance Agents has a pretty good collection of articles for new financial advisors, in particular.

The First 365 Days: How to Set Up For a Successful Career as a Financial Advisor is a great read for those of you who want an inside scoop on what it is like to work for a firm that gathers assets. The first sentence says it best, “Say goodbye to your friends.”

From Rookie to Retiree: Financial Advisor Lifecycles gives a great end-to-end perspective on what to expect.  I particularly enjoy the quote from Joe Matthews who advises new recruits to “Hit the ground running”.  Peter Izzo also points out that “its a meritocracy.”

This next article is a little dated, but brings up a great point in the hiring and training of new financial advisors.  The article, The Future of the Industry is a general state-of-the-industry look at financial advisory services, and it quotes a price tag of $250,000 for launching a new financial advisor.



First Year Insurance Agent is a text-to-movie animation.  While the language here is a little off-color at times, the video hits on a number of really relevant points including the expectations of management, and the need to market products outside of your company’s core portfolio. A little long at nearly 7 minutes.  I feel the first 5 were well worth the time.

New Insurance Agent Mistakes to Avoid is a well-done video by what appears to be a mother-daughter team.  At 2 minutes it is worth the time.  This video illustrates a good point about avoiding competition with the internet.

New Financial Advisor Success – Time Orientation

New Financial Advisor Success – Time Orientation

New Financial Advisor Success Tactics

Time Orientation

This is NOT another article on time management.  Far from it.  Instead, this is an article on preventing stress in your new job.

New Financial Advisors have enough to tend with during their first few months — licensing, class room training, computer-based training, filling the calendar with initial appointments — it can be overwhelming at times.   In the midst of this there is one important thing to keep in mind.  What is your time orientation?

Researchers Weeks and Fournier (2010) studied how a person’s time orientation contributed to the stress that a person experiences as a sales person.  The picture below says a thousand words.  There are essentially four major types of time orientation.  A person can naturally fall towards a long-term orientation (LTO) or a short-term orientation (STO).  Meaning a person’s thoughts and actions fall somewhere on the spectrum between short-term and long-term.  There is a second measure that a person needs to consider as well — multitasking.  Some people love it.  Others can’t stand it.  One the graphic you will see the terms polychronic (multitasking) and monochronic (one thing at a time).

Time orientation is important to consider because a sales person who is accustomed to taking a long-term approach to sales will not fit well in an environment that demands short-term focus. The same can be said of task orientation. Some roles demand that the individual focus on many things at once. One could consider a person who does not enjoy multitasking as a poor fit for a job that requires such.



Weeks, W. A., & Fournier, C. (2010). The impact of time congruity on salesperson’s role stress: A person-job fit approach. Journal Of Personal Selling & Sales Management, 30(1), 73-90.

New Financial Advisors – The Pros and Cons of Working Solo

New Financial Advisors – The Pros and Cons of Working Solo

For Some New Financial Advisors, Solo is the Way to Go

New financial advisors face enough hurdles in their first 24 months — licensing requirements, developing new skills, information overload. It can be a lot to absorb. The last thing you want to do is complicate things by trying to take on too much, especially if you lose focus on obtaining new clients.

In my time as an advisor an a coach to advisors I have only seen a handful of advisors who are able to make a solo practice really work. Most have far too much unpaid work on their desks, or their lives are ruled by incoming service calls. Unless you are paid specifically for doing service work, you will want to steer clear of being completely on your own, even in the first 24 months.


Low overhead

The good part about being solo is the low overhead. You can work from your home or in a respectable key man office space. Since you are doing all the work you have no staff to pay.

No workflow issues

Again, since you are working by yourself you do not need to be so concerned with not knowing what is happening in your office.

No office politics

I know of many wage earners who love their jobs, but would trade-in their co-workers in a heartbeat.



It is pretty common to need to juggle reworking your calendar to fit in Mrs. Jones who wants to rearrange her appointment with you for afternoon on Friday even though you have a standing policy against taking clients on Friday afternoon; working on an analysis but getting interrupted by a service call at a critical point; writing a note about a client’s low priority issue that you plan on handling tomorrow after your analysis is done; placing a 48 minute phone call to tech support because your printer will not print the analysis you just finished; and looking for the handwritten note that you lost regarding the customer (can’t remember her name now) who called yesterday wanting her dividend option changed. All this can happen over the course of only a few hours. It can be a lot to remember. If you are good with details, you will get your chance to push your limits in this new role.


Some people simply enjoy a little camaraderie once in a while, so being on their own is quite easy for them. Others simply have a hard time working alone all day. These people crave interaction, and one more webcam meeting isn’t going to suffice. It has to be a live person-to-person meeting for it to count.

New Financial Advisor – Articles on Failure

New Financial Advisor – Articles on Failure

Is New Financial Advisor Failure Preventable?

Perhaps if we study why a new financial advisor tends to fail at such an alarming rate we’ll be able to find ways to prevent it.  In this blog post I have captured a few articles that grabbed my attention lately.  You should find a broad scope of articles here for people who are captive agents, independent agents and from the world of online insurance sales.


While Why I Failed as a Broker is a little dated (2006) many aspects of the article still ring true for today’s new financial advisor.  For example, the author of this article said that he was attracted to the business because he wanted the chance to manage money.  Later in his stay he realized that he could only afford to spend about 5% of his time on actual money management because he needed the other 95% of his time to prospect for new business.  Another interesting point about the article is that the author is not complaining — he does not blame his company.  Click through to the article to learn more.

Why Agents Fail talks about the importance of new financial advisors having good communication skills, staying up to date with your product offering and keeping pace with new technology.  It is written by a company that does online insurance sales.


The Top 7 Reasons New Insurance Agents Fail to Reach Success offers some good insight for those who are able to take advantage of an independent insurance agent platform.  For those of you who happen to be on an independent platform, this article is quite good.   New financial advisors who are captive agents may face a few restrictions in implementing the approaches listed here.
Why 77% of Insurance Agents Fail Within the First 6 Months appears to be a sponsored article written by a company that sells a marketing system.  The four primary steps of their system are Interrupt, Engage, Educate and Offer.  What I like most about this article is the all-too-real depiction that the author gives of what a new advisor faces in his or her first few years.


Why do 95 percent of Insurance Agents Ultimately Fail? is written by Lew Nason out of Dallas, GA.  Lew’s stance in this article is that hiring a mentor is a really good idea, and he gives you some advice on how to properly hire a mentor that will provide you with a positive return on your investment.


Here are two others that caught my eye while researching.

In Are Financial Advisers Failing the 99% the author makes the case that the average american just isn’t being served well by the typical financial advisor.  The reason: advisors just don’t make a great deal of money on people who have less than $100K of investable assets.

In Financial Advisors Flunk the Undercover Sting we find role playing taken to a new level.  Only the advisors didn’t know they were role playing.  Researchers from MIT and Harvard hired actors to play affluent couples and sent these prospects to visit firms in the Boston area.


New Financial Advisors – What to do with Failure? (part 2)

Two Ways New Financial Advisors Can Cope with Failure (second in a 2 part series)

In my previous post on What to do with Failure?, I mentioned that new financial advisors tend either to internalize their failures (it is always my fault) or to externalize their failures (it is always the prospect’s fault).  How do we resist the urge to feel overwhelmed (with a sense of self-loathing) or misunderstood (All these people just can’t get it right)?  Those who tend toward internalizing will need to travel by one road, and those who blame others will need to travel by a different road.

For New Financial Advisors who Internalize

There is no going around this mountain. There are tough lessons here to be learned, and the only way past this mountain is to go through it traveling the path of pain.  You will most likely experience adversity when trying to set appointments.  For some, you will be fortunate enough to be assigned some orphan clients who have a relationship with the company.  For others you will need to build rapport through calling a list or by phoning friends and family.  To many this will seem like an exercise in torture at first.  But, it gets easier.  Once you find this not so painful you will move on to the next step.  People who stand you up for appointments.

You may travel to their house to find that the prospects are not there, or you will find that the prospect insists on a 7:30 PM meeting at the office and then fails to show.  Again, you endure this a few times and you find that it isn’t the end of the world.  You graduate to setbacks dealt to you by Compliance or by Underwriting or by predecessor companies who do not transfer money quickly enough, etc.  The point here is that you probably need to experience losses in each of these areas a few times before you are able to shrug it off as being not such a big deal.  The problem that new financial advisors face is getting surprised by these setbacks when they least expect it.

For New Financial Advisors who Externalize

The number one work that I can offer here is ownership.  Chances are pretty good that everyone else is not the problem.  You screw up, too. Own it. The only way for you to get the benefit from your experience is to admit that you had some part in this two-person dance’s not working.  Once you are able to reach this hurdle, you can then see more clearly what steps you could have taken to save the deal.

Final Words

In this article I provided more depth on what new financial advisors can do to recover from failure.  In my next article I will introduce a third response – making note of what happened, and then moving on.  Remember that resilience is one muscle that can not be built without use.  No one can do this for you, and you can’t get better at it by reading a book or watching a video.  Resilience is best developed through hardship.

New Financial Advisors – What to do with Failure?

Two Ways New Financial Advisors Can Cope with Failure (first in a 2 part series)

In my past few posts to new financial advisors I wrote that you should not blame yourself if you find this business is not all that you had expected.  I also wrote a piece on getting your emotional game in line before you attempt the numbers game.  I feel that I can’t do this latter issue enough justice, so I’m writing on it again today.


Your emotions come from the heart.  Why does a failed case send you into a tailspin?  When a client who loved you last week does not return your calls this week, why do you freak out about not having enough money in the pipeline?  If you are running behind on your production schedule, why do you lose sleep over it?  These fears strike at the very core of our identity sometimes.  When a deal that was “in the bag” suddenly dries up, you could interpret that as your not being good enough to save the deal.  That somehow it is a shortcoming on your part.  You may have internalized the failure.  Or, you could blame the prospect for being a flake.  After all, you did your part of the bargain.


I have seen many new financial advisors internalize failure.  I tend to do this myself.  Somehow I should have been smart enough, good enough, fast enough or fill-in-the-blank enough to get the prospect to close the deal.   It is great to learn from failure, but there’s a danger in blaming yourself as you could become paralyzed with self-doubt or feelings of inadequacy.  If you give these feelings time to take root, your business is doomed.


On the other end of the spectrum are the new financial advisors who externalize failure — it is someone else’s fault.  While these individuals typically do not learn much from failure, they are not paralyzed by it either.  In their minds the prospect is always the one causing the problem — the prospect got cold feet, the prospect didn’t turn in the paperwork, the prospect got too busy to return calls.  Again, externalizing can be a healthy way to respond to a setback in your sales efforts, but I have also seen this mindset bleed over to interpersonal dynamics with fellow team members (The other guy is the problem; there is nothing wrong with me), but I’ll save this item for a post at a later time.


The most important thing that you can do with failure is to learn from it but not dwell on it (much easier said than done for those analytical-thinker types out there).  Failure must be framed in your head as something that polishes you, not something that drains you.  It adds to your repertoire for the next prospect meeting.  This is the school of transactions.  You learn by doing.  Managing your emotions is a choice that we make day by day and hour by hour.  The better you get at this skill, the better you’ll become in all aspects of your life.









New Financial Advisors – It’s Not Your Fault

Good Will Hunting - Its Not Your FaultAs a new financial advisor (new FA) sometimes you just find yourself in a bad situation. After weeks and weeks of licensing efforts maybe you are behind in production, or perhaps the portion of your income that is steady is about to run out. You might be frustrated and wondering how you worked yourself into this position. You have to remind yourself one simple thing…

It’s not your fault.

There is a very well oiled machine that brought you to this point. The machine is doing its job — it is recruiting qualified people into an organization. You can take some comfort knowing that dozens or hundreds of other people in your recruiting class had to pass the same entrance qualifications that you did. For every person who made it to where you are know, 22 others didn’t make the cut. Maybe they didn’t pass the original assessment that you passed. Maybe they didn’t pass the interview that you passed. Maybe they didn’t pass all the licensing exams that you passed. You made it. They didn’t.

Even though you survived the cut you may be thinking that you wish you hadn’t. You may not have fully understood what you were signing up for. Sure, you were probably told at some point that you were going to have to reach a production hurdle, but how do you gauge that when you’ve never been in production before? If you were given a number, did you fully understand what that meant for you? Did you really know what assets under management (AUM), production credits, or accumulated base commission (ABC) meant for you as far was your workload was concerned? If you answered “no” to this question, don’t despair. Most people don’t really know what they are signing up for when they say “yes” to this job.