4 Stages of Competence When Calling Financial Planning Prospects

four stages of competence

Everything seems difficult when trying it for the first time. The first time you rode a bike, you fell. The first time you sat behind the wheel of a car, you looked around aimlessly not knowing what to do first. The first time you tried playing a new sport or playing a new musical instrument, you felt awkward and uncoordinated. So why would we believe trying a new prospecting method would be any different?

Calling prospective clients was a scary endeavor for me. I remember having a couple of beers with my “call buddy” the first evening we decided to call. Every excuse in the world (and more) came up as to why it wasn’t the right time to call. “It’s dinner time”, “it’s the wrong day of the week”, “there’s a sports game on”, “I’m wearing the wrong-colored shirt”. The excuses bordered on ludicrous and there were excuses aplenty.

At that exact moment, I would rather be doing anything else than call prospects. Yes, the first call was terrifying and no, the person on the other end didn’t reach through the phone and strangle me. Quite the contrary, they were very polite and simply told me they were already working with someone they trusted. I was not armed with the tools of objection handling at the time, and I didn’t care. I wanted to get off the phone quicker than the person on the other end of the phone. I was literally winging it and failing horribly too.

Over time, calling became easier and easier and eventually I became pretty good at it. I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it, but it certainly became a lot more “comfortable”. There definitely were some colorful conversations, but I learned to shake them off and move on to the next call. The point is that as I stepped outside my comfort zone, the things that made me uncomfortable no longer had any power over me. This made me feel liberated. I booked exactly zero appointments that first night, but I went home feeling excited and more confident. I faced my fears and conquered them.

I began feeling comfortable being uncomfortable. Over time and to this day, I crave it. Being uncomfortable is a sign that I am growing and developing into a better, stronger and more confident version of myself. Leveling up if you will.

Lean Into Your Peer Group

Anytime I realized I was getting comfortable; I knew it was time to act. I would take a course on a topic I was unfamiliar with. I would read a new book that challenged me to think in different ways. Or my personal favorite, I would reach out to my executive peer group  and set up a time for all of us to meet and share ideas. This group provided more value to my career than anything else. I would always walk away inspired, energized, and armed with new ideas that I couldn’t wait to share with my peers and clients.

Something magical happens when you begin to share ideas with optimistic and ambitious like-minded people. Your idea may begin as a tiny spark. Something you thought of in passing but didn’t really explore. Then someone in your group suggests an idea to improve on your tiny spark. Then another suggestion, and then another. From there, your mind takes over and you begin to imagine all the possibilities. You blurt out a twist on your idea that only came to you because your peers expanded your imagination. Like a road that seems to magically appear in front of you as you drive through the night, it begins to unfold. The road of your imagination twists and turns down paths you never thought possible.

Your journey is an exciting one that gets your heart pumping as if you’re working out. This process continues and evolves until you have that euphoric “aha moment”. And there it is… the idea that began as a tiny spark has evolved and grown into a burning hot inferno. You can feel it, see it, taste it. All of this happened and could only have happened with the help of your mastermind group. Like-minded, optimistic people who are craving to improve the world around them. What would have happened if you shared your spark with a bunch of unmotivated, negative people? Your spark would have burned out the minute someone said “That’s a terrible idea, it will never work”

Four Stages of Competence

Everyone goes through four stages of competence when making calls, and depending on where you are in your career, you could be at any of the four levels at this very moment.

  1. Unconsciously unskilled. If you are new to Planswell and haven’t made any calls yet, you will be at the “unconsciously unskilled” level. You don't know you don't have this skill, or what you need to do to learn it. You may have years of experience as a financial advisor with thousands of dials under your belt, but you’ve never called Planswell households before. You don’t know it requires a specific process that’s different than what you’ve done in the past.
  2. Consciously Unskilled. You start making the calls and realize you suck at it. Congratulations, you are now at the level of “consciously unskilled” where you know you don't have this skill. Self-awareness is the key to self-improvement. You internalize your failure and decide to level up.
  3. Consciously skilled. You attend Planswell’s open office hours, absorb the training available to you in our Advisor HQ, meet with your executive peer group, and learn the script. Now you graduate to the next level. “Consciously skilled” is when you know you have this skill. You’re good on the phone but you need to make a conscious effort to remain effective. We often hear from Planswell partners that it takes three to four months to reach this level.
  4. Unconsciously skilled. Over time and with experience, you make it to the fourth and final level. “Unconsciously skilled” is when you don't even realize you have this skill because it's become so easy.

Think of the evolution you took with driving a car. In the beginning everything seemed well thought out, you had to remember to signal, and driving took concentration. Now, you get in your car, arrive at your destination, and you have no recollection of what you did to get there. Everything became automatic. It will be the same with your calls.

Just know that with repetition, not only will you become comfortable making the calls, but you will also become a master at it. Enjoy the process of becoming highly successful in your profession.

Practice makes progress and progress leads to success. Every time. Guaranteed.

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