Lessons from the Weight-Loss Industry: The Keys to Growing your Practice

Advisor Perspectives welcomes guest contributions. The views presented here do not necessarily represent those of Advisor Perspectives.Dan Richards

Why do most attempts at dieting result in failure?  According to Weight Watchers – whose program has outperformed its competition over many years – it’s because of a lack of a good methodology or the right combination of discipline and incentives.  The same is true of successful client prospecting, as a recent conversation with an advisor illustrated.

I’ve written about the need for even the most successful advisors to devote three hours a week to reaching out to prospective clients.  One advisor recently sent me the following email:

“My business has been stalled for the past five years and I know I need to spend more time on prospecting,” he started. “I’ve tried everything but just can’t seem to get myself to make that happen.  I wonder if you have any suggestions.”

In a short follow-up phone call, I asked what he’d done to build more prospecting time into his routine:

“I’ve read lots of books and articles and attended workshops on prospecting,” he said. “I’ve got tons of ideas, in fact almost too many. I’ve tried writing down my goals and reviewing them at the start of each week. I hired a coach for a while. But nothing seems to work – I start down a path, but then don’t see results, get discouraged and run out of steam.”

Let’s look at this advisor’s underlying problems, and the lessons that can be drawn from success in the weight-loss industry.

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Mismatching cost and benefits

This advisor is far from unique in his struggles. From our short chat on the telephone, my guess is that he suffers from the same problem that afflicts many clients.

Every advisor has clients who invest in safe, low-return investments that will sabotage their ability to achieve long-term goals. The reason they do this is the mismatch between the cost and the benefits of what they do. The volatility and pain of investing in stocks and risk of short-term loss is immediate, the benefit long-term.  The benefit of being in cash is immediate, the cost long-term. 

There’s been lots of research on the extent to which people discount long-term benefits and instead fixate on short term rewards; a classic example are students who go out for a beer with friends when they had planned to work on a paper due in a week’s time. That conflict between short-term benefits and long-term cost is true of many clients and it’s also applies to many advisors. The challenge is how to reframe the choice … and then where to look for guidance on making change happen.

Two kinds of pain in life

I’m personally not a big reader of self-improvement literature (I recognize that it helps many people, just doesn’t work for me). That said, some time ago I was struck by a quote from motivational speaker and author Jim Rohn, who passed away a couple of years back. Here’s the quote:

“There are two kinds of pain in life – the pain of discipline and the pain of regret. The pain of discipline weighs ounces and is fleeting, the pain of regret weights tons and lasts forever.”

Rohn wrote a great deal about the role of discipline in life. Another of his quotes: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

The difficulty for this advisor wasn’t the absence of goals or the desire to make those goals happen – the problem was that, like many of us, he struggled to summon up the discipline to translate that desire into reality.