By: Daniel C. Finley

The Elephant in the Room!

Are you finding that no matter how hard you work there is still something that is holding you back from success? You know that certain something that prevents or limits you from getting your business to the next level? “It” might be procrastination, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure OR of success, overcoming objections, poor closing techniques or a whole host of other possibilities. Whatever your biggest challenge is…let’s be honest and give “it” a name; “It” is “The Elephant in the Room!”

Recently, during one of my group coaching sessions a financial advisor had an epiphany and shouted, “That’s it! That is the elephant in the room. We all have our biggest challenge that we do not want to admit to ourselves much less to each other. We can’t ignore it any longer. These challenges have gotten so big that we need to face them.”

Wikipedia- an online encyclopedia site- defines the phrase ““The elephant in the room” an English idiom, (or phrase whose meaning can not be determined by the literal meaning of the phrase) for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there might be concerning themselves with relatively small and even irrelevant matters, compared to the looming big one.”

Does this sound familiar? Are there a number of irrelevant matters that you concern yourself with when in reality you really need to be addressing your biggest challenge instead? One example would be an advisor making excuses for not prospecting by saying that he just doesn’t have time. The reality is that he probably does not want to make time to prospect because he knows deep down that he is truly afraid of rejection. This advisors’ “elephant in the room”- fear of rejection- is the obvious truth that is being ignored.

Now, your first reaction when reading this might be one of denial, “I don’t have a problem”. But, ask yourself this…Is my business exactly where I want it to be? If you answered no, then it is time to use the following steps to conquer your biggest challenge.

5 Steps for Conquering Your Biggest Challenge

Let’s face it, conquering your biggest challenge can be a scary thought. You may have years of conditioned behaviors that are preventing you from even considering facing it. You may not even consciously realize what the challenge is!  However, when you get honest with yourself deep down you probably know that something is in fact holding you back. If so, rest assured you are absolutely not alone. All advisors at one time or another in their careers have an “elephant in the room” and they probably always will unless they apply these steps for conquering it.

Step 1:  Acknowledging and Admitting a Challenge

Denial is a common response when financial advisors are asked “What is the number one thing that is holding you back?” I know this, because I ask this very same question to each and every financial advisor I have ever and will ever coach. Why? Because I want to understand if they know, or can admit that they even have a challenge.

Typically, I get a canned response such as, “I don’t know?” This is usually followed by me giving them permission to admit that it is ok to have a challenge, “But, if you did know … what might it be?” “Well, I guess I need to prospect more”, might be a common response. Now, we have just peeled one layer of the emotional onion back to discover that there is a challenge. This is important because you must first acknowledge and admit that you have a big challenge. But, now what? What if you do not know what your challenge is?

Step 2: Defining the Challenge

One of the most difficult things to determine is what is your challenge. The reason being because you are probably busy working “IN” your business and not busy working “ON” your business. Also, you may not know what questions to ask to get a clear picture of what the problem is.

Years ago, I created the Advisors Business Wheel Matrix– a tool designed to uncover how balanced your business is.  It also uncovers challenges by having the financial advisor rate themselves on a scale from 1-10, (1 being least effective and 10 being most effective) in what I call the 8 Most Important Facets of Your Business, these include, time management, prospecting, sales, relationship building, client servicing, marketing, product/market knowledge and managing client portfolios.

The following illustrates the steps in the process:

  1. Rate yourself 1-10 in each facet of the business.
  2. What is your number one challenge in each facet? Why?
  3. What would two points higher look like? Why?
  4. What solutions would you need to accomplish this? Why?

Then, I list a number of solutions and tools that I have created that would help the financial advisor get past their challenge(s) and increase their ratings for each facet.

Although this might sound simplistic, it is a very effective process when a business coach asks the tough questions that you would not normally ask yourself. Why, because you might be trying to avoid “the elephant in the room” which simply leaves you back to square one which is denial.

Step 3: Understanding the Next Layer of the Challenge 

It is not enough to just become aware of what the challenge(s) are, you must also understand why you have the challenge in order to conquer it. Take for instance our previous example of the advisor who admitted the challenge was that he is not prospecting. To ask why is the next logical question to understanding the challenge because he is truly afraid of rejection, and more importantly understanding the next layer of the challenge which actually is his perception that prospects will be rejecting him personally; thus rejection equals emotional pain! So how can he get past his fear? To conquer this and most challenges we must change our negative belief systems. 

Step 4: Changing Negative Belief Systems

 The secret to changing a negative belief system is to question its validity. As stated in my The Inner Advisor article, the way to do this is by using Socratic questions—a form of questioning Socrates used to create a negative argument to rational investigation. By subjecting your negative self-talk or your negative belief systems to rational scrutiny, you break down the belief systems validity which in turn creates a new belief system.

Here is an example:

“Rejection is painful because prospects are personally rejecting me.”

Relief Question: “Is this always true? Have I ever prospected and opened a new account?”

Positive Counterstatement: “Prospects can not reject me personally because they do not even know me. Instead, they are merely rejecting what they perceive to be the value of my services; thus, all I need to do is uncover their challenges and present solutions so that they understand the true benefit of my services. I can not control their perceptions, but merely my actions.”

Step 5: Sustaining New Belief Systems and Applying Solutions

Sustaining your new belief system should be the ongoing process of using relief questions and positive counterstatements. Finally, seek out and apply new tools and techniques to become more effective at conquering your challenge(s).

An example would be for this advisor to increase his cold calling prospecting skills by Framing the Conversation so he knows exactly what to say, use Objection-Resolution Models so he can handle objections, and review Mastering Questions-Based Selling so he can uncover the prospects situations, problems, implications of the problem and sell his solutions to set the appointment.

Remember, conquering your biggest challenge(s) is a marathon not a sprint. You may need additional awareness, action and accountability along the way. But, if you apply these five steps for conquering your biggest challenge(s) and you continue reinforcing positive belief systems as well as implement new solutions you will watch your elephant leave the room!

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