Using the Scientific Method to Approach Success

Journal of Financial Planning: October 2020


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Struggling advisers oftentimes feel that creating a prosperous business is based on luck or timing. However, it is my belief that luck and timing have very little to do with consistent business growth; it is more about the science of success.

Oscar Wilde said it best: “Success is a science; if you have the conditions, you get the result.”

Let’s face it, if you prospect on a regular basis using a proven, systematic process that has worked for you or others, it will work again. The problem is that most advisers don’t view growing their practice with this methodology.

Here are the seven steps of the scientific method that I use with my coaching clients around challenges that they have in their business.

Step 1: Question the Challenge

The first step in the scientific method is to query the challenge that you need or want a solution for. In other words, why do you have the challenge in the first place?

Ellen, a 30-year veteran financial adviser client of mine couldn’t understand why her business had been stagnant for years. That is until she was really honest with herself. She admitted that she had never liked prospecting and thus, she rarely did it. Any incentive to push herself out of her comfort zone was non-existent.

Step 2: Conduct Research

The second step in the scientific method is to conduct research by finding someone you know who has overcome the same or a similar challenge and learn how they tackled finding a way to conquer it.

Ellen began her research by speaking to a friend and colleague who was the most successful adviser in her office. She concluded that her friend’s success was the result of turning prospecting into a game. Her peer played the game of prospecting for 45 minutes every day. Her reward was her first cup of coffee, which motivated her to do it as her first task of the day. She blocked off her calendar so that it was like an appointment. Conversely, if she did not prospect first thing, she had to go with no coffee that day.

Step 3: Form a Hypothesis

The third step is to form your own hypothesis around the outcome you are hopeful to have if you implement change in your methodology or technique. That way you have an idea of what to expect when you integrate the research that you have conducted into your own process.

Ellen’s hypothesis was simple: if she stuck to her reward system—only getting coffee if she took action each morning—she most certainly would prospect and get it done.

Step 4: Test the Hypothesis

Step four is to test your hypothesis to see if you are correct. If you are not, go back to formulating a new one until you find one that works well for you (a little more art than science sometimes). If you are correct, you proceed to the next step.

Ellen was excited to test her hypothesis and had a list of prospects she had accumulated over the years. Most of them knew her already so calling them wasn’t as difficult as she expected.

Step 5: Make an Observation

Step five is to observe what happened while testing your hypothesis to gain additional insight.

Ellen’s observation was that her hypothesis was on point; she was more motivated to make calls when using a reward system. However, she concluded that the punishment system of not getting coffee unless she prospected was more motivating because her punishment was more painful than prospecting itself.

Step 6: Track Your Results

Step six is to track results so you have a record of your success (or not). With results, some tweaks to your process are often necessary to fine tune.

Ellen continued prospecting each morning for a month tracking the dials, contacts, and appointments she had set. She also tracked her rewards and punishments and she looked forward to reviewing her progress.

Step 7: Communicate Your Findings

Step seven is to communicate any findings from your process so others can benefit as well.

Ellen reported to her friend that her new system was working. She was motivated to prospect each day. She also said that focusing on planned activities alleviated her anxiety about growing her business because her pipeline and client base were finally growing.

Why the Scientific Method Works

Using the scientific method for success works because it offers a stepwise approach that can be used for any area of life in which you’d like to find success. 

Daniel C. Finley is the president and co-founder of Advisor Solutions, a business development, virtual consultant, and coaching service for financial advisers.

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