Harness The Power of the 80% Rule to Close More Business as an Advisor

BB Webb
9 min read
May 31, 2021

Lately, I’ve been doing some introspection. I’ve noticed some perfectionistic tendencies within a few areas of my life; in my work, relationships, and health. I realize at times that my desire to control everything can be limiting and lead to a slow-down in the very areas I endeavor to progress within. Although I’ve learned the important lesson of curbing perfectionism in my life before, I find I sometimes need gentle reminders. The pursuit of perfection, I’ve found, is one prompted by fear and is often indicative of underlying insecurity and the perceived need to control the outcomes or conditions we don’t prefer. It can often stand in the way of the gifts that come our way when we instead allow ourselves to move forward through letting go.

Looking back at times in my life when the sky literally was falling (think divorce, loss of a loved one, or a near business failing), I see where these tendencies were born—stemming from a former very real need to keep the focus, perspective, order, and structure necessary to avoid disaster or sinking too deeply in despair. I’ve been there—many of us have been there. This is what life is at times. However, today is a new day, and those stressors and tendencies can and need to be left behind as we embrace the lessons learned and feel gratitude for a new day and the opportunity to shine and serve others.

It’s ironic, perhaps, that despite my past pull toward the perceived neatness of “perfect,” that as a sales mentor, I coach financial advisors on the concept of having a willingness to let go and trust. I encourage them to get a “half-baked” idea, dialogue, or process up on its feet and to move their work forward to have it infused with fresh energy from the act of actually doing! Let’s explore another way to successfully move forward and leave the tight grasp of control and the pull towards a nonexistent “perfect” behind.

Exploring the 80% Rule

Dan Sullivan, in his book, The 80% Approach, explores strategies to shake up the perfectionistic pull that can disrupt a natural creative flow that otherwise births innovation and new ideas.

He shares that The 80% Approach is:

“A way of thinking and acting that eliminates the paralysis of perfectionism and procrastination. I start my explanation of The 80% Approach with a warning: The solution it offers is so simple and obvious that you may discount and ignore it. Here’s how this remarkably simple concept and methods will help you eliminate perfectionism and procrastination for the rest of your life.”

He goes on:

Is one 80% attempt good enough? In many situations in life, just doing 80% the first time is good enough. You don’t have to go any further. People who are perfectionists, of course, would never accept this. They keep working on the project, making endless improvements until it is ‘perfect’—even though none of this extra work is necessary. This has nothing to do with the project itself or its usefulness to other people. It only has to do with what is going on inside of the perfectionist’s mind. The 80% Approach, then, give us permission to nip perfectionism in the bud. If 80% is good enough, then that’s the very best result we need to achieve.”

Allowing ourselves to do “enough” may empower us far more than we might think. As I have taken time to digest the power of Sullivan’s 80% approach, some guiding questions have been front of mind for me:

  • Might true personal bravery, then, be embracing our fears and moving forward anyhow?
  • Might what we accomplish with an 80% effort both inform us of the next steps and be indeed more than enough?
  • Might trusting that 80% is enough allow us to share and benefit others faster than we would have if we were tweaking, honing, and further improving what was already more than good enough?
  • Might we miss key lessons learned from not launching our 80% idea, project, or process?
  • Might the time freed up by launching and sharing an 80% product create an opportunity to produce other great ideas, services, and actions?

In my work with advisors, I witness their hesitations to launch. Leaning into perfectionism and procrastination clearly impedes the needed work and process flow for bringing on new clients. Let’s work to avoid that together and further explore the potential benefits of embracing an 80% solution.

Considerations Moving Forward

  • Consider the cost of a failure to launch while you wait for the “complete” picture to evolve. What might that lack of moving forward cost you? 
  • Consider a project you’ve embraced in the past and which you held a passion for. Did you know all the steps you need to accomplish to a certain end? Doubtful.
  • Consider the value of attempting that first step, then the second, and then the third in better defining your sales process and conversations. How might each step better inform you as you move forward?
  • Consider how when you’ve taken one step at a time—moving past your fear and the unknown—how each “perfectly imperfect” step led to the next, more enlightened discovery.

In my former career as an actress and playwright, I fell in love with the creative process. I relished a pile of random ideas that had an energy and inspired vibration. These inspirations resonated and pulled at me until I put my “imperfect” pieces of my ideas together, which for me started as writing character sketches. I’d created characters who soon had a voice, specific movements, dialogue, and a presence on stage. That led to local presentations and refinements and, eventually, to a full play that I toured in halls and venues throughout the United States.

My inspiration started with an idea and turned into a major focus and movement within my life, all stemming from an initial thought, idea, and movement to create! And so too did this process work in my past entrepreneurial endeavors, allowing each idea, action, and inspiration to build upon another until I had a business, a service, a stellar team, achieved positive cash flow, a glowing reputation, and a following!

This trust and forward-moving action will work for you, too, as you embrace a process for attracting prospects, how to engage and speak with them, and as you roll out the steps of your sales process. Ultimately, trusting yourself and moving forward with an 80% solution will shape the conversations you have with your prospects that influence them to become your client.

Dan Sullivan continues:

“Our ‘80%’ is accepted by others as ‘100%.’ One of the great disabilities that undermines the perfectionistic person is not being able to understand how other people experience and value things. The perfectionist is fixated on achieving 100%, but no one else expects, requires, or will even appreciate this. In 80% of life’s situations, an 80% result is good enough to move things forward—and the best 80% result is the one that happens as quickly as possible.”

Unlocking Your Forward Movement Potential

I work daily with financial wizards—bright, passionate individuals with a drive to serve others around the intricacies of building wealth, managing their assets, sorting through tax law, investment acumen, and powerhouse solutions for managing stock options—all to get their clients where they want to go. Their drive, passion, and skillsets are an inspiration. My work with these advisors is to guide them in applying a process and key conversations for sharing their passion and expertise with the folks who need what they do.

I sadly often see a hesitancy with advisors to define a process that will better serve their clients or effectively communicate how they might help a prospect eager for advisor help. I find here an opportunity to utilize the 80% rule to connect with the folks needing help. I allude to merely making a brave move in the right direction with a beginning process toward engagement. The journey is learning from each bold move to further develop how to connect with others. A revered mentor of mine, Tony Montanaro, once shared:

“You can’t get there from here, you have to go step by step.”

Each step informs the next. How, then, can we be at peace with what currently “is” as you envision the state you aspire to? What is enough in this moment?

How might you adjust any expectation of an immediate desired outcome to embrace instead the journey of getting there one step at a time and see what evolves on your path? Consider what this might reveal. Might it be better than what you imagined you’d find? How might you allow for that mystery and magic? 

Here are some action-based suggestions to keep you moving forward:

  • defining a step-by-step repeatable sales process
  • honing email templates that save time
  • creating a library of relevant blogs and articles to send to an inquiring prospect
  • creating a follow-up workflow process
  • rehearsing stories to demonstrate your value
  • framing a meeting to create prospect buy-in to your best practices process
  • asking for the business
  • rehearsing sound bites that point to how you’ve helped others

Cultivating Trust and Curiosity

My more metaphysical thinking begs the question, “How can our journey not get better if we’re awake to each moment, engaging with questions that erupt on your ‘take action’ journey that prompts more curiosity and awareness?” Being an entrepreneur begs for both curiosity and creativity. Just as advisors ask great questions to their prospects and clients, so too must we ask questions of ourselves. Here are some to get you started:

  • If I could make my introductory meeting conversation flow better, what might that sound like?
  • If I could make a smoother transition for asking for the business, recounting all the areas within our conversation that make me feel we’re a fit for working together, what might that look like?
  • If I could increase my sales by 25% this year, how might I make that happen? What new efforts might work toward that end?
  • If I could do less administrative work in my business and spend more time in the planning process—which I love—how might that evolve? Where might I get the support I need?

Every new “something” starts with a desire and a question. And then the unfolding begins—then the action ensues! Consider when you first arrived at the thought of leaving your former work situation and considered starting your own firm. Think back on the thoughts and actions that brought you to where you are today. Consider, too, where you learned your best lessons. What did upsets along the way teach you? How did the wins and learning through bold trial and error motivate you? Consider how little you may have known when you started and where you are today. None of this ‘knowing’ came to fruition through pause or inaction.

Letting Go and Embracing Your 80% Best Effort

Dan Sullivan goes on to say:

Delegate the second 80% attempt as much as possible: When more than one 80% attempt is necessary to produce a satisfactory result in the work, it’s crucial to delegate as much as possible to other people who have even better talent and capabilities than we do. This infusion of new abilities rapidly increases the quality of the overall result.”

He reinforces the limitations of perfectionism and procrastination,

“The habit of perfectionism paralyzes our ability to make decisions and commitments, while the habit of procrastination paralyzes our ability to take action. Perfectionism is the result of a mental obsession with achieving the ‘ideal’—as a minimum requirement—in all situations and areas of life.”

The mere fact of engaging and trying out new ideas leads to further new ideas and insights. The act of moving forward as if you will be successful both motivates and informs—creating sparks of a driving energy, belief, and inspiration that is unstoppable. The true magic of inspired creation cannot happen until true action takes place. Moving forward with your first rush of energy toward an 80% completion is the goal. Beyond that, you delegate and make minor tweaks, perhaps, but always embrace knowing that your wave of creative inspiration and effort toward 80% is monumental.

I encourage you to ask yourself where you might employ this concept in your work and personal life. Begin to notice when a thought of perfectionism or procrastination persists that limits your flow and sharing your offering. I will leave you with a quote from my own book, Build Your Business: BB Webb’s Notes from the Highwire:

“Rest in knowing that you are a singular energy and light in this world, worthy of all good. And, celebrate you in all that you work to bring to the table in any given day. It’s enough! Let the light in where you can or, as Leonard Cohen so aptly wrote in his song “Anthem,“ released in 1992 on his album, The Future:

'Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering.

There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.'

Best wishes and a heart full of respect, admiration, and love to you.”

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About BB Webb, XYPN Sales Coach

XYPN Sales Coach BB Webb boasts an impressive background in the arts and as an entrepreneur. She first dipped her toe in the world of sales while touring her one-woman play across the country, and then dove in headfirst as the founder of an award-winning Atlanta-based special event venue. In 2014 BB published her book, Build Your Business: BB Webb’s Notes From the Highwire and has worked as an Executive Coach with small business owners.

BB’s goal is to help XYPN members build great relationships, plans, and processes for sharing their services as financial advisors. With a focus on consultative selling, her programs are designed to guide advisors in having meaningful conversations with prospects and sharing their value fearlessly and with joy.

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