Have You Gone Up Market Only to Feel Pretty Down?

by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

All Financial Representatives (FRs) have felt like a superhero at some point as they traveled on a moving sidewalk at an airport. If you were late for a flight you may have jogged while the sidewalk moved and felt especially exhilarated. You whizzed along in the "walk lane" as the regular humans tiredly leaned on their luggage handles and the moving sidewalk chugged them along to their destinations.

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However....do you recall the jarring and abrupt feeling when the sidewalk stopped moving and you had to transition to the carpeting? You may have stumbled a little bit. You had to readjust to traveling like a regular human again. Your legs may have felt as heavy as tree trunks.

This is exactly what it feels to go up market. Do not be alarmed when this happens. It means you are right on track!

After all, before you went up market you were sailing along the sidewalk! It was easier to close cases. Red letter language worked. The sales cycle was shorter. You racked up activity points pretty easily. The cases were more straightforward and simple. You felt a certain wind in your sails as things became became easier and more natural to you. Your network was growing and you picked up momentum quite easily. You may have thought "I can do this career! I'm GOOD at this!"

And then you decided to go up market without realizing all of the change that this would naturally bring about. You have hit the carpet on the moving sidewalk HARD. Suddenly your old prospecting and phoning demons come back. Your phoning list becomes thin. Your calendar is light. Cases take longer to close. You may need to revisit systems, processes, hiring more staff, language and other things you haven't given much thought to for a while.

It is likely a very good decision to challenge yourself to go up market. Perhaps you think it’s time to get serious about starting your NMIS practice. You realize you'll be missing out if you don’t try to work with increasingly older and more affluent clients. You are hoping to apply all that you've been learning as you’ve grown your practice by working with more complex cases. So, you have upped your minimums, reduced the amount of joint work down and bravely started turning the cruise ship around.

There are so many great reasons to go up market. Isn't it worth a little clumsiness?

If you miss that ease of travel on the moving sidewalk it will be back soon if you lean into this period of change. After all, you forget now, but it was once this difficult to work with almost anyone. Remember your first year in the business? It will never be that hard again. You will never endure that level of fear and uncertainty again. (Although you are probably experiencing it to some degree all over again.)

This very healthy change process you’re undergoing represents a small symbolic “death.” The last version of you and your practice are no longer quite right anymore and that can bring a feeling of loss. Yet you don’t quite yet have it all figured out. There will be a rediscovery of what kind of advisor you are, how you do things and what you’re capable of—a sort of “rebirth.”

Try to accept this dissolving process. Try to offer yourself reassurance that this is normal and everything will be okay. Your fight-or-flight response (your “Reptilian Brain”—let’s call it your Lizard) is likely pretty touchy. This is the part of your brain responsible for your survival and it is triggered by a sense of lack or attack. Not having what you perceive to be enough QSs, clients, cases, meetings, cash flow or any shortage will set off feelings of fear and anxiety. Experiencing more difficulty in the business while breaking into new markets may bring about a sense of “attack.” People may say no to you more, you may feel criticized by your spouse, mentor and your colleagues at Builder while your numbers look completely different.

While your lizard is convinced this change will have you living on the streets in no time, your rational mind knows better. Be prepared to waiver between optimistic thoughts of what it will be like once you’re reestablished followed by fearful, short-of-breath moments of “what have I done?” and raw fear. This is normal. And, prepare to go through some level of this process every time you make a strategic change to your business.

Your practice is much like the airport moving sidewalks. You’ll get off of one, adjust for a while to walking, and soon a new opportunity to hop on will present itself again. Once you know this will happen and plan for it, I’d like to think it could be more fun. Be brave and keep moving!

Coaching Tip Once FRs commit to a new market and encounter all that comes with it (short phoning list, few QSs, light calendar, etc.) on top of that, they often go through a “change back attack.” The well-intentioned people around you as well as YOU will question why you have “wrecked your perfectly good practice.” Sometimes your actions threaten other people. It may cause other FRs to feel like they, too, need to change their practices. Or others may misunderstand what you are doing and question you. If you have thoughtfully made this change in your practice, stay calm and assert yourself. You may inspire others to think bigger, too.