Why Are You Here?
As the advisor looks across the table at the wholesaler, he begins to wonder, “What product are they going to “pitch” today?”, “Is this going to be just another waste of time?”, or “Will this wholesaler be different and actually bring something of value to me and my clients?”. This situation assumes that the wholesaler was able to get through the “gatekeeper” and book a meeting in the first place. What happens during the meeting will determine if the advisor and wholesaler invested their time well and take away something of value from the meeting. Unfortunately, far too often one or both leave the meeting disappointed.
Old Habits Die Hard
Traditionally, wholesaling engagement strategies were built off the assumption that advisors were primarily interested in new product ideas or updates on the funds they already owned. Today, this approach is still used by many wholesalers who are focused on selling their top performing funds or newest products. These wholesalers are usually well-prepared, present a compelling story, and have a tablet or folder filled with all the marketing and research that any advisor could want. But does this approach answer the most important questions, “Will the meeting add value by addressing the challenges the advisor is currently experiencing?”, or “Are the ideas and products meeting a specific need and consistent with the investment philosophy and focus of the advisor?”.
The reality today is that most advisors don’t want or need to meet with wholesalers. In our tech-enabled world, with endless streams of information available, advisors already have access to everything they need to do research and identify investments for client portfolios. Return data, back tests, and other analytics are readily available from their firm or numerous online sources that are efficient and easy for them to use. How much of this information they use varies greatly from advisor to advisor and has a strong baring on what they need from a wholesaler.
Over the past 25 years I have had the opportunity to observe hundreds of meetings with both new and seasoned professional wholesalers who were articulate, knowledgeable, and well-dressed. Far too often they ended up walking away from the meeting without having a clear understanding of the advisor’s investment business or where the opportunity was for their products. Even when the wholesaler did ask a few strategic questions to gain insights into what the advisor’s investment needs were, as soon as they heard the first indication of something that remotely resembled an interest in the wholesaler’s products, out came the charts, handouts, etc.
Traditional wholesaling sales strategies and methods have become less and less effective. Ask any wholesaler, internal or external, how easy it is to get a meeting or even to accept a call, and you will likely hear how challenging and difficult it has become.
So, what needs to change?
The question that needs to answer today is: “What level of return can we expect on our investment for putting wholesaler in the field?”. Firms need to consider the time and resources that are being used to make that face-to-face meeting or call take place. Marketing materials, lead lists, social media, news articles, training, travel and transportation, meals, man hours to make the calls or set up the meeting, and then time to do the meeting all has to be factored in. This is one of the most expensive resources that a firm deploys to raise and retain AUM. From a business perspective, you have to be asking, “Is this the highest and best use of firm capital?”.
Don’t get me wrong, wholesalers can still provide significant value, but the strategy will need to change and wholesaling teams will have to move away from the old traditional ways they did business and become very comfortable with. From the first contact to the one-on-one conversation, advisors now need to be provided with a compelling answer to “Why are you here?” and “How are you going to help me retain and grow my investment business?”. This will require wholesalers to move away from the status quo of being a mutual fund salesperson and becoming an investment consultant.
This transformation will not be easy and require organizing a firm’s product development group, marketing department, and wholesaling team around a common strategy that will deliver a differentiated value to the advisors they want to do business with. This by itself can be a big change and a challenge for a firm to put in place. All the stake holders will need to work together and develop an understanding of the current needs, challenges, or problems advisors are dealing with and then create a business/sales focus around their products that are the best and most competitive solutions for each advisor segment that has the greatest potential.
Changing the Status Quo
When was the last time you did a full audit of your wholesaling strategy and assessed the competencies of your team? Now may be a good time to get an objective assessment done to advance the effectiveness of your team.
The following are eight key areas that you should evaluate to make sure you are on the right track for getting the best return on your investment in your wholesaling team:
Do you have a clear understanding of how your products solve to an advisor’s investment business in today’s environment? How competitive are they?
Have you developed target profiles and a strategy for developing business with the advisors that represent the best opportunity for your firm’s product solutions?
What is the readiness level of the firm (products group, marketing) and each person that is advisor/client facing (internal/external wholesaler, sales support) to engage, identify/confirm a qualified opportunity with advisors that have the highest potential?
Does every member of the sales team have the skills and knowledge to consult (yes consult, not pitch) with advisors on their investment practices and do they know how and when to “fill or kill” the meeting?
Does all the firm’s research, third party proof sources, and marketing materials support why the firm’s products are the best solution and answer/overcome most advisor/investor questions and obstacles?
Is there an efficient and effective marketing and sales strategy that will put the firm’s resources in front of the greatest number of the highest potential target advisors?
Is there a long-term retention strategy and process in place?
Is the necessary infrastructure, leadership, and training in place to ensure ongoing success?
It may be time to take a hard look at how to get the highest ROI from your wholesaler efforts. Especially if you think that some of your wholesalers are still nothing more than walking brochures that only know how to pitch their product to anyone that will give them the time.
I’ll leave you with this one last quote from Jack Welch – “If the change on the outside of your company is moving faster than the change on the inside, your business is dying.”
Let us know if we can help. We have over 25 years experience successfully helping firms advance their sales strategies and train their sales teams on how to catch the “Third Wave”* to become investment consultants for their advisors.