My First Sale Paid Forward By My Great Great Grandfather

My First Sale Paid Forward By My Great Great Grandfather

You’ll never forget your first professional sale. Mine was set up 75 or so years before it happened.  I passed the Series 7 test on September 3rd, 1983.  The next Monday I began a long career of trying to contact people to manage their money.  I started without any formal sales training, a four inch wide directory containing individual or company contact information in the Dayton Ohio area and a lot of excitement.  After two weeks of focused, persistent dialing without speaking with one prospect, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  And I thought about how I could do things better.

I am from a Dayton family that for generations owned several small companies and participated in the development of the area. So I made a list of family held companies in Dayton, those with multi generation family ownership.  I called them asking for the owner or President, and thanked them for what their family had done for the Dayton area, hoping that would spark a conversation.

Requarth Lumber was next on the list to call. Requarth Lumber opened their doors in 1860 and supplied Orville and Wilbur Wright the spruce for their early flyers.  Mr. Requarth took my call and the conversation went something like this.  “My name is Chris Barlow and I am with SJ Wolfe here in town.  We provide investment management services.  I am calling to introduce myself and to thank you for what your family and company have meant to the growth of the Dayton area.  My family has been in the area for generations owning several Dayton area companies, like the Requarth family.”

Mr. Requarth said, “Thank you. What are the company names?”  I mentioned the Gibbons side of my family, and he stopped me asking, “Are you related to Michael Gibbons, Sr.?”  And I said yes, that he was my great great grandfather.  He then said, “I want to open an account with you.  Your great great grandfather did all that he could do to make sure that we stayed in business in the early years and we will never forget that.”  My great great grandfather owned the plumbing supply company for the area and was the developer for several downtown building projects.

Paying forward is real and you may never see the benefits of your actions. My great great grandfather probably had no idea that one of his great great grandsons would someday be a stock broker asking a lumber contractor of his to buy some municipal bonds.  What he did was to operate his personal and professional life with integrity and made such an impression upon another that 75 or so years later I was rewarded for his actions.  I hope that with my day-to-day personal and professional actions that I pay it forward for a future member of my family and maybe assist their first sale.

June 1st, 2016

401(k) Sales Success Takes GRIT

401(k) Sales Success Takes GRIT

If you aren’t one of the 8.5 million to have already watched Dr. Angela Duckworth’s TED Talk entitled, The Key To Success? GRIT, I encourage you to do so. Here is the link, Dr. Duckworth has recently published a book entitled, GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.  I concur with her belief that the combination of passion and perseverance or GRIT, is a greater predicator of success over IQ and talent.  And that GRIT knows no restrictions; young and old, male and female can develop GRIT.

I have monthly conversations with Advisors that I coach. The #1 topic we discuss is their persistence with the execution of their prospecting activities defined in their business plan.  We discuss their perseverance, their stick-to-it-ness.  GRIT is the combination of passion and perseverance, but perseverance without passion is like a rocket without a guidance system.  My Advisor clients have the passion, it’s their persistence we discuss.

Persistence is a never ending asset of yours when you choose to draw upon it. Your ability to persist is the force advancing you through your journey and it is fostered by your business plan where you defined your expectations for your prospecting activity outcomes.  When things just aren’t happening fast enough, it’s the defined activity outcomes that enable you to discipline your disappointment and carry-on.

Persistence is a common characteristic of all successful people no matter their expertise, and that includes those owners and key executives you want to speak with. 401(k) Sales Champions will tell you that after their persistent pursuit of prospects over a prolonged period of time they hear the decision maker finally say, “I know who you are.  I get a call from you every month.  I know who you are.”   Focus on your passion to serve the group retirement plan market and persist.  Continue to develop your GRIT and achieve the success you want from your 401(k) business.

May 19th, 2016

Time’s A Wastin’

Time’s A Wastin’

Advisors Should Always Be Active With Their Prospecting

I’m not talking about what June and Johnny Cash had in mind with their song, but if you slowed or are waiting to begin building your qualified plan business because of uncertainty surrounding the Conflict of Interest Rule, and you truly want to serve the qualified plan market for the long term, you should be active with your prospecting activities. Your broker dealer will provide guidance and process to manage the changing environment as the weeks pass, and you will continue to make adjustments.  Change in the financial service industry is constant as should be your business building activities.

Three months from now we will enter selling season as I define it, August thru October in any given year. The contacts you make now and over the next several months with your referral network and plan prospects can improve your selling season outcome  Your prospects aren’t as aware of the Conflict of Interest Rule as you might believe.   They are not letting it hold them back from managing their company and improving their retirement plan.  They want to find a quality Advisor to work with them and their plan participants in order to improve their company retirement plan.

So stay active with you prospecting activities no matter what and get busy. The Cash’s couldn’t wait to get going and neither should you – just in different contexts.  Your business building is always on because Times A Wastin’.

May 2nd, 2016

3 Questions Advisors Should Ask Retirement Plan Wholesalers And TPAs

3 Questions Advisors Should Ask Retirement Plan Wholesalers And TPAs

I see Wholesalers and TPAs as great partners for Advisors, especially those Advisors newer to the 401(k) sale. Wholesalers and TPAs can become members of the Advisors unofficial Board of Directors consulting with them and providing insights to best build their group retirement plan business. I am an ex-Wholesaler and learned my coaching process as a result of working with Advisors to grow their business. Wholesalers and TPAs consult with Advisors, share best practices and can help close and retain plans.
When I work with an Advisor on their business plan, they complete several areas of information including which program providers they will represent and why, as well as their competitors strengths and weaknesses. I ask them to meet with prospective program provider Wholesalers and representatives of TPA firms and ask them the following three questions as part of developing these components for their business plan.
1 montrer. What are the top 3 reasons you want to bring out in every sales presentation to a plan sponsor about why your firm should be chosen?
2. Can you explain your firms pricing formulae and any weighting of factors, like high average account balance that can make a difference in how you price a plan?
3. What are the strengths and weaknesses of my competition?
Advisors tell me after asking these questions that they learn so much more about providers, TPAs and their competitors than they thought they knew. This consistent comment reinforces that as a result of Wholesalers and TPAs 100% focus on 401(k) and other group retirement plans, they can be great partners with Advisors.

April 28th, 2016

Old is New Again The New Definition of a Fiduciary Looks Like The Original

Old is New Again     The New Definition of a Fiduciary Looks Like The Original

Forty two years ago the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, ERISA, was signed into law by President Ford on Labor Day 1974 and it contained a two part definition as to who was a Fiduciary Advisor to a qualified employer retirement plan.

  1. The person renders investment advice with respect to any moneys or property of a plan.
  2. The person has authority to render investment advice and is paid directly or indirectly for that advice.

In 1975 the Department of Labor issued regulations that significantly narrowed the breadth of the statutory definition of fiduciary investment advice by creating a five-part test that must, in each instance, be satisfied before a person can be treated as a Fiduciary Advisor. As a result of the five-part test, many investment professionals, consultants, and Advisors had no obligation to adhere to ERISA’s fiduciary standards or to the prohibited transaction rules, despite the critical role they play in guiding plan and IRA investments.*

Yesterday, April 6th, 2016 the Department of Labor issued the final version of the Conflict of Interest Rule, which redefines who is a Fiduciary Advisor.  The final version states a Fiduciary Advisor is any individual receiving compensation for making investment recommendations that are individualized or specifically directed to a particular plan sponsor running a retirement plan (e.g., an employer with a retirement plan), plan participant, or IRA owner for consideration in making a retirement investment decision is a fiduciary. Being a fiduciary means that the Advisor must provide impartial advice in their client’s best interest and cannot accept any payments creating conflicts of interest unless they qualify for an exemption intended to assure that the customer’s interests are protected.**

The new rule looks a lot like the original definition of a Fiduciary Advisor. The original definition changed in 15 months to the one we used for 40 years until April 2017.  Let’s see what happens to the new definition.  In the meantime, Financial Advisors that serve the employer retirement plan marketplace, congratulations.  You’re now Fiduciary Advisors (in April 2017).

* Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration, April 6th, 2016 29 CFR Parts 2509 and 2510 RIN 1210-AB32, Definition of the term “Fiduciary”; Conflict of Interest Rule – Retirement Investment Advice

**The White House press release, April 6th, 2016. Fact Sheet: Middle Class Economics: Strengthening Retirement Security by Cracking Down on Conflicts of Interest in Retirement Savings.

April 7th, 2016

Cold Calling Is Like A Good Cup Of Coffee

Cold Calling Is Like A Good Cup of Coffee

Do you like coffee – a really good cup of coffee? I do. Dark roast and black. I have a collection of coffee brewing methods including automatic drip, Keurhig and French press. And now I deploy the simplest of them all – a mesh funnel and a beaker.

I put the fresh ground coffee in the mesh funnel that sits atop the beaker, slowly pour hot water over the coffee and let nature do the rest. It took me a few pounds of coffee to get the technique and proportions of coffee and water correct. But the results are excellent. And besides the cost of the funnel, beaker, ground coffee and water, it is the least expensive way to drink coffee. Simple, low cost and I control the process – when I have the time to do it.

Cold calling is the simplest, lowest cost and most controlled approach to marketing you can deploy, when you make the time to do it. Advisors are naturally hesitant to cold call at all lengths of service, but the ones that progress get over that. Cold calling is one of the ways to grow your business –   not the way. But it is the simplest, lowest cost alternative and you control things.

If the term cold calling turns you off – change it to target prospecting. You define who you want to approach and when it is good for you to approach them. The important idea is to stay in front of them monthly until you speak and determine if you want to continue to pursue them. Simple, low cost and most control. Great combination for growing a group retirement plan business, let alone brewing a good cup of coffee.

January 19th, 2016

It’s Natural: New Year New Start

It’s Natural; New Year New Start

I believe it’s natural at this time of year for us to take advantage of the opportunity to start fresh, a time to renew and carry-on towards accomplishing our goals. Think about how the below factors naturally focus us at this time of year on our annual opportunity for a fresh start and renewal. I know you have your own examples.

  • Winter Solstice: We have evolved to viscerally understand that on the day of the longest night we begin to witness a growing amount of sun light each following day.
  • New Year’s Day: We state resolutions to improve with great hope to see them through.
  • Your Employer: Accounting, sales goals and operational functions are calendar based.
  • Your payment of income and property taxes start all over.
  • Contributions to a qualified plan begin to accumulate to a new limit.

I review my business plan throughout the year, yet at this time of the year I spend a few hours focusing on it and revising it based on the past year experiences and new aspirations. And my business is to work with Advisors to develop and follow their plan to build their group retirement plan business. So I’m immersed in the process and a witness to the benefits of having and executing a plan.

I’ll give you a week free access to the online 401(k) Sales Champion Workshop so you can watch the videos in Step 2 Planning on building a business plan to accomplish your goals by serving group retirement plans. Get a week free access

So give into nature at this time of year to reflect and plan ahead. Here’s to your renewal and continued success in 2016.

January 6th, 2016

Let All Save

Let All Save

I read several articles recently about MyRA and State sponsored programs written by retirement industry professionals and organizations where their words seemed to take on a cynical tone instead of one of encouragement to the reader to look further into the programs. My belief is that their words can discourage Advisors and others to explore, understand and bring information to all individuals and employers to promote retirement savings.

Typically, a for profit employer will sponsor a retirement program only after a period of time proving that they have what it takes to continue in business. With an employer only retirement saving system we can guarantee ourselves as a nation that we will always have too high of a percentage of individuals not-covered by an employer sponsored retirement program, and therefore a high probability of them not saving for retirement.

With MyRA, IRAs, State and employer sponsored plans there is no reason for all individuals to settle on a retirement savings method. And low income Americans may qualify for The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit for contributing.

We have the tools, what we lack is awareness and action by all. Awareness and action by individual investors, and retirement industry professionals. As industry professionals we should communicate to those employers who don’t or won’t sponsor a group plan about other options for their employees to save. Options without cost, contributions and fiduciary responsibility for the employer. Plus the program can benefit them by attracting and retaining employees similar to any other benefit program they may sponsor. We need to promote the savings habit early and often with all.

Employers are and should remain the center piece of the American retirement savings system. They have the ability to sponsor a retirement plan and can always facilitate payroll deduction of an individual’s retirement savings along with group dissemination of information. By the way, MyRA can also be funded from the individuals checking or savings account and tax refund. And with the maximum lifetime limit of $15,000, individuals are incubating Roth IRAs for the private sector to serve. So let’s understand all available options and promote the program that makes most sense for any given employer so all can save.

December 3rd, 2015

6 Ideas to Grow Your 401(k) Business in 2016

6 Ideas to Grow Your 401(k) Business in 2016

Master these six ideas and you are well on your way to growing your 401(k) business in 2016.

Get Your Message Down

The question prospective plan sponsors want you to answer is the “Why You” question.  Craft a value statement that you are proud to proclaim to your plan sponsor prospects.

Define Your Target Prospect

Pursuing too large a number of prospects is a primary error committed by Advisors. Pursue prospects that make sense to you and a number large enough that with normal sales fallout lead to the plans you serve.

Stick to Prospect Stage Definitions

We have a tendency to classify a prospect at a higher level of readiness to become our client than what they would classify themselves. Define the stages of your prospects; Cold, Qualified, Appointment Candidate, Warm and Hot. Then apply a conservative interpretation of those definitions and discipline your disappointment.

Focus On Your Goals

“What goals can I assist you to achieve?” is a phrase you often state to your clients. Do the same for your business. Goal setting covers the “why” you are doing what you are doing. Viscerally connect with your activities.

Execute Activities and Expect Reasonable Outcomes

The #1 reason Advisors don’t achieve what they set out to achieve with 401(k) sales is because they have bad expectations for outcomes. Things weren’t happening as fast as they thought they should and they stopped prospecting.

Hold Yourself Accountable

Monitoring your activity shows you that you are progressing daily and inspires you to carry on. If you persist over a prolonged period of time with your prospecting and service efforts, you will accomplish your goals.

Focus on these six ideas year over year and you will grow your business as you see fit.

November 13th, 2015

What Do You Mean You Didn’t Choose Us? The Exit Interview

What Do You Mean You Didn’t Choose Us?:  The Exit Interview

As you wind down the plan selling season for 2015 you know there will be winners and those who didn’t. As difficult as it is to accept defeat, you can choose to react positively and improve by conducting an Exit Interview with the decision maker.

Conduct the Exit Interview as quickly as possible. If “buyer’s remorse” is a valid principal then you may have one final opportunity to persuade the plan sponsor your way.

Be direct and honest with your Exit Interview questions. Use “open ended” questions to promote detailed answers by the decision maker. In order for them to provide you honest and candid responses, pose your questions with a positive perspective. As example, do not state – Why didn’t you choose me? And do state – What were the reasons you chose —?

Here are some sample questions to use during the Exit Interview:

  • What were the reasons that you chose —-?
  • What did you like most about our recommendation?
  • What could I/my team have done better?
  • Under what conditions would we have been retained/chosen?
  • How do you feel about the process your company implemented to improve the company 401(k) plan?

And what should you do with the information obtained through the Exit Interview? Fight the negative urge – give your thoughts consideration before speaking. Be reflective. Can you act upon the information in order to improve? What positive changes can you make? And if there are changes to make – what will be your process to implement the improvement?

As soon as you are done with the interview make sure to write down any notes and decide if you are going to continue to pursue them as a prospect. If so, archive your Exit Interview notes and be ready when the opportunity to present to the company again arises.

You may not be chosen 100% of the time, but you can benefit from the experience in one way or another 100% of the time. Conducting Exit Interviews allow you to influence tomorrow – today. Those who choose not to conduct an Exit Interview loose a great opportunity to improve.

November 3rd, 2015