By Helping Others I Can Accomplish Anything

By Helping Others I can Accomplish Anything

I am fortunate to work with successful 401(k) Advisors. When speaking with them about their business plan and marketing materials, it is evident that many of them succeed because they strive to accomplish a greater good.  They entered group retirement plan sales with a belief that they could build a solid business over the years serving 401(k) plans.  And they were going to build their business driven by a desire to assist others to accomplish their goals.  Their passion and focus is not only evident to me, I know it’s picked up by their prospects and understood by their clients.

I developed a personal mission statement based on years of experiences that reflects the passion I witness from many successful 401(k) Advisors. The statement is, “By helping others I can accomplish anything”.  And like those successful Advisors, I hope to succeed as a result of accomplishing a greater good.  My personal mission statement clearly explains what’s important to me and that which I want others to know about me.  It provides me a point to focus on and work towards.

All that I have accomplished and all of my future successes will be based on delivering on this statement. I don’t publish my personal mission statement for viewing by prospects or clients.  My actions will speak louder than reading the words, as they say.  Just like many successful 401(k) Advisors.

November 11th, 2016

They’re Taking My Call

They’re Taking My Call

I have a monthly call with Advisors that I coach. At this time of the year I hear those who have persistently attempted to contact prospective plan decision makers say, “They’re taking my call.”  They persisted with their attempts to contact cold prospects month after month, leaving a lot of voice mail messages.  Advisors will tell me that as they launch into their opener the prospect plan decision maker will stop them and say, “I know who you are.  You’re the person that calls me once a month.  I know who you are.”  Prospective plan decision makers are taking their call to reward them, and they know that this is the time of year to decide to make plan improvements for first of the year implementation.

Plan decision makers, whether they are owners or key executives of companies share certain characteristics with successful Advisors. One of those is persistence.  Your prospect plan decision makers continue to exercise their persistence on a daily basis.  In the absence of a relationship, plan decision makers will take your call to reward you for demonstrating a characteristic that they hold near and dear about themselves.

January 1st of any given year is a favorite time for employers to introduce or improve a qualified plan.  Accounting has a clean start and the employer can promote to the employees a “new year – new (or improved) benefit” perception. When you take over a plan, the employer and employees have gone through at least one transition when they began the program, plus any other past plan conversions.  The plan decision makers realize that a best practice is to make sure that they give themselves time to communicate to employees and manage the process.

Carry-on with your acquisition activities this selling season. Focus on your prospecting process, not how many conversations or meetings you have with plan decision makers.  Those will come with your persistence.  Your efforts will be recognized and rewarded by plan decision makers as they continue to take your call.

August 2016

Welcome to Selling Season 2016!

Welcome to Selling Season 2016!

Whether you are a Product or National Sales Manager, Wholesaler or Advisor, the four month period of time from July thru October is the time of year you make your numbers in qualified plan sales. Employers are most inclined to improve their company retirement plan during this time of year we call the Selling Season. Employers seem to be conditioned and comfortable discussing retirement plan improvements for implementation on January 1st, 2017.

Plan sponsors with a calendar year end plan are more aware of their company retirement plan at this time of year because Form 5500 is due by July 31st, (unless a 2 1/2 month extension is sought).  And if the plan has over 100 participants the plan audit is being finalized to review with the auditor and attach various schedules to their company retirement plan Form 5500.

This is the time of year for all prospect facing sales professionals to continue to be in contact with plan decision makers. Hopefully you have been in communication with plan prospects over the past months and possibly years leading to this selling season.  Those numerous communications prove your determination and make it easy for the decision maker to remember you.  Prospects will still vacation over summer, but as each day progresses your persistence and timing can be rewarded.

July 5th, 2016

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