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. https://www.irs.gov/uac/Get-Credit-for-Your-Retirement-Savings-Contributions

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

Close the Sale: TPA and Advisor Joint Service Model

Close the Sale: TPA and Advisor Joint Service Model

The best sales presentations I ever participated in as an Advisor were those where all members of the sales team; TPA, product Wholesaler and myself were in-tune with each other’s message and effectively communicated to the plan sponsor how we would work in concert to serve them and the plan participants.

I encourage TPAs and their Advisor partners to create a joint service model which effectively communicates to the plan sponsor and the plan participants the activities delivered to them throughout a given year. The calendar is the structure for your joint service model, because both your firm and the Advisors activities are calendar based.

Meet with your Advisors, and ask them to outline their specific initial and ongoing service activities with frequency, including:

  • Initial Trustee Meeting
  • Develop Investment Committee
  • Develop Investment Policy Statement (IPS)
  • Develop Education Policy Statement (EPS)
  • Employee Education: Group and One-on-One
  • Monthly Check-up Call to the Plan Sponsor
  • Quarterly Investment Management Reports
  • Annual Survey of Employees
  • Annual Trustee Meeting

Now combine the top activities you deliver for the plan sponsor throughout the year with those listed by the Advisor. Customize the service model based on information gathered during profiling. The written version is then combined with a visual calendar highlighting dates or periods with the service activities you each are delivering throughout the year.

A joint service model can increase sales and retention of plans for both your firm and the Advisor. The better you and the Advisor can communicate your partnership and shared responsibility to serve the plan, the easier it will be for the plan sponsor to decide to hire you. Close those sales!

Contact me for a sample Advisor Service Model for use in building your joint service model, cbarlow@knowhow401k.com

September 17th, 2015

Your 401(k) Plan Clients Are Being Called: What are They Telling Your Competition about You?

Your 401(k) Plan Clients Are Being Called: What are They Telling Your Competition about You?

Your 401(k) plan client decision makers are getting called and meeting your competition with their impromptu stop-byes at a greater volume this time of the year versus any other. We are in selling season which began July 1st and runs thru October. This is the time of year plan sponsors are more aware of their plan because of the recent filing of Form 5500 and audit if they have over 100 eligible employees, along with their understanding that they have the time to improve the plan for the first payroll in January. What are they telling the Advisor prospecting them? Are they giving the Advisor the opportunity to discuss the plan or are they shutting them down.

This may be how you obtained the relationship. You may have relentlessly attempted to contact the then prospect decision maker impressing them with your persistence and value add message. They finally relented and picked up the phone when you called to show their admiration for your persistence. You opened a conversation with them and effectively demonstrated to them that you are a professional and worth a moment of their time. Your competition is attempting to do the same.

So what are your 401(k) plan clients telling your competition about their plan? This or an appropriate variation is what you want them to say.

“Our plan has its issues but those responsible for service and operations do a great job. Our Advisor is proactive and checks-in often keeping us informed. She is well liked by our employees and they look forward to seeing her several times a year. Our operations manager at the provider knows her stuff and when we need something, she or a member of her team get it done.”

It’s tough for your competitor to communicate or demonstrate that they would deliver a higher quality of service, so they will attack the plan features and fees. Developing with the plan sponsor a simple service model and effective delivery of its activities along with ongoing communication with them is what you do to earn the above statement and shut down your competitors during any time of the year. Continued success earning that comment from your plan sponsor clients.

August 6th, 2015

Welcome to Selling Season!

Welcome to Selling Season!

Whether you are Product Manager, National Sales Manager, Wholesaler or Advisor the four month period of time from July thru October is the time you make your numbers for the year. Employers are most inclined to improve their company retirement plan for January 1st, 2016 at this time of year we call the Selling Season. Employers seem to be conditioned and comfortable discussing a retirement plan improvements now for the 1st of the year implementation.

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 attach Schedule H to their 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 most rewarded.

July 2nd, 2015