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

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

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

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,

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