Welcome to Selling Season 2017!

Welcome to Selling Season 2017!

401(k) Advisors know that the four month period of time from July thru October is the time of year you make your numbers in 401(k) 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 401(k) 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 past years leading to the 2017 selling season.  Those numerous communications prove your determination and make it easy for the decision maker to remember you.  401(k) plan decision makers will still vacation over summer, but as each day progresses your persistence and timing can be rewarded.

June 30th, 2017

 

7 Reasons Why Cold Calling Is Still The Best Way To Contact 401(k) Plan Sponsors, And Why You Should Do The Calling

7 Reasons Why Cold Calling Is Still The Best Way To Contact 401(k) Plan Sponsors, And Why You Should Do The Calling

Besides being given a plan that you would have otherwise pursued, I believe of all available ways to connect with your target 401(k) plan prospects is by using the telephone and cold calling. Cold calling is not dead, not even a little bit.  If cold calling were dead – why are there lead firms willing to sell you leads of 401(k) plans they cold called?

And I believe that owners cold call best. Whether you are the team leader or solo Advisor, you are an owner.  And owners like talking with owners, key executives like talking with owners.  These are the seven reasons why I believe cold calling is the most effective form of growing your 401(k) business where you control your message and pursuit of plans that make sense to you.

  1. I believe you are responsible for making the first impression with a target plan prospect. When either you or someone from a lead firm initially connect with the prospective decision maker, according to Dr. Amy Cuddy* the prospect immediately asks themselves two questions; 1. Can I trust this person? 2. Can I respect this person? Who do you want responsible for the first impressions with the prospect? A caller you hire will not be able to communicate your value better than you.
  2. It is a small amount of time – 30 minutes to two hours a day based on your goals. It’s daily “exercise” to grow your business and accomplish your goals.
  3. Your experience is a differentiator in the marketplace. The longer your length of service the greater distinction you can make between yourself and your competition. And your competitors may consider cold calling too difficult, ineffective and demeaning.
  4. Calls can last longer because the decision maker can hear your passion and focus to assist them and their employees to achieve their goals with the company plan.
  5. On the phone you can reach as many potential plan prospects in 1 or 2 hours than the more expensive ways of buying leads, buying lunch for referral sources and time to cold walk and drop by target plan prospects.
  6. Telephone prospecting relays your value and is measurable. And you can quickly determine the quality of the prospect and whether to continue to pursue them or not.
  7. If the 401(k) conversation isn’t going well, you can pivot to discuss the most important company or personal financial need they have at the time.

Even if the decision maker doesn’t take your call, leaving a quality voice mail, month after month demonstrates your persistence. Persistence is easily recognized by the decision maker because it is a quality they admire about themselves.  As you continue to call they will reward you and take your call.

Cold calling is just one activity you can execute to process Cold prospects. I strongly encourage the development of a referral network with your continued success.  Educate your referral sources about the plans you are pursuing and ask them who they know at each.  But unless you are overwhelmed with qualified referrals, I believe a part of your day should be spent processing Cold plan prospects and the most effective way of doing that is cold calling.  Smile and dial.

* Dr. Amy Cuddy, Psychologists, Harvard Business School. Book, Presence.

May 18th, 2017

Are You Ready To Answer These 8 401(k) Plan Fee Questions?

Are You Ready To Answer These 8 401(k) Plan Fee Questions?

“Prepare for adverse weather conditions”

A football coach of mine uttered as part of his pre-game pep talk, “prepare for adverse weather conditions” as we faced a weather quagmire. He wanted to encourage us to understand our obstacle and to stay focused on the task at hand.

Below is a list of eight questions focused on how much money you may make and possible perks of the 401(k) profession. A prospective or current client could ask these and more.  Are you ready to answer them?  Are you ready to explain and defend your answers?

  1. How much money will you make in a fee or commission if we select you and your recommendation?
  2. How much will you make as an ongoing fee or trailing commission?
  3. Is there a bonus you are eligible for that comes as a result of our selection of your recommendation?
  4. Are you earning more from this recommendation than you might from putting us in a similar product from a different company?
  5. Is any company that is part of your recommendation running any contests that might lead you to getting a free trip if we select your recommendation?
  6. Do any of the companies that are part of your recommendation offer “due diligence” trips or provide you with other forms of payment, say in points that you might redeem for merchandise?
  7. Do any of the companies that are part of your recommendation provide free food or tickets to sporting, concerts or other social type events?
  8. Finally, does your firm stand to collect any fees that you yourself will not share in as part of your commission because they have favored one product or another or limited their platform to certain products and locked out others?

Your answers can vary based on if you are serving as a Registered Investment Advisor or Registered Representative. The first two questions can be verified via fee disclosure forms.  All questions posed by plan sponsors and plan participants need a clear and concise answer.  You may believe that your responses will upend the sale.  You’ll see otherwise when you deliver honest and complete answers.  Prepare yourself for anything and stay focused on your task of managing and growing your business.

*Questions adapted from, “The 21 Questions You’re Going to Need to Ask About Investment Fees”, Ron Lieber, NYTimes.com 2/14/17

March 2nd, 2017

Strengthen and Build Your Bench of 401(k) Plan Advisors

Strengthen and Build Your Bench of 401(k) Plan Advisors

I work with TPAs and Advisors every day, assisting them to do more business together. I believe TPAs and Advisors are natural partners.  Here are a few ideas to strengthen relationships and grow sales with 401(k) Advisors.

  • Be a consultant to their business, a member of their board of directors. You witness many Advisors in the marketplace and are a good judge of best practices vaigeneric.com. Offer to review the Advisors acquisition and service activities with your knowledge of other Advisors. Assisting them to refine their acquisition and retention activities will promote their productivity and referral opportunities for your firm. Memorialize your work together in a joint business plan.
  • Advisors need to be confident with your firm’s “story” and you need to be confident in the Advisors. Each should provide to the other marketing materials that they can use to convey the story to plan sponsors and any other that can influence the joint sale.
  • Add to your annual Advisor service model a “State of the Industry” presentation delivered at their office. Keeping them up-to-date will promote their confidence in you and your firm, and perhaps give them a sales idea to share with their prospects and clients. Discuss a case study or two and perhaps jog an opportunity they may have but didn’t look at it until you introduced the idea through the case study.
  • Create a joint service model which outlines a timeline of activities that each is expected to deliver to the plan sponsor and the plan participants. The joint service model can increase sales and retention of plans for both the TPA and the Advisor. The better you and the Advisor can communicate your partnership and shared responsibility to serve the plan, the easier the plan sponsor can decide to hire you.

When I work with Advisors I remind them that they cannot be everything to everyone and that they have to be choosy as to which plans they pursue and partnerships that they enter into. I encourage you to do the same.  Focus on the few Advisors that you want to grow your business with and assist with their development.  Strengthen and build your bench of top Advisors and grow your sales.

February 22nd, 2017

Experience Is A Great Ally

Experience Is A Great Ally

Remember when you were first starting out in your financial sales career? Of course you do. All I wanted in the first days, weeks and months was experience. I wanted clients. Heck I even wanted to grow a mustache to look older. But with continued prospecting activity I obtained experience and clients and the opportunity to continue to grow. The mustache was never a good idea.

I work with Advisors that want to launch their 401(k) business and I work with top Advisors that have +$100 Million AUM in 401(k) assets acquired over several decades and they want to grow. I remind these experienced Advisors that they have become what they wished for when they were first launching their business. They have great experience, clients and the accompanying success. And they can use all of that as advantages over the majority of their competition.

These top Advisors will organically grow their 401(k) business just like the Advisor who is launching. They will cold call into a focused database of plans that make sense for their business. Their number one activity after dialing will be leaving voice mail after voice mail with each cycle through their database. To these cold prospects they will demonstrate their persistence, confident valuable message and courage as they keep calling month after month. All of these are characteristics admired by plan sponsor prospects and can be the bridge to building rapport with them regardless if they are a new or experienced 401(k) Advisor.

But it’s the experienced Advisor that can make cold prospects take their call earlier than solely with persistence, confidence and courage. Experience can immediately be communicated by the top Advisor in their opener, “My name is ______ with ______. For the past _____ years I have been working with local employers like you to improve their company 401(k) plan…..” Stated years of experience can be immediately recognized and respected by plan sponsor prospects. Persistence, confidence and courage take time to demonstrate.

The prospect is more confident about taking the experienced Advisors call because, like them, they have developed an expertise over a long period of time. What a great ally experience is for top 401(k) Advisors.

January 6th, 2017

The Ghosts of Business Past, Present and Future; 401(k) Advisor Year End Reflection

The Ghosts of Business Past, Present and Future; 401(k) Advisor Year End Reflection

Perhaps you’ll find a little time over the next several weeks to reflect upon how you have progressed over the years. You can summon thoughts of your past and present activities and use them to alter your future business.

Here are a few questions to structure your thoughts and help make 2017 what you want it to be. Think of it like Scrooge’s journey reflecting Christmas’s past, present and future as you interview yourself.

  • Thinking back to the early days of building your business, what would you do different? What should you continue doing?
  • How do you answer the prospect plan sponsor’s question, “Why you. Why are you different / better than our current Advisor and all others prospecting us?”
  • What do you want to improve about your business in 2017 and beyond?

Scrooge found the collective experience life changing. I suspect the impact can alter your business for the better.  No humbug here.

Happy Holidays and Continued Success in 2017!

December 15th, 2016

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

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, http://www.ted.com/talks/angela_lee_duckworth_the_key_to_success_grit. 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