THE PROSPECTING FLOW: The Discovery Meeting

THE PROSPECTING FLOW: The Discovery Meeting

#4 Profiling

Past articles in the Prospecting Flow series discussed starting the conversation with a 401(k) prospect plan decision maker, posing your initial questions to confirm the research you have on the plan, managing their objections and obtaining their opinion on improvements for the company 401(k) plan.  You are now able to decide whether to move forward with them and set up the Discovery Meeting.

The purpose of the Discovery Meeting is to continue the process of understanding what you need to know about the company, the employees, and the 401(k) plan to enhance the probability of being selected to serve.  Your objectives to accomplish during the Discovery Meeting include:

  • Show your value-added service with your Positioning Presentation.
  • Ask questions and solicit quality responses to fully understand the decision maker’s goals for their plan.
  • Develop a thorough understanding of the hurdles and or objections that you will have to overcome during the upcoming sales presentation.
  • Answer any questions the decision maker asks about you and the services you can provide.
  • Schedule a follow up meeting to present your recommendation, a sales presentation if appropriate.

Conduct the Discovery Meeting at the employer’s location.  By being on location you will be better positioned to gather other information besides the answers to your questions. You can review their office walls for family pictures, diplomas and awards.  You will certainly gain a clearer understanding of them and their company by visiting them.

There are four categories of Discovery Meeting questions to get answered.

  • Plan Demographics
  • Plan Operations
  • Plan Investments
  • Plan Service

I encourage you to end with plan service questions because service is what you have most control over.  By asking the Discovery Meeting questions you will learn about problem areas and features other Advisors may have spoken to them about that they are interested in.

Final questions posed can include a trial close.  You want an understanding if the prospect plan decision makers will move forward if they are presented with a better option.  You are not in the proposal publishing business.  Here is a sample trail close question, “You have provided a great deal of information, with plenty of opportunity for me to suggest improvements when we meet next. If after our next meeting you agree that my recommendations will provide the 401(k) plan that works better than your current plan will you be at a point where you are ready to make the upgrade?”

And a final question to ask as you conclude the Discovery Meeting seeks their assistance setting up the agenda for the next meeting when you will present your recommendations.  Ask, “Prioritize for me what will be important to discuss at our next meeting when I present our recommendations.  And if necessary, “Would all other decision makers agree on that prioritization?”

As you close the Discovery Meeting ask for a copy of their 408(b)(2) Fee Disclosure Form and an Enrollment Kit which includes a Summary Plan Description and investment overview.  A thorough Discovery Meeting enhances the probability of serving the plan.  Look for the next article in the series, when I’ll review the Sales Presentation Flow.

Continued success.

Christopher Barlow

Managing Director

KnowHow 401(k), LLC

www.knowhow401k.com

June 2018

Chief Retirement Officer

Chief Retirement Officer

One benefit for Advisors that build a business plan is they define a custom value statement that serves them throughout the 401(k) sales cycle and overall business development. Developing a custom value statement begins with answering questions that cause you to think about why and how you work with 401(k) plans and develop your overall business.  Questions you might not be asked all that often.  You will answer them with words you carefully choose to communicate your beliefs.  And your value statement will contain those carefully chosen words.

One of the value statement questions is, “What do you do for a living?” Pretty straight forward.  I asked that question to a 401(k) Advisor and he replied, “I am the Chief Retirement Officer at several local companies.”  I paused and said to the Advisor, “That’s genius.  My immediate response is to ask you, what a Chief Retirement Officer does.”  That is the response you want your plan prospects and referral sources to have.  You want them to say, tell me more about what you do.

The Advisor told me that he sees himself as part of the management team for his client companies. He is like other “C” level employees, but he is responsible for management of the company retirement plan.  Owners and key executives understand the “C” level employee role.  The Advisor went onto say that like other “C” level employees he assists with plan goal setting and defining activities to achieve those goals.  Once activities are defined, he monitors the execution of activities and reports outcomes and any other recommendations to improve the plan to the decision makers.

Top 401(k) Advisors work to understand the goals employers want to accomplish with their company plan and then manage the accomplishment of those goals. Just like a Chief Retirement Officer.

June 1st, 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

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

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