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

 

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

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

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