Reprinted from Guest Column article published by IGNITES.com
by Paul Karasik, President, The Wholesaler Institute
Perception Is Reality
As I was sitting next to a branch manager of a large wire house office, a wholesaler got up to speak to his group in what was billed as a value-added presentation. After a few minutes, I casually remarked to the manager, “He’s not a very good presenter.” The manager replied, “They all stink.”
The regional sales manager for the wire house worked for months with the advisors to create a comprehensive educational agenda. Wholesalers were chosen to speak based upon the value they would contribute to the meeting objective and the lives of the advisors.
Five or ten minutes into each presentation, the wholesalers abandoned the syllabus that had been promised and began delivering product pitches. Sitting with the sales manager during the wholesaler presentations, I watched steam coming from the top of his head and listened to a series of expletives I can’t share in this column.
While coaching a group of young and ambitious wholesalers at a major fund company, the participants were well aware of their need to bring value to the wholesalers. They realized they needed to go beyond the “product pitch.” During the discussion of value, one of the wholesalers asked me to provide the group with a few non-product tools that would help contribute to the success of the wholesalers. I responded to the wholesaler’s question saying, “Why don’t you use the value-added resources you currently have available?”
At that point I got the best laugh from the group that we had had all day. The company was more interested in saying it offered a value-added program than actually creating a value-added program that the wholesalers could and would use.
Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Leadership in third-party distribution organizations continues to sing the same song about adding value in a commoditized marketplace. Yet, very little time and energy is invested in providing resources to the advisors. Programs are habitually developed and then left to collect dust in three-ring binders on wholesalers’ shelves.
Survey after survey continues to document and verify that advisors are looking to wholesalers to manage and grow their practices more successfully. But wholesalers continue to manage their rotations based upon what is convenient for their own travel schedules rather than the real needs of the advisor.
The need for a systematized approach to managing travel and a territory is undeniable, but it should not be the guiding value. Territory-centered management is the 1980s. True value-centered relationship management is the future of wholesaling.
Some leaders offer the promise of delivering value to the advisor and then proceed to devote little time, if any, to educating, growing, and coaching wholesalers capable of going beyond the product pitch. Among every team of wholesalers there is a significant percentage of individuals who are ready and willing to learn how to deliver value beyond the product.
The perfect setting for expanding the knowledge and skill sets of wholesalers is at divisional and national sales meetings, and yet little or no time is invested beyond referencing it. The greater part of every sales meeting has been, and continues to be, product-focused. It’s no wonder the wholesalers are failing to go beyond product.
Credibility is not at stake in many cases because it has already been lost. This loss of credibility presents an unprecedented opportunity for the visionary leaders and organizations that recognize that wholesaling today requires a new mindset, new commitment, and deliverables that go beyond talk, brochures, and promise.
Live by Performance, Die by Performance
It’s absurd to believe that any wholesaling team can survive, thrive, and achieve target sales goals with chronic poor performance. It is equally absurd to believe your product performance provides you with an ongoing competitive advantage.
The insurance that is needed to mitigate the risk of driving sales success based upon performance is value. Become a true partner and coach to the advisor and you will secure a relationship that will stay intact regardless of market conditions.
It’s About a Bigger Pie, Not a Bigger Piece
The secret to growing sales is not about growing market share; it’s about growing the pie. There are huge markets that are being underserved. The baby boomer market presents endless opportunities regardless of product specialty.
Even the most successful advisors with the most sophisticated business models are hungry for relationships with wholesalers who are ready, willing, and able to get in the trenches with them and help them manage and grow their business. The advisors who are seeking these relationships with wholesalers, in fact, are ideal clients and prospects. The mature financial marketplace is ripe with opportunity. It’s all about walking your talk.
Paul Karasik of Manhattan Beach, California, is president of the Wholesalers Institute, a training and consulting organization. He is author of eight books, including Mastering the Art of Wholesaling, 22 Keys to Sales Success and How to Market to High-Net-Worth Households.