From the April 2009 issue of Research Magazine • Subscribe!

Get It Wholesale

Are your wholesalers trusted advisors?

Just as your clients need trusted advisors, you need some of your own. Since it would be silly to be your own tax preparer or attorney, you obviously need one of each. Other advisors could include a marketing consultant and most certainly should include wholesalers and money managers. There is just too much to know to be an expert in all areas of this business. You have to select carefully, and then manage, your own coterie of trusted advisors. In this article, I will talk about the care, selection and feeding of your wholesalers.

Let's take a good wholesaler. We'll call him Bob, or her Bobbie, your choice.

In the course of a month, Bob(bie) makes dozens of client presentations. Over the course of a year, we are talking hundreds of presentations, some individual, some in front of groups.

Through practice-making-perfect, Bob(bie) has a great presentation. It sparkles, has impact, is the right length and performs the magic of getting a client to want to own that product.

Now let's look at you. Perhaps you have 20 clients in Bob(bie)'s fund family or annuity. You like the funds. They have held up better than most. You want more clients to invest more money. But over the course of a month, how many presentations do you make? Three? Six? If these opportunities occur with some days in between, it is very difficult to improve upon the presentation. It varies from one client to the next. Without momentum, you are always doing it for the first time.

This was driven home on a road show across Canada for one of the fund companies. We went to six cities, beginning on a Monday morning, moving west, and ending in British Columbia on Saturday. Same presentation, one after the other. While I got a great response from my first one, I could tell that the sixth one was markedly better in terms of presentation style. As I went from one city to the next, I incorporated some new laugh lines, dropped out some things that went flat, tightened here, loosened there. No change was particularly significant. Together, they made a big difference.

Bob(bie) is doing this -- month in, month out. Depending on how good the back-office is, Bob(bie) flies into your town, meets with you and a top client for lunch, drives across town for two other client meetings, and then does a seminar presentation that evening. Practice makes perfect. The presentation sparkles.

Now -- which would you prefer -- your presentation, or Bob(bie)'s?

You want to increase your sales of a particular product? Bob(bie) will take the time to teach you that time-tested presentation if a trusted advisor/trusted client relationship exists between you. You put in a lot of time designing a relatively low-profit educational plan for a client's grandchildren because you know you'll get the 401(k) rollover in three years. Bob(bie) invests time and expense money for the same reason.

Follow the Money

Just as financial advisors come in all shapes and sizes, so too do wholesalers.

Of course they are all compensated for the sale of their product. The really good ones develop those sales not by hawking their funds but by helping you increase your business. Every wholesaler worth his or her salt knows that if you're helped, and if their product passes muster, they will earn a portion of your business.

Wholesalers make money in two ways.

They help you grow your business, which means they earn more of your business. They add new clients. You know this model. Your clients invest more of their assets with you, and you add more clients.

The optimum client for a wholesaler is like the Energizer Bunny: It keeps going and going without a lot of effort. To get the bunny started, Bob(bie) will spend a lot of time and money helping you. But once you are banging those cymbals, Bob(bie) needs to stay in touch, provide some marketing money, stop in for periodic visits, run some in-office seminars for you and go to work getting some new bunnies started, hopefully from your referrals.

To change the analogy, a good wholesaler knows there are many dishes at the downtown Wholesaler Food Court. They know you can change your loyalty in a heartbeat. So they work very hard to keep you coming back to their stand in the food court. Granted, the good efforts can be hampered by a fund or family that underperforms or winds up in a bad light on the evening news. But assuming you did good work evaluating and picking your fund family, your success will be determined in part by how good your wholesaler is.

Since there are many top fund families, a case could be made that the deciding factor is the wholesaler who covers your territory.

Qualifying Your Wholesaler

Once you have identified the fund and annuity companies you could work with, I would interview the wholesalers. Other things being equal (don't you love that phrase?), pick the best wholesalers. Here are some things to ask:

1. How long have you been with this company?

2. Where were you before?

3. How many assets do your FAs manage? Where does your territory rank among the others?

4. How many advisors are giving you more than $1 million annually?

5. What are you looking for in FAs in order to invest quality time with them?

6. Can you give me the names of several people, preferably in my BD, that you have helped to substantially increase their flow of funds into your funds?

7. Tell me about your seminar.

8. If I like it, will you teach it to me?

9. How can you help me with marketing expenses?

10. How can I earn your support?

11. What kind of educational material do you provide?

12. Will you make some sales calls with me?

13. What do you need from me?

Wholesaler Resources

Here are some additional ideas in using wholesalers.

1. Enhance your brag wall. One of your most powerful tools in communicating your expertise to your clients is your "brag wall." Visit almost any top financial advisor's office, and you will see it either in the reception area or where the advisor meets clients.

It should contain lots of photographs of you attending various educational events, such as wholesaler road shows and due-diligence meetings. Where do you get those photographs? You take your digital camera to all such meetings. Get someone to shoot several pictures of you and various speakers. Get photos against the company banner, if they have brought one. If not, take them against a plain medium-colored background.

2. Improve your written proposal. A primary reason clients will tell you, "I need to think about it" is that they did not understand the concepts necessary to make an intelligent decision.

You have just rattled on about "the four different types of risk." Unless you have thoroughly explained this concept, you might just as well have said, "Glockenspiel kaputt mitten sparkin frau, flippin meister unter footzer stompen." If the key concepts necessary to make an intelligent decision are not clear, you will hear: "We need to think about this."

Therefore, as part of your educational presentation, which always comes before your recommendations, educate your clients in the fundamental concepts needed to make a responsible decision. Some of this education can come in the form of a seminar.

Some of the educational material you present should be integrated into your sales proposal. (You have a written one, right?) And you can get compliance-friendly material from ... your friendly wholesaler's website.

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Bill Good is chairman of Bill Good Marketing Systems in Draper, Utah; see www.billgood.com.

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