Distribution companies live and die by two things: their products and their sales talent. Our experience shows that all-star wholesalers–the ones racking up more than $200 million in annual sales–have the ability to reach their sales goal without relying on a superior product or a new campaign. Indeed, too many wholesalers get caught in the “product trap.” Sales managers shouldn’t have to listen to this eternal refrain from their salespeople: “If we only had a better [insert mutual fund style or annuity product feature here], I could sell more.”
The first step is to recognize that all wholesalers can improve their productivity. What holds them back are common sins, ones we see all the time, ones that are all too easy to make for even the most experienced wholesaler. Here are the seven most deadly sins of wholesaling.
#1 Failure to understand the value of strategic business planning. Wholesalers complete business plans as an annual exercise for themselves and sales management. Most often the plan is not a plan but a list of goals and tactics minus any formulated actions to be followed. What’s worse, when a business plan is completed and turned in, it may rarely be referred to again. Wholesalers don’t understand how a well-thought-out strategy is the foundation on which all actionable business plans are based.
Wholesalers often mistake tactics for strategy. Teaching wholesalers strategy allows them to build effective business plans that identify essential actionable tactics.
#2 Failure to leverage target market concepts. Target marketing to most wholesalers means frequent contact with their top producers and seldom contact with their bottom producers. They fail to understand that proper advisor segmentation also means creating a “service matrix” that dictates service levels appropriate to the level of sales they receive from segmented advisors. The most successful wholesalers aren’t afraid to provide more services to some and less to others.
Target Market Strategy: Teach a wholesaler how to develop a target market strategy through segmenting clients and developing a service matrix. Combine this with the necessary tactics to serve each market segment fairly, effectively and profitably.
#3 Setting undoable goals when planning territory travel and advisor visits. What wholesalers plan to do and what they actually do are often two different things. For instance, wholesalers say they plan to see their top selling advisors once a month. Noble indeed! However, often enough wholesalers fail to consider that some of their top advisors may be located in parts of their territory that they travel to only once a quarter. Obviously, there’s a gap in the wholesaler’s plan.
Territory Management Strategy: Developing a sound territory management strategy is critical and requires analytical tools to help a wholesaler gather territory data, examine experience and test assumptions before setting objectives and planning travel.
#4 Neglecting to hone public speaking skills. Too many wholesalers rate themselves very highly on speaking skills but in reality struggle to produce a C+ group presentation. Most wholesalers often get bogged down in the minutiae of a product and fail to deliver what advisors are looking for: a repeatable story for their clients.