While the much-anticipated Internal Revenue Service regulations for 403(b) plans are final, the grace period–school districts and tax-exempt organizations have until year-end 2009 to bring their retirement programs into compliance–has led to regulation confusion and inertia.
Making sense of the chaos and helping school districts move forward is where today’s education advisor can be invaluable. The 8 tips outlined below can serve as a guide for turning chaos into a great opportunity for your business.
Tip #1: Be the expert
Many traditional providers of group retirement programs are unable to comply with new regulations and school districts are feeling overwhelmed managing a responsibility that has never been theirs. To simplify their lives, many districts are looking to pare their providers to 3 to 5. You need to “be the expert” in helping a district navigate and manage changes; otherwise you could find yourself carved out of the school and left without payroll spots.
Tip #2: Listen and lever
Sometimes it can be more about listening than making the sale. Advisors who help clients manage priority shifts, build trust and cultivate the all-important (and sometimes new) relationships within the district and schools, are seen as partners and able to lever relationships throughout the district. Listening to needs, responding quickly and offering options help solidify your relationships with new decision makers and enable you to learn their philosophical approach on plan management.
Tip #3: Assess your desire to change
Advisors need to ask themselves, “Given all the changes in the education marketplace, do I still want to be in this business?” We think the answer should be a resounding, “Yes!”
The school district often is the largest employer in the community; educators and school employees are strong savers and they are typically highly educated and loyal. Most importantly, the education market always has been a great business. During times of change, you have to adapt and reformulate your business model to capture new market share.
We have watched some of the most successful advisors boost their business by thinking differently and capitalizing on the chaos by changing perspective. Yes, advisors make less on each contract if the district goes to group sales, but with the group comes a new way to see the business model.
Tip #4: Think group sales
Some advisors have the vision to see the group enrollment process as a fantastic prospecting opportunity. Advisors get paid to enroll more clients into the group plan, which creates more prospects for other areas of an advisor’s practice. And the best part? Advisors no longer need to travel every night to teachers’ homes. Instead, advisors go to the school, have a ‘group’ conversation and leverage the efficiencies.
Tip #5: Add value. Always.