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September 18, 2017

Reinvent Sales Training or Risk Wholesaler Irrelevance

The asset management industry’s ongoing evolution is creating significant change for distribution leaders.  Fund wholesalers in particular are under enormous pressure. A recent Ignites newsletter article ‘Wholesale Change: Skilled People ‘Are Going to Have to Reinvent Themselves’ summarized how funds’ data-driven sales processes, growing product/platform complexity, increasingly time-pressed advisors, and the internet’s erosion of wholesalers’ information advantage make a hard job even harder. To survive, wholesalers must broaden and deepen their knowledge as well as master new skills so that they can bring personalized, strategic insight to conversations with advisors. “The product pitchers will be out of business in the next 10 years” according to one expert.

The article described how asset managers now seek different skill sets when hiring, but didn’t discuss what firms are doing to help their existing wholesalers adapt. As you’d expect, the industry’s evolution is driving major change in the way firms train and support their wholesalers. We’ve had a front-row seat to watch leading distribution teams reinvent sales learning and development to ensure their reps succeed in today’s tough environment.

The traditional approach to sales training, like the traditional, product-centric sales pitch itself, is wholly inadequate for the challenges facing wholesalers. Annual training sessions at national sales meetings and computer-based certifications sufficed when product lines were narrow and advisors lacked their own online financial information. But the breadth of info needed today is far too extensive for anyone to master this way. Nor does one-size-fits-all training make sense for wholesalers who need to learn the unique cultures and investment philosophy of the advisors firms in their territory. And the market’s rapid pace renders expert analysis shared via weekly conference calls obsolete after a few days or less.  

Turnabout is Fair Game

Forward-thinking distribution teams are exploiting some of the very same technological shifts roiling their industry to help their wholesalers adapt. They’re refashioning sales training into a new model for sales learning and support that uses mobile, video and peer learning to deliver the pace, breadth and analytical power wholesalers need in order to add value to each advisor call.

For example,

  • Nuveen uses Allego to prepare reps to go deep on critical market events before competitors can. As Joy Crenshaw, Managing Director and Head of Sales Development and Business Solutions, put it, “our sales team flocked to Allego to view our experts on the [Brexit] situation. Within 24 hours, this helped the team in their conversations with advisors to share the Nuveen perspective on an important global markets issue.”
  • PacificLife expanded coaching of reps ranking in the middle 60%, without more RSM travel, by using mobile video. They also created an on-demand best practices library. “Any wholesaler – especially newer ones or those struggling with certain products – can hop onto different Allego channels and see how others are positioning the products,” observed Peter Han, AVP of Pacific Life’s Sales Support Group.
  • MFS accelerated product launch and onboarding with Allego. With mobile video sales learning technology they cut the percentage of wholesalers needing remedial workshops from 37% to zero. Watch John Heroux, Director of Learning and Development, describe how they did it.
  • Before being acquired, RidgeWorth Investments made all the firms’ resources available to the sales team “on demand” via Allego channels – one each for client platforms, competitive intelligence, objections/rebuttals and key product selling points. Each wholesaler can then train themselves specifically for individual advisor meeting, the day before or day of the meeting. Watch former National Sales Manager Bob Kuberski describe their approach in this 4 minute video.

Survival and success in today’s asset management distribution environment requires firms to upgrade the way they train and support their wholesalers. Mobile, video and peer learning can prepare them for strategic, personalized discussions that advisors will value.

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