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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

From Crisis Comes Long-Term Opportunity
Guest Column by: Michelle DeMond-Axelrod

The twin knockout blows of the Coronavirus and the resulting stock market meltdown have made business as usual nearly impossible for sales teams at asset management firms.

Michelle DeMond-Axelrod
Fugent, LLC
Vice President, Product and Accounts
Most advisory firms were already curtailing visits from wholesalers even before COVID-19 hit our shores. And with most offices closed, industry conferences cancelled and travel budgets curtailed, the opportunities for traditional on-site product updates and lunch-and-learns are off the table for the immediate future.

In this environment, sales managers and wholesalers need to remove their sales hats and take on the role of thought leadership ambassadors. Their mission: Deliver the information that advisors really want, namely, market commentaries and investment insights delivered directly by portfolio managers and CIOs. And communicate in multiple ways, in what we refer to as omni-channel communication methods. This omni-channel approach empowers advisors to choose how they want to interact with asset management firms.

In today's work-at-home environment, it's critically important for sales managers and wholesalers to use a variety of ways to communicate with advisors, whether itís through in-person visits (when appropriate), phone calls, videoconferences, webinars, targeted emails or social media posts. And because portfolio managers and subject matter experts canít travel either now, and may travel less in the future, digital content and online meetings are replacing personal appearances as the primary distribution platforms for communicating to advisors. Desk-bound internal and external wholesalers are taking on the role as information intermediaries.

The transition from in-person to online interactions between wholesalers and advisors was already underway before COVID-19. This is likely to continue long after the crisis subsides and advisors return to their offices. The new reality is creating a demand for a new generation of digital engagement tools that help sales teams deliver a more responsive, personal and relevant online experience to their clients and prospects.

A Needed Change for An Industry in Transition


When wirehouses dominated the advisory landscape, wholesalers used on-site meetings mainly to pitch products. However, over the last decade there's been a steady stampede of advisors from broker/dealers to fee-based independent registered investment advisers and wealth management firms. Since these advisors get most of the investment research they need from Morningstar and other third-party sources, the demand for sales-focused wholesaler interactions has largely dried up.

According to industry research, only 5% of advisors want wholesalers to deliver better information about their products. What they really want is for wholesalers to provide more useful and relevant value-added programs.1 And which topics are they most interested in? Economic and market insights (66%), followed by retirement income distribution (61%) and business building (59%) strategies.2

While asset managers have been making strides in this area, they still have a long way to go. Less than 40% of financial advisors believe that asset managers have improved their ability to deliver targeted content, and nearly 55% believe that these firms haven't done anything to make their content more relevant to their needs.3

Sales Enablement


Sales enablement is the process of providing sales teams and wholesalers with the right resources to engage with advisors, and for advisors to communicate with wholesalers. The best sales enablement tools should help sales teams communicate more effectively, convert leads, and drive revenue.

Fortunately, a new generation of technology-driven sales-enablement tools provides wholesalers with advanced ways to engage with advisors.

The challenge is not only to create relevant content and insights but to give each advisor the flexibility to choose how they want to consume them.

Some advisors may prefer to communicate through phone calls, others may prefer podcasts, webinars, videoconferences, emails, or social media posts. Some advisors may want a combination of communication channels. Thatís where sales enablement can help.

Strengthening Relationships and Reinforcing Brand Loyalty


The technology that sales teams use should reinforce the human relationship and build brand loyalty with advisors.

Sales enablement tools can help firms and wholesalers create a consistent online experience for advisors through one platform rather than through many different and disconnected videoconferencing, social media, and meeting scheduling sites or platforms.

Many of these digital sales enablement tools — within a single dashboard — give wholesalers the ability to seamlessly set up webinars, conference calls and video sessions using the specific platforms each advisor prefers.

Wholesalers also can set up personalized, firm-branded targeted landing pages that consolidate all territory content and activities to make it easier for advisors to engage. These sites can feature the wholesaleís photo, title, professional bio, messaging and contact information.

What's more, wholesalers can create targeted email campaigns to clients and prospects in their territories, schedule calls to meetings and events, and create online event invitations and sign up pages that conform to the asset management firm's branding standards.

Sales teams can also add social media posts and shortcuts to the online content their clients and prospects advisors' value most. All within compliance standards.

Most sales enablement tools have self-service capabilities that empower advisors to proactively schedule a meeting a call with their wholesaler, and to register for a webinar.

The combination of accessibility, personalization, brand consistency and targeted engagement features that sales-enablement tools provide can help wholesalers build stronger, more relevant and more responsive relationships with advisors.

Creating Opportunity from Adversity


The current economic climate has created an urgent need for asset managers to augment in-person meetings with sales enablement technology. This reality is creating the opportunity for investment, marketing and sales teams to work together to leverage the power of a new generation of digital engagement tools to enable advisors to interact with wholesalers on their own terms.

Wholesalers who can provide this enhanced online experience to their clients and prospects will be well positioned to build the kind of loyalty and trust that results in stronger and more profitable relationships.

Fuse Research/Wealthmanagement.com Advisor Trend Monitor Series [Cited in https://www.fuse- research.com/media/1829/welcome-session-fuse-research-highlights.pdf, slide 19 actual name of research study is better]
2Fuse Research/Wealthmanagement.com Advisor Trend Monitor Series [Cited in https://www.fuse- research.com/media/1829/welcome-session-fuse-research-highlights.pdf, slide 15]

3 Fuse Research WealthManagement.com Advisor Trend Monitor Series [Cited in https://www.fuse- research.com/media/1835/break-out-session-d-segmentation-personal-engagement.pdf, slide 7]

Michelle DeMond-Axelrod is vice president of product and accounts at Fugent, LLC, an ally to asset managers' distribution leaders. 





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