Rick Capozzi | 04/4/20
Over the past 35 years, I have worked with hundreds of wholesalers as an advisor, manager, regional director, and national sales manager. As such, my perspective on wholesalers is from the clients’ point of view. The best wholesalers are invaluable to any manager or advisor’s business, especially those wholesalers who leverage the entire firm, team and value-add programs. Unfortunately, too many wholesalers approach their work as vendors — they think in the short term versus building long-term relationships and lead their client interactions with a sleeve of golf balls or tickets to a sporting event. This means that those precious trusted relationships between an advisor and wholesaler will be at a premium. As long as the advisor controls the relationship (versus the firm in which he or she works), there will always be partnership opportunities for advisors and wholesalers.
The following nine action steps are for wholesalers and are based on what I have learned in the past 35 years working with some of the best advisors and wholesalers in the world.
1. Become a trusted partner. A good partnership is built on mutual trust and respect and is accretive to both parties. Advisors today value a consultative and holistic relationship with their wholesalers. Being a partner versus a vendor starts with your mindset and skill set. When I was a manager at UBS and a regional director at Morgan Stanley and Wells Fargo, I worked with those wholesalers I considered to be partners. I made little time for vendors, those that just wanted to pitch product. Every year I would select about seven wholesalers who I believed delivered the most value in helping me achieve my strategic goals. They knew my number one objective was to help advisors grow their business. A true partnership grows stronger over time, verse a vender relationship that’s shallow and commoditized. However, in order for that to happen, I needed to know three things: Can I trust you? Are you competent? And do you have the right products and solutions to help my advisors?
2. Create capacity. Leveraging technology and learning to say “no” are two great ways to create more time. How you spend your time tells me who you are. Some advisors are cruisers, meaning they have no true interest in growing their business. Of course, that means they have time to talk to anyone. Knowing when to say no helps you to focus on high payoff activities. It comes down to having good judgment about who you engage with. Big data about your clients ,innovative technology, algorithms, and other tools can give you the ability to be much more efficient and effective. You need to be selective about who deserves your time. In my opinion, depending on your location, you should probably only cover 200 to 300 advisors at the most and if you are partnering with them, no more than 100. Social media is a platform that more and more advisors are taking advantage of and as a wholesaler so should you. LinkedIn is a tool that can help you stay connected with clients and share timely insights in a very efficient way.
3. Master the fundamentals. It’s important to be brilliant in the fundamentals. Nothing will replace hard work, creativity, positive energy, and a sense of enthusiasm when it comes to engaging with a new relationship. This business has always been and will continue to be a business built on relationships. Just like an advisor building a book, it’s a contact sport. Your ability to network effectively and ask for introductions will keep your business healthy. Great sports teams don’t win championships unless they are brilliant in executing the fundamentals, which in our case includes following up with clients on a timely basis, keeping your word, and under promising and over delivering. The best wholesalers pay attention to the smallest details, which separates them from the crowd. They persevere without losing a sense of optimism or energy to move forward whatever the circumstances.
4. Practice reciprocity. I always viewed my partners (wholesalers) as givers, not takers. They not only gave me solid advice and suggestions but also showed good energy and a genuine interest in my business and me as a person, not my title. Make those emotional deposits before you ask for the order. End every meeting with a question like, “What can I do for you?” Reciprocity is the “practice of exchanging things for mutual benefit.” I remember back when I first started to snowboard. I was about to go to Vermont on a Friday afternoon when a wholesaler who always provided me with a terrific market update and economic outlook gave me wrist protectors for my trip. He was obviously actively listening to me when we spoke two weeks earlier and I had told him about my upcoming plans. Many years later I can’t tell you what we discussed during our meeting but I can tell you how he made me feel. He was authentic and genuine. Reciprocity starts with asking the right questions. We can’t identify these opportunities unless we slow down, ask questions, and listen to the answers.
5. Strive to be a coach. It took me a long time to earn the right to coach someone. During my career, I have coached advisors from around the world and I continue to do so today. When someone asks for advice on how you can help them with their business, it truly is the greatest compliment anyone can give you. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t enjoy hearing these words come out of someone’s mouth: What do you think? What’s your opinion? What should I do? As you know, it takes time and practice to be good at anything. To be an effective coach, you must learn new skills and participate in workshops that will help you become proficient. An opportunity to coach an advisor could happen anytime if you have a trained ear. Many managers “wing it” when it comes to coaching because most of us are not wired to be effective coaches. Ineffective coaches generally like to talk versus listen. They enjoy giving the answers rather than asking great questions. They don’t recognize boundaries and may easily cross the line when it comes to establishing trust with their clients. When you earn an advisor’s trust and when he or she genuinely knows you care about them, he or she will be relaxed and more likely to work with you.
6. Lead with high emotional intelligence. Great leaders are inspiring. But you can’t inspire others if you’re not inspired yourself. Leadership is the ability to influence and persuade others to take action. It’s also the ability to lead yourself first, before you lead others. Having high emotional intelligence helps you be self-motivated and resilient, understand how your mood affects others, and how to quickly read people and adjust your behavior. It’s also about understanding your strengths and weaknesses and recognizing when it’s necessary to evolve and adapt. Great leaders are also outstanding collaborators. They know how to check their egos at the door and as a result are smart team players. Finally, we live in a very noisy world of information. Therefore, if you want to move people to action, you need to penetrate through all those filters by inspiring them.
7. Become a master communicator. In my latest book, The Growth Mindset, I discuss what it takes to be an excellent communicator. Being great starts with being an active listener. We live in an age of instant gratification. Most people’s attention span is three minutes. One of the greatest human needs is to be understood. When is the last time someone took the time to really understand who you are, what’s important to you, and why? As a wholesaler, you have no right to tell your story until you understand the advisor’s story first. That starts with asking compelling questions like, “What’s important to you and what do you hope to achieve in the next two years?” Most people will forget 90% of what was discussed in a meeting 24 hours earlier, so keep in mind that simplicity is more persuasive. Be a great story teller, use metaphors, and learn to like listening. Answer the unasked questions about who you are, what you do, and what makes you different.
8. Deliver exceptional service.You have no control over a fund’s performance, but you do have control when it comes to delivering outstanding service. Creating a lasting impression starts with managing expectations. A great client experience needs to be consistent, and that only happens if the people on the front line are empowered to make the decisions. Strive to be different; think about doing things that your competition would never even think about. Over communicating during challenging market conditions demonstrates that you care about your advisors and that you stand side-by side with them whatever the market environment. The wholesalers with whom I worked closely made themselves available 24/7.
9. Leverage the team.With a plethora of complex products on the market, having a team of specialists can help you win more business. When you have self-confidence, you’re not afraid to ask for help. If you need to bring someone else along to a meeting that has expertise in a specific area, it just makes you a better collaborator and a better leader. When someone is arrogant, they are usually also insecure and as a result they don’t involve others and don’t share information. When you operate from a sense of humility, you are open to feedback, to learning, and to sharing in the success. After ever client meeting, the team should debrief and ask themselves three questions, what did we learn? what could we have done better? what are the next steps?
As American tennis legend Billie Jean King once said, “Pressure is a privilege … it’s what you do with it that matters.” The next generation of advisors will be more demanding and more sophisticated and they will have more options. Those wholesalers who become lifelong learners and who are able deliver valued advice with exceptional service will win the long game.
Rick Capozzi is CEO of Capozzi Advisory Group, LLC, a global consulting and training firm. He is a keynote speaker and author of The Growth Mindset: Leadership Makes a Difference in Wealth Management. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.