Last week at Schwab IMPACT I met a cadre of unbelievable wholesaling professionals. Yet there were more than a few folks that really have a thing or two to learn about great wholesaling at a conference.
Here’s list of 5 things to not do in your booth at your next conference:
1. Reading the paper at the booth – This was not even subtle. In some cases folks had the WSJ spread out like they were at the local diner eating breakfast.
2. Talk on the phone – Yes, you have clients to call. Yes, you have family to call. No, those calls don’t need to be made from the exhibition booth.
3. Eating meals – Sure, we all get hungry and you need to keep you energy up for a huge show like this. That said, munching down a sub sandwich while in the booth is just plain bad form.
4. Holding court – These were the wholesalers that simply sat behind the 6 foot table. They figured that if advisors wanted to chat they would ‘approach the bench’ I guess.
5. Social butterflies – Wholesalers that spent their time doing nothing other than talking amongst themselves, both at their booth and others’, versus talking to the participants, the Schwab advisors.
But the coup de grâce was the young wholesaler that sat reclined in his chair, with his feet up on the display table, talking on the phone – right under the logo of his firm’s banner.
In the next issue of I Carry The Bag we’ll do a full feature story on conference best practices for wholesalers, including interviews we conducted while at IMPACT.
BONUS CONTENT – Here is cross-post from Pete Arethas at with his view on the conference:
306 booths in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood
Three hundred and six. Did I read the final number correctly? Three hundred and six?
Last week I attended the Schwab IMPACT conference in Boston as a contributing writer for Rob Shore’s I Carry The Bag”: The Official Magazine of Wholesaling and it was immediately clear that we weren’t alone in this neighborhood. In addition to our fellow media members at CNBC, InvestmentNews, Barron’s and the Mutual Fund Wire, three hundred and six product providers had the distinct honor of writing a four to six figure check to the good folks at Schwab for the right to rent 100 to 400 square feet of real estate for three days.
As a wholesaler, how in the heck do you get noticed in this crowded neighborhood? We better visit Mr. Rogers for some advice. In fact, he was there so we’ll do that, but first let’s take a tour of some neighboring wholesalers on the wrong side of the tracks.
Perhaps you’ve seen them at other conferences. Such as:
- The “four neighbors sitting down and reading their Smartphones” – There are four of you. Four! Could one of you please stand up in front of your booth? Over $650 billion dollars in AUM is walking right down your carpeted street. One of you ought to attempt to say something creative to these advisors like, ‘hello’.
- The “never miss a chance to sit down and eat free appetizers while talking to a prospect” Neighbor – I tried the food before the conference doors opened. I can assure you that you weren’t missing anything. Put that crab cake down. Crab cakes are for closers.
- The “stand up, stretch out your arms and start reading your hotel’s complimentary copy of the USA Today so you don’t have to look at anyone” Neighbor – Problem one: it’s anti-social. Problem two: it’s the USA Today and you’re at an investment conference. Problem three: 1,600 financial advisors just walked right in front of you and read the NBA season preview headline. Do you really think the distribution leaders of your mutual fund company wanted to spend their budget destroying brand value?
Maybe I’m being harsh. Perhaps the best wholesalers don’t need to attend these conferences. Perhaps they’re just a necessary expenditure to appease a giant distribution partner. It’s not like the other booths are being staffed by National Sales Managers, right?
Well, before you decide to move in next door please consider one more neighbor at Schwab IMPACT.
Imagine a booth that was noticeable even though they had no silly gimmicks and a company that was memorable even though they offered no valueless giveaways. As the Marquee Sponsor of the event they had a prime location next to the CNBC broadcast stage, yet their display was subdued, understated and staffed by four down-to-earth professionals engaged in friendly and open conversations.
Most notably this team wasn’t led by an external wholesaler. In fact, their leader wasn’t a division manager or national sales manager either. He simply was working the floor, shaking hands and answering questions from advisors every time I walked by.
Was he a dedicated internal? A well-connected key accounts manager? Not exactly.
In fact, you should already know the name by now. After all he writes for Forbes magazine, he famously beat Michael Jordan one-on-one at Michael’s fantasy camp and he is close friends with the President of the United States.
His name is Mr. John Rogers, Jr. Along the way he managed to build a company called Ariel Investments.
Here’s the point. As a wholesaler if you’re going to live in this conference neighborhood, you need to make a choice. You can compete like John Rogers did against Michael Jordan or you can sit on the bench and check out your BlackBerry.
You do not need to be an industry titan to be noticed; plenty of booths were filled with outstanding and capable wholesalers presenting compelling stories. But you do need to stand up and put down the paper and the plate when $650 billion in AUM is walking down your street.
If John Rogers saw the value in representing his company to his fullest, perhaps these wholesalers should have too. It may be difficult to differentiate yourself in this crowded neighborhood, but if you act unprofessionally it sure is easy to be noticed.