There is a storm brewing.
The darkest clouds are forming at the confluence of new school behaviors and technologies colliding with old school distribution sales analysis.
And it means that a mutiny might be on the horizon.
More and more we speak to wholesalers, both external and internal alike, who are frustrated by the draconian policies of their firms when it comes to leveraging new (and renewed) media options for reaching out to advisors.
It seems that the old metrics are so instilled in our community that precious few firms allow for any variance from the historically accepted norms.
One reason for the conservative position is both important and necessary: compliance. No firm, or registered employee of the firm, wishes to violate any regulatory policies.
That said, many firms are overdue for a bullet train ride into the 21 century.
Case in point:
We received this well thought out opinion piece from a current internal wholesaler.
It does a good job of pointing out the challenges, and unintended consequences, of firms that don’t refine not only what they measure, but how.
We have edited the original email for brevity and omitted content that strayed from the central theme of this post.
[The] biggest challenge as an internal is balancing being effective at my job and working within the metrics set by managers across the industry.
There seems to be a dichotomy of what advisors want, their preferred method of communication (often email), and those “measurable” metrics such as 50 dials/2 hours of talk time/15 contacts daily.
I left my former company because I was frustrated by the blatant hypocrisy of managers saying at one end, “just get your numbers up and I don’t care how”, [while at the same time] saying voicemails, gatekeeper messages, and emails don’t count.
As you probably know, it’s becoming more difficult to get advisors to pick up the phone.
I know of people who call branches after hours to hang up, who look for replays to get their talk time up, or who make up “contacts” in the system.
I wonder what’s the point of having metrics if they don’t reflect reality?
Is there another way?
I’m also interested in this because I’m considering a management/organizational leadership path in the future.
I’m interested in motivating internals, keeping smart people in the industry, being results-driven, keeping integrity as an asset.
I think maybe I’m being too idealistic, but it’s a struggle not only for me but most of my peers.
For our top advisors, I’ve always found it effective to do my research, look at their website, find out who handles the due diligence, learn if maybe they went to the same college as I did, their assistant’s name, etc. and putting it in the notes to either leverage on the phone with a gatekeeper or via a well crafted email.
I get results – sales result – but don’t “look good” as such a “lack of productivity” is frowned upon since, after all that research, I’m not likely to get them on the phone anyway.
A prime example was when a coworker said to me today, [as] it’s the last day of the month, “You need get your stats/dials up; you should be calling people you can’t get a hold of!”
Other tricks are calling branch offices when they are closed to bang in quick dials or even internal transfers to chat with a buddy across the floor – or a call to your girlfriend.
Someone else said today, “I’m just so sick of this game. It’s a lie if someone is getting 18 live, meaningful phone contacts a day.”
I thought it may have just been the company, but [I’m] pretty sure it’s industry-wide now.
I don’t mean to be negative.
I’m just surprised at the blatant hypocrisy and how most [of our managers] just care if the numbers look good on paper, and not the how.
[There is a] lack of morale, indifference, [and] even some resentment that’s become pervasive across sales desks.
I’ve heard more than once: ‘let’s just give them what they want so we can get to our real jobs’.
[The better news is that] increasingly, managers are allowing email.
The official consensus seems to be [as] long as there’s an exchange — someone asked for yield, accepted a meeting request [etc., it’s a qualified contact].
The unofficial consensus: if you’re short [on your weekly/monthly metrics] say it’s an introduction and [that] you shot over a fact sheet and follow up call.
In order to meet both the employee challenges suggested above and capitalize on the opportunity we see present, we suggest that leaders:
- Revisit the historical definitions of contacts, talk time, dials, etc. and update any outdated philosophies with more current metrics that maintain the integrity of the measurement (because we are not suggesting that activity go unmeasured) that are more reflective of today’s business practices and communication styles/preferences.
- Find a compliance agreeable ground wherein wholesalers understand where the ‘guard rails’ are placed in their efforts to effectively use electronic communication (including email, text, Twitter direct messaging, Facebook chat). This may include guidelines where the wholesaler, while prohibited from product specific attribute discussions, may very effectively use electronic media to stay connected to their existing and prospective advisor community.
- Survey their top producing advisors to discern what the preferred communication strategy is. Based on our August 2012 survey in Financial Planning magazine we anticipate leaders finding a disconnect between what they are mandating and measuring versus what the advisor community prefers. One of our findings we offer here:
- Engage their wholesalers in training (yes, we do this at Wholesaler Masterminds) that enable them to use these technologies effectively and efficiently.
By failing to acknowledge the methods by which the advisor community we serve is rapidly evolving their communication preferences, firms risk a decline in productivity of their sales forces, alienation of an emerging generation of employees for whom these technologies are the default preference, and potentially miss a golden opportunity to capitalize on this emerging trend and elevate themselves from the choppy sea of distribution sales force sameness.
What are your thoughts? Comment below if you’d like or contact us directly.