As a wholesaler, you know your most precious commodity is time.
How you manage that time during the day will determine how many dollars you raise, where you stand in the sales rankings at the end of any given month, and ultimately how well you succeed in your territory.
Caring for that commodity while trying to fit in five, six, or even seven appointments a day is always a challenge.
Especially since the appointments that you diligently pre-scheduled don’t always go off as planned because of cancellations, schedule changes, and a host of other unforeseen changes in the advisor’s calendar.
That’s where the whole question of drop-ins comes into play.
Should you perform drop-ins as a part of how you manage your territory?
Can drop-ins be used to increase existing client sales, turn over rocks in pursuit of new sellers, and properly manage the precious amount of time that you have in any given day?
Back in the mid 90s I had a sales manager that insisted we perform drop-in appointments.
At the time I debated with him, thinking that drop-in appointments were an unwelcome interruption in a broker’s day, and that I would never be so rude as to drop in on any rep during my entire wholesaling career.
As I began to mature in the territory, I came to realize that drop-in appointments can be an extremely productive tool for staying connected to my best advisors.
In addition, when done properly, they can become a powerful prospecting tool.
Lastly, drop-ins may be a great way to reconnect with “fallen angel” producers in the region.
Yet just as I challenged my manager about drop-ins all those years ago, today they are no less contentious a topic.
The issue of drop-ins is so sensitive that Investment News suggested, via a LinkedIn group question a while back, that it is one of the eight ways to get blacklisted from an advisor’s office.
However, that “finding” seems to have been based off of one lone advisor who commented, “Dropping by without an appointment is a sure sign of an amateur.”
Really? Wholesaler Masterminds® disagrees.
And so do more right-minded advisors.
Rich Arzaga, the CEO of Cornerstone Wealth Management, believes that, “While on the surface wholesalers who drop in unannounced and [with whom I] do not have a current working relationship has been more surprising than annoying, I want to give these people credit for doing something that most people would not imagine doing.”
Rich goes on to say, “In one instance, I originally met the [wholesaler] briefly at a trade show. He was kind enough to give us T-shirts for our para-planner and two advisors. When he popped in unannounced a month later and we happened to have the time, we met [with him.] The bottom line is that he ended up with a fairly sizeable transaction that would have been otherwise hard to place because he had one unique feature that we could not find elsewhere.”
And so the great drop-in debate continues.
How do wholesalers feel about this technique?
We ran a one question poll on the subject at WholesalerMasterminds.com.
We asked: How often do you use drop-in appointments as part of your wholesaling practice?
Our respondents answered:
Occasionally – 62%
Never. The thought of dropping in unannounced makes me uncomfortable – 23%
Almost one in four wholesalers are not comfortable with this potentially powerful business building practice.
Behind the numbers
Some wholesalers believe that drop-ins can be effectively used to get an initial appointment.
A member of Wholesaler Masterminds explains, “If I find myself driving by an office that is new to me, and I know the firm has a selling agreement, my approach is to leave the suit coat in the car and grab a business card and a generic sales idea.
I approach the receptionist in the office for no other reason than to introduce myself and say that I’ll be calling back to get an appointment.”
This wholesaler says that in his experience there is an easier glide path to getting that appointment when he calls back.
Another wholesaler, using a similar technique, suggests that frequently he’ll actually have the broker stick their head out of their office door if they’re not busy.
This gives him an opportunity to shake the hand of the broker and schedule a confirmed visit.
Senior leaders and long-tenured wholesaling professionals have important views to consider.
Jim Jesse, the President of MFS Fund Distributors, says, “In the hierarchy of scheduling the day we’d really like our wholesalers to be 85-90% scheduled out, but if they have a canceled appointment, doing a drop-in beats heading to Starbucks to spend time on the laptop.
We do have wholesalers that use drop-ins to meet new advisors. Importantly, if you do drop in you need to be attuned to reading people and offices. In fact, you could learn a lot about the office by observing what products are displayed or if there is a seminar invitation among the marketing materials.”
Jim adds, “Perhaps the best use of this technique is to simply secure a future appointment, as I believe it would be a mistake to try to drop-in and start a product pitch. If done properly, the drop-in should result in getting a scheduled appointment.”
Another take on the prospect drop-in is reserved for prospects that are not calling back.
The thought is simply that you have nothing to lose.
While not for the weak of heart, it is a strategy that can pay dividends.
In fact, one wholesaler says that he picked up his third best client ever using this particular method. By performing a drop-in, he got the time and attention that he could not secure via email or phone.
Other wholesalers have told us that they reserve drop-ins for their best clients.
Knowing the tempo of their top producer offices and how the offices’ days are usually planned, they can execute a drop-in and bring a great idea, a cold beverage, or a hot snack at the end of the day.
Thus, they find themselves in a position where they’ll be able to have a productive, business-building conversation.
Still other wholesalers I talk to, as reflected in the survey results, are fundamentally opposed to doing drop-ins of any kind.
Some feel that it’s an extraordinary imposition upon a broker, insurance agent, or advisor’s day.
Others indicate that they feel like doing drop-ins actually makes them feel disorganized, believing that if they had a cancellation in their day, maybe the time would be better spent returning phone calls or reading analysts’ reports.
Questions to consider
Are some firms more amenable to drop-ins than others?
Are firms like Edward Jones, whose brokers are known to walk the community and knock on doors, more open to accepting drop-ins?
Are some channels more open to drop-ins?
One wholesaler we spoke to indicated that he had been in the territory longer than many of the reps in the bank branches that he called on.
This put him in the unique position of having the branch manager, whom he had known for years, make the introduction to the hard-to-reach advisor.
Are you doing drop-ins simply to pad your call report?
The art of the drop-in is perfected when the call is executed with the right business intent in mind.
To simply drop-in to be able to bump your appointment count is a waste of time.
How well do you manage time?
Don’t do drop-in appointments if you are not a good time manager.
It is far too easy to let the appointment take you out of your rhythm of the day.
Drop-ins can take you off your plan or your focus if not done correctly.
How well can a skillfully executed drop-in work?
Here’s a prime example of a real email exchange that was sent to Wholesaler Masterminds. We edited this version to offer complete anonymity to all parties.
The wholesaler writes to the advisor:
From: The Wholesaler
To: The Financial Advisor
I stopped by your office today and had the pleasure of meeting [a member of your office team].
I would like the opportunity to schedule an appointment with you to share with you [our firm’s] Investment Management story. I have attached a piece from Barron’s that highlights our success.
I will be in [your town] April 29th and 30th. If one of those dates works, I will let you select a time that is best for your schedule.
Thank you in advance for your time, and I look forward to hearing back from you.
All my best,
And the advisor replies:
From: The Financial Advisor
To: The Wholesaler
Subject: RE: Appointment
I’m sorry I missed you yesterday, but things have been a little hectic. As you know, I’ve used [your firm’s products] in the past, but out of sight out of mind, does enter into my mutual fund selections. I don’t have time at the end of any month for visitations, but I would suggest that you call [office team member] to set up a dinner meeting with the office. There will be possibly 3 to 5 brokers that will attend, and I would look forward to re-establishing a relationship with [your firm].
Important to note: the drop-in was accompanied by a follow-up email with a specific appointment request.
Attitudes about the drop-in are as varied as the wholesalers and advisors who share them.
While not for everyone’s practice, consideration should be given to the benefits of adding this approach to the overall mix of appointments conducted in the region.
When performed in the right manner, drop-ins have the ability to open new doors, reach hard to get producers, and deepen relationships with your existing top tier of advisors.
One national sales manager summed it up best when he said, “If I’m going to garner the respect of that advisor, especially via a drop-in, I need to be respectful and professional.”
What’s your take one drop-ins?
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Hank Schulthesz says
Well done piece Rob. I have always had mixed emotions about the drop-in and you represent the pro’s of the approach nicely. I often suggest sending an email to a short list of advisors whom you would like to drop-in on saying that you will be in a given city on a given date and if time permits you would like to drop-in simply to introduce yourself. If time permits, you drop-in but with some advance notice. And if time does not permit, you call indicating that time did not permit you to stop by and you would like to schedule an appointment for the next date you are available. I have heard the technique referred to as “appointment insurance”. Talk soon
Thanks for dropping by Hank. Always appreciate your insights – this idea about “appointment insurance” is terrific.