How does a wholesaler best use their understanding of generational nuances and differences to more effectively succeed with a broader array of financial advisors?
Cam Marston is the leading expert on the impact of generational change and its impact on the marketplace. He understands the attitudes and expectations of the upcoming generations and what they expect from service providers. He has learned how they buy, how they value different types of information, what their definition of “expert” is and how they apply it to financial professionals. He understands their preferred methods of communications and what sales tools to use and how to use them effectively.
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Generally speaking, wholesalers are younger than the average advisor. While advisors today average over fifty years old, wholesalers are often a generation younger and in some cases, two. Wholesalers live a young man’s game – lots of motion, lots of energy, lots of enthusiasm for their products, and lots of interest, real or feigned, in the advisor.
Both wholesalers and advisors recognize the gap between their respective groups in both age and attitude. “Here comes the wholesaler,” the advisor says, “full of vigor and vim and can-do attitude, but little awareness of what type of person I look forward to connecting with; little awareness of the types of relationships that mean something to me. It’s not all about product. There needs to be a connection.”
Could generational gaps be a reason there is little connection? Absolutely. Whether it be a young wholesaler and a peak-of-career advisor or vice-versa, a senior wholesaler and a junior advisor, there are some steps that all wholesalers, whatever their age, can take to connect and develop rapport with the advisor. The challenge is for the wholesaler to get out of what they think the advisor should want and consider the advisor’s point of view. And generational norms are a part of this.
- Deference – defined as humble submission and respect, deference is hard to find in today’s combative, take-no-prisoners society. And even though many advisors may not know the dictionary definition of the term, they know deference when they see it and they appreciate when it’s shown to them. Simple questions showing respect for the advisor’s tenure and wisdom are one way to show deference: “What has your experience taught you about talking to your clients about products like mine?” “What do you like in products like the ones I represent?” Or simply, “Tell me about how you’ve built your book and where you’ve found wholesalers valuable and maybe I can do the same for you.” It is a respect and acknowledgement of the ground the advisor has covered in their career.
It can go the other way, too – from senior wholesaler to junior advisor. Questions like, “You’ve chosen to pursue a very rewarding career but building a book of business is hard. Tell me how you’d like your business to grow and perhaps I can find a way to support your efforts with my products.” Respect. Then support.
- Your introduction matters, too. Baby Boomers want to hear about a person’s history and career, how long they’ve been in the business, where they’ve worked and who they may know in common. But a young wholesaler has little of this to offer due to a short career. Regardless, the wholesaler must develop their “story” to introduce themselves to Boomer advisors. It should include schooling, hometown, length of time with employer, other advisors and firms they work with, etc. The story matters. Without one, the advisor will interrupt and say, “Wait a minute. Tell me about you.”
Conversely, too much story can be counterproductive when dealing with a younger advisor. Boomer wholesalers know the importance of their story but while they feel it gives them credibility, it may make them sound out-of-date and irrelevant to a next-gen advisor. Get to the point of the value of the product. Next-gen advisors want to know how whatever the wholesaler is offering will impact them in the future. In these situations, it’s better to stick with only the simplest and briefest summary.
- Follow-up is critical. And follow-up is composed of modes of communication and content. Older advisors want to hear your voice, and that means phone calls and voice mail. Gen X advisors tend to prefer emails – succinct messages with options on how to respond: reply to the email, send a text, or call. You can’t be above using your advisor’s preferred method of communication if you want to cultivate a relationship.
Too often wholesalers rely on relationship methods and skills that they think advisors should prefer. But time has created a generation of wholesalers who are removed from the most successful advisors by one or two generations. Wholesalers must get out of the mindset of “what is comfortable for me should be good for them” and into “what do they want and need?” The advisor’s generation is as good a place as any to begin understand those differences.
Written by Cam Marston