[Part One can be found here]
On 4/7/20 we asked our Sunday Night Email readers, “What are you thinking?”
Specifically, we wanted to know from our thousands of subscribers (externals, internals, hybrids, divisional and senior leaders) scattered across North America:
- What will a return to ‘normal’ look like in our wholesaling world?
- While some firms have guaranteed 2020 employment, will there be layoffs yet to come?
- How and when will firms/advisors welcome us back into their offices – or will they?
- Will you be willing to travel, “shake hands and kiss babies” to promote products and build your practice?
- Has the ‘zoom culture’ that we’ve been thrust into set the stage for a paradigm shift in how we do what we do?
We received an amazing number of responses. Most of which were really thought provoking.
In this episode we share the rest of our findings.
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We’re going to continue today with what should we look for, how will we behave, what is our craft going to look like AC, after coronavirus. And if you recall, I sent out an email to my entire email list.
The question in the email was, “What are you thinking?”
I received back 55 replies. I filled up 21 pages of word documents and I wanted to share some of those insights.
I’m going to share insights from our community, that includes senior leaders, national sales managers, divisional sales managers, wholesalers, internal and external hybrids, up and down the food chain if you will.
Then I’m going to add some of my comments as well.
One of the things I observed is advisor accessibility is evolving with each passing day.
And I don’t have to tell you, so the timestamp on this is that my question went out to the community about two weeks ago (April 7th) and two weeks, anymore, it’s like a lifetime.
At that time there was Zoomaphobes that cannot or will not engage in video-assisted meetings and they have no interest in learning new technology.
Now, those are our advisors and/or wholesalers.
What’s evolved since then, and I think you might agree with me, is some folks are getting Zoomed out.
They simply cannot engage in any more video-assisted meetings. They prefer phone to video.
Myself, just yesterday, I had a head of distribution and one of his colleagues wanting to get together for a conversation and they sent me an email and said, “How about if we do a Zoom call?”
And I wrote back and said, “How about if we just do a simple voice call?”
Because not everything needs to be Zoom.
Wholesaler writes: “The paradigm shift to virtual still challenges the advisor community, that needs to work more and manage the inbounds from a growing number of “wholesaler consultants”. Creating on demand content will be essential.”
Another offer: I look at this as a huge opportunity. Even the most experienced financial advisors, the ones that typically may not take your call are starved for information, education and guidance regarding how to deal with the situation.
I’ll evolve that one step further since that was written.
I was on a call today with some wholesalers and they were collectively marveling at the fact that since advisors are now home, how much more open they are to longer conversations.
The average talk time on a call has gone up, extraordinarily high.
Whereas average talk time on a call with an advisor from an internal or an external would be, I don’t know what, 10 minutes, 15 minutes if you’re lucky?
Here, the financial advisor wants to chat and communicate (and in the most human way connect) for half an hour, 45 minutes. And the wholesalers I talked to today said that that’s not uncommon at all.
The next observation is:
As previous contractions, recessions, corrections have proven, the ranks of advisers are going to shrink… or will they?
So, under normal circumstances, the ranks of the advisor community contracts, and it contracts during all pullbacks, as those that had not created a sustainable practice, they’re simply no longer able to survive and they close up shop.
But in a world where a great swath of the population is unemployed for a period of time, and those workers seek to reenter the workforce with a career change in mind, it may now be that they seek out our industry of financial services because it’s deemed “recession-proof” or it’s an attractive industry in an AC, after coronavirus, world.
It’s not unlike healthcare or technology perhaps in that way. People will always need financial planning advice.
And then there will be those advisors that had their sights set on retirement, but are they still going to be able to do so? Have their plans been undermined by the market?
So again, normally the ranks of advisors shrink in contractions, but is that going to be the case now?
Are we going to come out the other side of this actually seeing more financial advisors, because those that could retire don’t, and those that had never been a financial advisor choose the path of being a financial advisor as a career route?
I don’t know. It’s something to think about.
How you react and behave today sets the stage for your future success.
Wholesaler writes, “I’m thinking I emerge from this thing relatively intact and assuming the market does what markets have always done, I’m thinking five years from now my response to this event will earn new market share.”
I think you have the opportunity to earn new market share a lot sooner than five years actually.
If you are responding in ways that others aren’t, if you are protecting your core, if you’re practicing ‘wide moat wholesaling’ [see that show here], if you’re wholesaling with empathy, if you’re listening, if you’re providing great value, yes, you’re going to pick up market share a lot sooner than five years.
Wholesaler writes, “Make the calls. Be genuinely concerned for the health and safety of your advisers and their families and every thought about the markets with something positive.” There’s enough bad news to tune into. Not excessively cheerful, but clear-minded. We’re getting better intelligence from countries that were first in.
Listen, listen, listen. It’s hard to read faces over the phone but you can pick up a lot from tonality and the things being said to you”.
There’s a lot there, isn’t there wholesalers?
I mean how well are you listening now?
Are you practicing better listening skills?
That whole issue about tonality.
I mean, hell, I coach for a living and all I do is coach via the telephone, not Zoom, the telephone.
So being able to read between the verbal lines is a lot.
Heck, it’s everything.
How will the internal-external relationship change coming out of this?
Wholesaler internal wholesaler writes, “I’m an internal teaching. My wholesaler had to act like an internal again.” Very interesting. He goes on to say, “Now my role has changed dramatically and it’s very uncomfortable.”
“How will the internal-external relationship change coming out of this? Is external a fair, aspiring career path anymore or how different will that role look going forward?”
Well, I don’t know.
How different will the external role look going forward?
How much permission will we have as externals to operate with more virtual type meetings?
How will that be offset by our simple craving to want to get out and see people face-to-face, belly-to-belly, toe-to-toe? But we can’t touch them of course.
Nothing has changed regarding the core attributes of great wholesalers.
Well, this is true, isn’t it?
“Control what you can control”, writes this wholesaler. “Wholesaling and growing and maintaining a business is never a straight line. There are ups, downs, disruptions, distractions and shiny objects out there all the time.”
“Times are different right now”, he writes, “but I’m focusing on the same things I did pre-COVID-19: my activity, my messaging, my level of servicing, accessibility, even though they’re through different avenues and my likeability. If I continue to do those things, which got me to this point, I will see it through to the other side and become an even bigger asset to my advisors.”
Boy, there’s not much to comment on that other than bravo. That’s all true.
If you build a solid COI relationship, if you had built one BC, before coronavirus your path to advise is will be clearer than those that did not.
Just this morning I was on a group call and one of the participants on the group emailed to say, “I can’t come on the call with you. I’m sorry. I was contacted by a complex manager at Morgan Stanley who wants me to jump on a call.”
That’s because he’s got super solid COI relationships.
Wholesaler writes: “I think some advisors will be sick of all the emails and conference call requests they get, so how do we get in front of them to add value? Referrals from COIs will still be a great way.”
Yes, it will.
Because those COIs are a pathway to those advisors when they’re not necessarily accepting the direct pathway via your email, via your outreach.
Your job may not be secure because even firms that happen to need to lay off personnel may choose to upgrade talent.
Yes, this is an unfortunate fact and it’s absolutely true.
I was talking to a divisional manager who, in part, said, “I’m not planning on any layoffs. As we’re fortunate that we’re generating revenues on assets, albeit possibly on less assets from the market move. We’re fortunate to be up in assets from net positive flows. But I admit it, I have at least considered using this as an opportunity to upgrade my team in certain areas.”
We can’t be naive, wholesalers.
We’ve got to believe that if the rank and file of wholesaling at-large shrinks, and people do in fact get laid off, there will be talented people on the street and there will be managers looking to hire those talented people to upgrade their staff and/or simply looking to upgrade their staff, period.
Someone else writes, “One difference between 2008 and 2020 is that number of firms are already operating with smaller wholesaling teams. I think our industry has proven time and time again that relationships are extremely important and drive business. If it was just about top performance and industry trade ads, they would have fired all the wholesalers a long time ago and replaced us with call centers and bigger advertising budgets. It does not work that way in our business and I don’t think that this will change. I do think there are some managers out there who will try it, but it will ultimately fail just as it did in 2008-2009.”
That’s interesting, isn’t it? What that wholesaler wrote.
You should have already moved from hair on fire mode to a structured day in your home office.
Wholesalers writes, “I’m being very focused on having a structured daily office hours, usually 7:40 to 4:30, I set outreach goals each day and typically focus on quality messaging, no large bulky BCC emails rather each and every one is customized and somewhat personalized. My clients deserve my very best.”
I love that. You know I love that, wholesalers. A
Another wholesaler writes, “The number one thing I’m thinking about right now is what does a good day look like?”
Well, I’ll give you a hint what a good day look like and it comes in the form of two words: time blocking.
Make sure your calendar is properly time blocked, so you know:
- Where is your block of time for doing email outreach?
- Where’s your block of time for doing phone outreach?
- When are you going to get up and walk around?
- When are you going to go out and have a meal?
I’ve addressed this before, but it’s super important. Time blocking.
Wholesaler writes, “The first three weeks, everything took longer than usual. Scheduler was caught off. New technology had to be set up and learned like Zoom, WebEx TimeTrade. Forced to be urgently reactive, urgency to stay in front of all platinum clients in short period of time, prep and follow up, taking 100% more time as people are scattered and not everyone was ready to work remotely. Info was hard to come by and the market’s changed by the second.”
“I now feel like have all my systems readjusted, settling into new normal. I finally feel like I have more time this week. My new tools have been tested and it’s time to get back to being proactive and have started that game plan with my team last Friday.”
I will add on, since this was written about two weeks ago, that for some folks this is now morphing to, “I’ve got to get the hell out of the house because I’m going a little bonkers crazy.”
One of my clients observed that if you’re in a place where weather can impact moods like, oh, I don’t know the upper Midwest, that’s a real thing, right?
I mean if you’re three weeks ago, we’re in spring and kids got to play in the backyard and now you’re seeing snow again in April. That has an effect on the mood.
I think you got to allow yourself permission to feel different week by week and day by day because this is ever-changing.
And sometimes it’s just going to be flat out monotonous. It’s just true.
I think the last thing to mention here of all the information I got from all these great folks that chose to respond, and again, I thank all of you, is this notion:
What if all of this is simply accelerated a shift that’s been in the making for the last 10 years?
I’ll read you some pieces here.
First wholesaler writes. “I believe we’re way overdue for this to happen in some fashion or another. I actually started wholesaling as a virtual wholesaler back in ’06-’07. It was slow going at first, but after a while we had a team of virtuals and we conducted more meetings than any of the in-office wholesalers in a more time and cost-efficient manner (and raise significant dollars).”
“I believe it will always be a need for the impersonal relationship side of the business, but going forward I’d be surprised if most traveling wholesalers did not incorporate a virtual week or days into their rotation.”
For sure. I agree with that – and to get more color on that, look at part one of what we did in this particular coronavirus series, the one that I talk about the what’ll normal look like [Part One here].
Because that’s spot on in my mind, maybe yours too.
A wholesaler writes, “Transition to digital wholesaler that has been slow for some will be accelerated. You’ll now need a virtual bag complete with the ability to screen share and curated info on topics that lean into your firm’s competitive advantages.”
“Effectiveness doing video virtual screen share may turn out to be as good as face-to-face. That will play a huge role in coverage, headcount costs and budget.
I expect to see more hybrid structures. We have two” says this person. “After the dust settles, 50% travel, 50% office and perhaps little to no ‘inside sales support.’
And the last thing I want to leave you with is from someone I know to be a senior leader, a head distribution for a Tier One mutual fund company, and he writes,
“Long before COVID-19 had ever been heard of, we have been focusing things like:
- how to run $1 billion business,
- how to use data to your advantage,
- how to embrace technology,
- how to maximize your resources and specialists,
- how to do virtual meetings alongside your face to face meetings,
- how to create leverage by better utilizing the teams at your access.
- how to be more creative in the way that you as wholesalers connect with advisors.
Those are all things we have been working on over the past five years, but more intensely over the past two.”
“We have stated numerous times that wholesalers that do not subscribe to this way of doing business will be left behind.”
Hopefully, you have been on the path to this.
You have fashioned in your practice to this.
Because what has been forced upon us, by way of this coronavirus, by COVID-19, has in my opinion and clearly in the opinion of so many others, only expedited what has been coming.
And it’s up to each of us in all of our practices to make sure that we’re making the proper adjustments to be able to not only accommodate what’s happening today, but make sure that we are set to flourish in the future.