The Question that Raised the Hair on My Neck … and Can Raise Your Business Standards

The Question that Raised the Hair on My Neck … and Can Raise Your Business Standards

Early on in my career, I participated in training for wholesalers that emphasized the need to create a business plan with each of my top advisors. 


The plan was not complicated. In fact, it was bare bones, simple and to the point. It established a commitment between me (the wholesaler) and the retail representative, outlining how each expected certain activities from the other to make the relationship mutually beneficial. It was never more than a single page.


Sounds easy, right? Well, it required me to ask the advisor a new question. Changing habits can be hard … but I knew I had to try. 


Taking the First Step

After the training, I went out into the field. I had doubts about the value of making a quarterly business plan with every one of my top producers. However, as a new wholesaler with the company that sponsored the training, I felt compelled, even obligated, to try it. 


When I arrived at my next meeting, I took nothing other than my pad of paper. The advisor and I talked about her business for about 45 minutes. I learned a lot by asking the right thought-provoking questions, and I gave her some ideas that I thought she might use, based on her business and clientele. This advisor sat in a bank and during my time at her desk, I discovered she did millions of dollars of business with a competitor. 


As we wrapped things up, it was time for me to ask her for the next appointment and for us to sit down and do a business plan together. A “yes” meant that she liked the interaction with me, and my company, and had interest in our products for her clients. A “no” meant that I destroyed the relationship before it got off the ground. 


In the past, I would have asked for the next appointment but with no specific purpose. Or, I would have relied on my internal partner to follow up with the advisor and set another follow-up appointment. But, I had made a commitment to myself to change the way I sold – times were changing and advisors were looking for better partners.


So I gathered my confidence up and asked for the next meeting in three weeks, when I would be back in the area. And, I asked that we set aside 90 minutes so we could jointly create a business plan that would help keep both of us accountable to reaching some of the goals she had outlined.


There was dead silence for what seemed like an extended period of time … like eternity. I could feel the hairs on the back of my neck standing up, and it felt like I was about to break out in a cold sweat. 


Her response? She was happy to do it. In fact, she said she didn’t move forward with a wholesaler before making a formal business plan with the company’s representatives. I was floored. It was as if it was set up by the training school. 


Planning for Success

This advisor went on to become a multi-million dollar producer for me. In our business plan, we agreed to set out the very next quarter to host a client event, where she would have 50 clients and prospects in attendance. In the following quarters, I would provide training to her staff and mailers to use with existing clients, and I would host a networking event for centers of influence around town. For those commitments, she said she anticipated placing a portion of her business with me and my company. 


I encourage all financial professionals to have this same requirement of their partners and distributors. As we move deeper into the fiduciary world, it’s more important to surround yourself with firms, wholesalers, and other advisors whom you can trust with your clients. 


Business planning comes in many forms. But, planning with your partners might be the most crucial aspect for the ongoing support you need in this complicated financial services world. 


Winning Strategy

Create a business plan with each of your vendors. Those who complete the exercise with you should be considered partners. That’s what you are looking for in today’s complex distribution. You need partners who understand you business and can help it grow. 


About the Author

Mike McGlothlin is a tireless advocate for the retirement planning industry. As executive vice president of retirement at Ash Brokerage, he heads a team providing income planning solutions focused on longevity and efficiency. He’s also a thought leader who provides guidance and assistance for advisors and broker-dealers navigating marketplace and regulatory changes. You can find a collection of his blog posts in his book, “Above the Clouds … Winning Strategies from 30,000 Feet.”