It’s not easy for asset managers to make their products stand out from the crowd and get advisors to choose them. Talking with a firm’s salesperson is one way asset managers can be directly involved in the decision-making—if the advisor is open to that and perceives the interaction as helpful.
When we asked advisors to rate the importance of various information sources to their overall product decisions (in association with Horsesmouth), seven in 10 advisors said that information from third-party databases was important. Salespeople from asset managers earned about half of that, with 36% of advisors rating them as very or moderately important to their decision. Slightly more, 39%, rated salespeople as low or no importance (39%) and the remaining 25% were neutral.
Yet, when it came to the importance of various sources for deciding whether to research a product further, 36.5% of advisors ranked information from a salesperson that they value among the research sources with the greatest impact.
That’s an important distinction. Because engagement alone doesn’t mean that the salesperson has any sway with the advisor. Just like any research source, the advisor must trust and respect that source—the salesperson—before its information and opinions matter.
Firms can certainly do a better job of that. When asked which asset management salespeople provide the most value to them and/or their practice, just two in five advisors (39.7%) named at least one firm.
Among those who did, advisors named First Trust Portfolios (20.0%), J.P. Morgan Asset Management (16.4%), BlackRock (13.9%), and American Funds (13.9%) most often. One advisor who named three of these four firms explained, “They provide independent advice, broad market insight, and are honest when their particular product is not the best option in the space.”
Top Mentions for Firms with Valued Salespeople
First Trust Portfolios
JPMorgan Asset Management
Advisors named many firms with far fewer distribution resources as well. RiverFront Investment Group, Advisors Capital Management, Confluence Investment Management, and Sammons Financial/Beacon Capital Management each earned several mentions.
The diversity of explanations for what advisors valued about the salespeople also underscores the importance of not making blanket recommendations about the “best way” for salespeople to engage advisors. Different advisors want and value different things about their sales relationships, and actions that please some will only annoy others.
Communication is one case in point—some advisors said they valued salespeople who are good about staying in touch, while others praised firms whose salespeople “don’t pester me” and simply respond when needed.
But, there were a couple of key themes in their responses:
Valuable insights and tools. Information that is fresh, timely, useful and concise seems to be the currency of choice to earn advisors’ favor. But the type of information they valued varied: market commentary, sales ideas, economic data, practice building, portfolio construction, investment trends, original research, advisor education, client support and advisor trends were all mentioned.
In some cases, the salesperson is bringing the firm’s content to their attention. In others, the salesperson is offering personal insights of value. Here is a sampling of advisors’ responses about what the salespeople they value most do in this area:
- “Keep me in front of current and developing trends in the market.”
- “Provide tools and insights as to how other advisors are using them successfully."
- “Provide market insights that are useful and actionable, client distributable tools and documents and solid research.”
Product insights. Advisors expect salespeople to know their products. But they value salespeople who can go a bit deeper, and share insights they can’t get from the fact sheet, or talk knowledgeably about a product in the context of the advisor’s portfolio. They also value salespeople who know the market, and where their products fit within that, and who are able to make substantive comparisons to competitors.
For example, advisors said the salespeople they valued:
- “Provide an inside look at how the asset manager operates, and their viewpoint gives me an additional perspective beyond the numbers.”
- “Show me how it's working and how other leading advisors are using and talking to clients about it.”
- “Provide explanations of performance and how they perform in different markets.”
- “Offer ideas to use products more effectively and in conjunction with other things I'm doing.”
“No company agenda.” Advisors praised the salespeople who take a genuine interest in their practice and don’t seem to have any “agenda” other than being helpful. As one explained, “They understand the business from the perspective of a financial advisor. They aren't trying to jam their product into every portfolio. They want to explore IF their product is a good fit, or for what situations their lineup is a good fit.” Others talked about the salesperson focusing on providing valuable tools and resources outside of products.
Honest and realistic. This was mostly about products, with this advisor providing a good summary: “If the firm’s products aren’t a good fit, they’ll say so.” But a few did use this theme for other types of content, mentioning salespeople who provide timely insights that are “based on research and results, not just sales hype.”
Responsive. Another common theme was that the valued salesperson was easy to reach when they need something, provided the right information quickly and followed up to make sure the advisor received what they need.
More information to enhance the value of a firm’s salespeople to advisors is available in our "3 Key Ways to Influence Advisor Product Choices" report. This includes data and recommendations on how salespeople can optimize their opportunities to directly engage advisors at three specific points of their decision journey—as well as other compelling ways firms can increase their influence on future product decisions, even when advisors aren’t seeking new investment options.
Written by Tracy Needham
Sr. Business Research Analyst, Research, Analytics and Consulting