Distribution strategy–The focus is on sales efficiency


Tuesday, May 14, 2019 | By Jason Dauwen

Distribution strategy–The focus is on sales efficiency

Asset managers have made a concerted effort to modernize.  Through investments in data, business intelligence, and sales enablement applications, change is happening.  However, at our Distribution Strategy Roundtable, it became clear that distribution organizations are struggling with what to change and how to implement new processes.  Here are a few areas where we saw firms being challenged, and some recommendations that were offered at the roundtable to overcome those challenges.

  1. Getting return on investments in data and technology
  2. Modernizing sales roles
  3. Leveraging experts and specialists

Getting return on investments in data and technology

The Challenge: Asset managers have invested heavily in business intelligence, data science and sales enablement technology, but they are challenged when trying to get wholesalers – especially long-time veteran wholesalers – to use insights and leverage technology in their day-to-day sales activities.

Recommendations:

  • Prove to externals that using insights will help them more easily accomplish their sales goals. 
    For example, provide externals with leads based on analytics and a set of recommendations based on the data.  At the end of the quarter, measure the results of their self-sourced leads vs the analytics-driven leads.  Asset managers have seen lift of 25% or more in such experiments.
  • Transparency and clarity are essential to encouraging adoption of new technology.
    The problem here really isn’t adoption of technology – salespeople will embrace technology if they know how to use it and how to get benefit from it.  Therefore, the real problem is a lack of transparency or clarity about technology and the way salespeople are trained to leverage it.
  • Think of sales enablement technology as a product being delivered internally.  For example, the CRM is the base of operations for all sales activity.
    • Be transparent – clearly show why you’re implementing technology and what benefit it offers to the salesperson
    • Start at the top – get adoption from leadership, where applicable
    • Observation – speak with sales (your internal clients) about their needs, and then deliver that

Modernizing sales roles

The Challenge: Conceptually, hybrid sales is a more efficient way to engage the market.  It reduces travel and other related expenses, reduces the amount of time requested from advisors, and can allow salespeople to cover more advisors or larger geographic areas where advisor density has been a challenge.  The challenge, say distribution executives, is in how hybrid roles are defined, rewarded and deployed.

Recommendations:

Asset managers who experimented early with hybrid roles offered some sage advice for those who are attempting to implement these roles. 

  • Don’t expect to have one single definition of a hybrid.  Let your data tell you how to cover advisors with hybrid salespeople. For some territories, the hybrid can be part of a team headed up by a more experienced salesperson.  In other cases, the hybrid can cover their own territory. 
  • Build a hybrid career path separate from the external wholesaler path. The skill set of hybrid salespeople is not necessarily the same skills necessary for becoming an external wholesaler.  If hybrid is a step along the path to becoming an external wholesaler, you’ll have higher turnover as these people are promoted into the field. 
  • Compensation structure and components should be the same for hybrid and external salespeople.
  • Expect external wholesalers to build hybrid skills to provide more flexibility in how they engage advisors. Allow them to conduct some of their meetings remotely.  The decisions about who to visit in the field and who to engage with via phone or remote meeting should be driven by data, just like it is for hybrids.

Leveraging experts and specialists

The Challenge: Engaging specialists in the sales process can help close a sale faster.  However, salespeople either don’t readily involve specialists in the process, or they bring the specialists in too early.

Recommendations:

  • Some asset managers have had success mandating the use of specialists.  While this does increase involvement of specialists, it can also drive up demand for specialists, which could lead to resourcing issues.  The goal isn’t just to have specialists involved, but to engage specialists at the right time in the buyer journey. Using data and a set of business rules, asset managers can determine which part of the buyer journey should include specialists and identify when a salesperson is at that stage.This not only helps to involve specialists at the right time, it also provides a way to measure whether the salesperson involved the specialist. Some asset managers have folded specialists into the distribution organization to make these resources more accessible.

Although there are challenges in figuring out the right level of investment in data and technology, it’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to implementing new processes, you have to provide clarity and comfort.  Sales will adopt new ways of working if you make it easy to understand and accessible.  For that reason, spend the time to get the process right, to make the process clear, and to train your staff to use data and technology effectively.

To dive deeper into sales enablement technology in asset management, download the overview of our new report series, The Use of Sales Enablement Technologies by Asset Managers.

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