Divisional sales managers play a key role within asset management distribution teams. They mentor and coach the field sales force, ensure that strategic initiatives are communicated to (and implemented by) the sales team, provide additional support to the firm’s most valuable advisors, and often partner with National Accounts to build relationships with regional leaders at broker/dealers and other advisory firms. With the rise of data-driven client engagement models, asset managers are increasingly adopting innovative and flexible sales structures in order to meet advisors’ needs more efficiently and effectively.
While these new approaches make sense, both for advisors and for the firm’s bottom line, they can also create additional challenges for sales managers—particularly divisional sales managers, who are effectively on the front lines when it comes to implementing changes to sales process and structure. In light of these increased challenges, SS&C held our first roundtable exclusively for divisional sales managers earlier this month. During the lively discussion, three key themes emerged as top of mind for attendees: technology, teams and talent.
Technology is no longer a ‘nice to have’ for asset management sales teams; it is absolutely essential for firms who hope to remain competitive going forward. Analytics and sales enablement technologies are helping firms craft more precise advisor engagement strategies, equipping salespeople with targeted advisor information and talking points, and making it easy for salespeople to host virtual and remote advisor meetings. Despite the power of data and technology, many roundtable participants said that they were still experiencing significant resistance from their teams around adoption of these tools. Some effective strategies discussed at the event were: moving some former internals into a ‘technology specialist role,’ including a technology representative as part of the broader team on weekly sales calls, and having the divisional sales manager lead by example through strategies such as using tech tools on one-to-one calls with salespeople and coaching their teams on how to use them.
Teams used to look fairly similar across the asset management industry, back when determining the ratio of external to internal wholesalers was one of the biggest organizational decisions sales leaders faced. Today, many distribution organizations look very different—with overlapping territories, flexible team models and a host of specialists who may or may not share the same reporting line. Divisional sales managers at firms who have successfully implemented new structures emphasized the importance of collaboration (e.g. with internal sales managers), transparency, standard operating procedures and alignment of incentives to keep the wheels turning smoothly.
Talent management is a common theme at our distribution roundtables, and the divisional sales manager event was no exception. Attendees discussed the difficulty of managing senior salespeople who are resistant to change and reluctant to use new technologies, but have deep advisor relationships and are still high performers from a sales standpoint. One participant shared that their firm had let a salesperson go, despite excellent sales figures, because they had been unwilling to meet the firm’s expectations around use of CRM and other tech tools—and as a result, the remaining salespeople quickly fell into line. Younger salespeople, on the other hand, present a different set of challenges, as they are less interested in field wholesaling positions in general and much less willing to move away from their preferred location. One attendee said that two field sales positions had opened up at their firm, but there were no applications from within the firm, as none of the firm’s internal salespeople were interested in moving. This trend is yet another factor that is likely to drive an increase in virtual and remote meetings in the future.
Written by Saadiah Freeman
Product Manager, Research & Consulting