3 Simple Steps to Improve the Wealth Management Sales Process
The financial sector is regarded as one of the most advanced, competitive, and profitable industries. Brand names such as Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, or Merrill Lynch are so well known that it would be hard to find a person, at least in the western and commercial worlds, that wouldn’t have come across them in one way or another.
How do they become so successful and influential? Why are some of the financial institutions more popular and bigger than others? How do they establish a better brand name than their competitors? All of these questions above can be answered with a single notion, as old as the sales process itself, and that is:
“People don’t buy products and services, instead they buy a sales experience.”
In this case, they buy from the people they like. At the end of the day, behind those closed glass doors of tall skyscrapers are people, just like the rest of us, who like to feel important. That is where the wealth managers comes in.
How to Succeed in Wealth Management
Wealth managers are like salespeople or account managers at any other company. They look after their accounts and make sure to deliver exactly what their customer, in this case a financial institution, needs. Wealth managers are the customer-facing component of the banks and accounting firms and, therefore, are one of the most important determinants of a company’s success. Financial institutions are well aware of the importance of wealth managers, and that is why they have invested in research and training to give them the skills they need to succeed.
It is important to recognize early in the wealth management sales process that there isn’t a one for all success formula. Apart from issues like geography, culture, language, religion, and climate, there are other variables that determine the approach the wealth manager needs to take to succeed. Those variables include the size of the account, culture of the company, competitor offerings, and the existing relationship between the financial institution and the particular account.
Realizing that there are some major differences in the approach of a small potential customer with $100,000 investment budget vs a magnate with billions of potential investment, the financial sector has divided into three different sectors: the universal banks, platform providers and private banks and brokerages. Most of the successful banks have interlinked the three types of banking, and, therefore, benefit from referrals, economies of scale, and a large database of the intelligence gathered from across the organization.
However, the main interaction with the clients is handled by the wealth manager. Below are three ways to make those interactions more meaningful and improve the wealth management sales process at your institution.
1. Teaching and Training.
Knowledge, education and training are a very important part of success in any profession. Doctors, for example have to sit board exams all throughout their lives to make sure their knowledge doesn’t run out of date. The very same principle should be applied to the wealth managers, however, very often, after the initial training is provided, they are left there with just the basics and the rest is open to interpretation.
Successful companies know the importance of education and training and keep their wealth managers up to date with the newest technologies, research, and content. Some of the most effective approaches include career-long face-to-face training programs for sales, relationship and product skills, remote learning, and routine training.
Merrill Lynch is an example of a company that realizes how ongoing training can really benefit the wealth management sales process. They provide training to their staff through face-to-face instruction which ranges from expertise in estate planning to social networking. They have re-training courses, online classes, and a mentoring system to make sure their wealth manager’s knowledge is up to date. The goal of these programs is to foster ongoing professional development, not just product knowledge.
2. Listening and Tailoring.
Tailoring has always been an important part of sales. Listening to a customer and placing him in the center of the universe is also one of the golden rules of marketing. In the universal type of banking, for example, companies such as Citibank, Wells Fargo, and HSBC know that a strong customer experience creates high levels of customer loyalty, which is vital to increased profitability.
Their cross-functional sectors and sales thrive by word of mouth and their business relies heavily on referrals. Therefore, a large part of their business depends on the success of their wealth managers. To be more successful, they have to listen to their customers and tailor the products and services according to the customers needs.
With extensive research, marketing teams can find the segments of customers that are most profitable and make sure to satisfy their needs. If possible, it’s always a good practice to standardize certain products and services to share the costs across divisions. A good example of it would be that, in the recent past, traditional banks have also started providing other products that interests their clients such as insurance and investment products.
3. Freedom and Flexibility.
Freedom and flexibility fosters creativity. Myth has it, that it costs five times more to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. Maybe it isn’t actually five times the cost, but most managers would agree than it takes significantly more effort to acquire a new client.
Moreover, current customers are more likely to try out new products, upgrade their subscriptions, and give referrals. The latter is a particularly important one, because people are more likely to buy when they are referred to a product or service by someone they trust. We can even see the trends in the market, companies such as Tripadvisor, and other product and service review platforms, have demonstrated that customers want to hear other people’s experiences before they purchase.
The importance of referrals in wealth management should not be underestimated. Building campaigns, setting up client-facing events, providing rewards, and getting creative with their approach and solution in general, often leads to new, undiscovered ways of doing things that make wealth managers unique and successful. Wachovia Bank (now part of Wells Fargo) implemented such a practice by conducting a referral campaign with their current customers and lowered their acquisition costs.
In order to be successful, wealth managers have to ask themselves if they are taking the steps above. Are they getting the regular and necessary training to stay up to date with the latest technology and research? Do they listen to their customers, build relationships, and then provide tailored solutions? If they do, is there a general trend that can be seen across all of their customers, that, if implemented, might make their institution stand out with a unique value proposition? And, most of all, do they have a capacity to conduct such practices? If you can answer these question satisfactorily, your wealth management sales process can start to thrive and grow on a global level.
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