By Mark Petersen
It’s no surprise wholesalers are important resources for your firm. And their role in your success can extend far beyond their ability to serve as effective product vendors. During my career, I’ve learned wholesalers can be one of your most vital sources of information, guidance, and professional support. The key is identifying those wholesalers who are dedicated to helping you thrive. Here are five surprising ways your wholesalers can help build your practice and your career:
1. Wholesalers can help expand your network
Like salespeople in any business, a good wholesaler knows how to build a great network. They meet with advisors every day, work with all the broker-dealers, and talk to (or have worked with) other wholesalers — competitors or otherwise. Better yet, most are more than willing to provide introductions that can offer great value to your practice. Whether your goal is to partner with other specialists (CPAs, estate planners, life insurance specialists), other peer advisors, or simply start new and meaningful conversations, your wholesaler can pave the way.
2. Wholesalers can offer product expertise
Sure, they know the specifics of their own products, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Part of a good wholesaler’s expertise is to stay on top of what’s happening across the industry. Even though fixed-income products are top of mind, don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations for a great alternative fund to balance out your portfolio. They will likely know not only what’s new in the market, but also what products are working – or not – for other advisors.
3. Wholesalers can tell you what’s working for your peers
Earlier in my career, when I worked as a wholesaler, my goal was to walk through every advisor’s door with a basket of ideas. New marketing tools. Emerging practice management techniques. Advisor success stories for everything from getting referrals, to deploying new technologies, to marketing a new product. Wholesalers spend all day, every day, talking to advisors like you, so they hear the good, the bad, and the ugly. And because their goal is to help you succeed, they’re usually happy to share their insights.
4. Wholesalers can help your staff be more effective
A good wholesaler should be willing to come on-site to help train your staff, answer questions about product suitability, and show you how to leverage your “closet” of offerings to better serve your clients. They can also ensure your product materials are up to date, verify that only currently available products are being represented, and that you’re providing the latest version of each prospectus and collateral materials to your clients. As a bonus, your wholesaler is often chock full of real-world tips to help your staff be more efficient across the board.
5. Wholesalers can be your broker-dealer matchmaker
If you’re like most advisors, the time will come when you want or need to switch broker-dealers. Whether that change comes about because the BD is closing their doors, stopped carrying preferred products, or you’ve decided it’s simply time to move on, a wholesaler can serve as a matchmaker to aid your search and help you find an ideal fit. Of course, just like people, every BD has strengths and weaknesses. That’s why when advisors ask my advice, my response is always the same: “Tell me what characteristics help you thrive – and also what shortcomings you’re willing to put up with – and I’ll point you in the right direction.”
It’s been awhile since I’ve been a wholesaler, but I still get a call or an email from an advisor at least once a day asking me for advice. I’m happy to help. In fact, after nearly 30 years in the business – including 15 years as a wholesaler and another decade managing wholesaler teams – helping advisors has been one of my key priorities, and I’ve witnessed first-hand the fruits of strong advisor/wholesaler relationships.
In my early days in the business, I met with hundreds of advisors across the country. I quickly realized they all faced many of the same challenges, and many of the advisors I spoke with told me they often felt extremely isolated. My solution was to set up a series of lunches to get local advisors face to face to share their issues, brainstorm solutions, and simply connect. Every time I visited a particular city, I would arrange a lunch with a small group of advisors, and I’d ask them to bring someone who had never joined the group before. The response was fantastic. Soon advisors were calling me to ask when the next lunch was scheduled, and what I used to view as “sales calls” became think tank forums. I was thrilled to learn that a group of advisors who attended these lunches over a decade ago went on to start a study group together and, years later, it’s still going strong.
Of course, every relationship is a two-way street. Your wholesaler’s willingness to help isn’t completely altruistic. But every salesperson knows that relationships are everything. Most sales decisions are bound to default to the vendor with the strongest relationship – and nearly always, that is the wholesaler who has provided not just a great product, but a heck of a lot of additional value along the way.
Mark Petersen has over 25 years of experience leading distribution and sales efforts in the financial services industry. His background includes managing retail and institutional securities sales as well as national accounts, and he has forged strong relationships with broker/dealers and financial advisors throughout his career. Currently Executive Vice President at GWG Holdings, Inc., Mr. Petersen is also a registered representative of Emerson Equity. His previous roles include co-president of Behringer Securities LP and executive sales and marketing positions with CNL Fund Management, Franklin Square Capital Partners, and Madison Harbor Capital. He holds an MBA in finance from Baylor University and a B.S. in business administration from the University of Texas at Arlington.