What I Learned From Jane Murphy That Can Help You Close More 401k Plan Business
For those who don’t know Jane Murphy, here’s a little about why she’s one of the smartest sales trainers in the 401k space:
Jane Murphy is the founder of Acceleration Retirement and has been selling financial services since the 1980’s and focused on the retirement plan business since the early 1990’s.
Working for Fidelity Investments, she built a sales organization from 3 employees to well over 100. She also built a lead generation team from scratch to over 60 associates.
Jane is well known for highly innovative sales approaches and processes.
Her team produced over $3 billion in assets under management per year while selling no plan with greater than $5 million in assets (ALL OVER THE PHONE).
Jane’s lead generation team produced over 3,000 leads a year in all sizes of the retirement plan market including the tax exempt market.
Jane is a sought after leader well known for turning lead generation associates into salespeople.
I’ve read her book, There’s No Such Thing as Closing the Deal (and regularly recommend her book to advisors seeking 401k prospecting and sales training). I’ve attended her Sales Training Boot Camp in Pittsburgh. We even worked with her firm when I was an advisor to develop our marketing collateral and build our prospect pipeline with her lead generation (calling) service (with great success).
The information I’m sharing in this article (with her permission) was part of a course I sold years ago for $297 (that she had contributed to). It’s worth paying attention to if you’re trying to grow your 401k business because her strategies work – if you follow them. So let’s start with the basics…
Meaningful conversations convert.
It’s true. In order to get and keep a plan sponsor engaged and interested, you must have more meaningful conversations. The more meaningful conversations you have, the higher your changes of having that prospect turn into a client.
Jane Murphy says, “The goal of every appointment should be to get the next appointment.”
To help you meet that goal, here are some strategies to follow. You should always:
Have an agenda – the entire top half should revolve around you listening more than you talk.
In the very beginning you need to make it a key goal to identify the plan decision maker(s). You must identify who actually has authority to make provider hiring decisions or you could end up wasting a lot of valuable time in meetings with the wrong person.
Ask a lot of questions. I tell advisors to do pre-work and write down for each meeting what you already know about this prospect, and 3 things you want to learn during your meeting. Also include on your pre-meeting checklist 3 things you want to make sure they know or learn about you or your firm (stuff that’s meaningful and valuable to them – stuff that matters and builds credibility, authority, or brotherhood bonding).
Be interesting, be you – people are drawn to individuals that are real, honest – not uptight or 150% business. This is an industry where you certainly need to be professional, but don’t be afraid to bring your personality to these meetings. Having humor and telling stories bond people and makes you relatable. Remember, this is a relationship business.
Don’t sell something – solve something. Your goal is to identify what challenges, issues, concerns, or problems there are and show how you can solve those issues. Be a partner not a vendor.
And finally – the ultimate outcome – get the next appointment!
Ask the Right Questions
It’s important if you’re going to get past the first meeting to ask interesting and meaningful questions.
Don’t ask the same questions other advisors ask such as,
“What do you like most about your plan,” or
“Are you satisfied with the service you’re getting from your provider,” or
“Can I review your investment line-up and offer you a free analysis?”
It’s also important to be conversational – not scripted – and your questions should help you identify how they make decisions.
One great example comes from Jane Murphy’s book titled, There’s No Such Thing as Closing the Deal where she suggests asking…
“What was the last change you made on your plan?” followed by, “How did you ultimately decide to make that change?” Think of questions that cause them to pause and think about the answer. Don’t ask yes/no questions or questions that will probably elicit an easy brush off response where they defensively say everything is great and they have no issues to discuss.
And finally, you should try to word your questions in a way that educates them and helps them identify and conclude they might need support such as…
“Typically when I meet with my clients each quarter and review their returns and important regulatory updates, we provide follow-up minutes for our clients to access on their online vault so they can easily download them and put them right into their compliance file. What does the process look like when you meet with your advisor?”
Or another example might be…
“Since the Department of Labor has indicated a key initiative is to audit every workplace plan in America, we had all of our clients document a full benchmark of their fees and for 20% of our plans were able to negotiate their fees down because the plans had grown up from what they once were. When was the last time you re-evaluated and re-negotiated the fees on your plan?”
Finally, remember that ultimately, decisions are made more on trust and relationships than on data and graphics.
Stretching the Process Out
Winning new 401k plan business is a relationship–driven outcome and the more time you spend with your prospect, the deeper the relationship and trust you build.
For that reason, don’t show up to the first or second meeting and lay down your hand. Don’t show and tell everything you know and think the plan sponsor should know and do.
If you do this, there’s no basis for them to continue the relationship with you. You’re a salesman that’s given data and now they either use it, need what you’re selling, or they don’t.
Try to address key issues over 4 meetings – stretching out the process.
In a sales training meeting I attended by Jane, she suggested to:
Start with data gathering.
On the next meeting discuss plan design issues, options and choices.
On the third meeting talk about investment strategy.
And save the fee structure for the fourth meeting.
That last point is important – don’t discuss fees or product initially – discuss strategy and solutions.
Be the quarterback, not the wide receiver yelling “I’m OPEN – me, me!”
It’s important to understand that where we (as advisors) place importance, is not necessarily aligned with where plan sponsors place importance.
With that in mind, you must be able to gather information during your conversations about how they make decisions and what’s important to them, so that with that knowledge, you can better present solutions that will matter to them.
Effective 401k Prospecting Strategies
This article is part of a series covering effective 401k Prospecting Strategies. You can access the full series using the links below:
Listen to the Podcast episode of this topic here (coming soon).Or watch the video on YouTube here (coming soon).