Differentiate Yourself in 45 Seconds

Advisers can sell plan services and support, but can they sell themselves?

A new study from MassMutual takes a deep dive into what makes an effective value proposition for retirement plan advisers, with one intriguing finding: Few advisers really can articulate their own value.

MassMutual’s “Winning Combination Study” found that plan sponsors that work with a retirement plan adviser find them highly valuable. Help with plan design and plan features are the top two reasons plan sponsors chose to work with an adviser, followed by fiduciary obligations and investment selection a close second and third. Plan sponsors are especially satisfied with the customer service provided by their advisers.

Plan advisers and plan sponsors are closely aligned on the valuable services the plan adviser provides. But when asked to articulate their value proposition—or perhaps even more challenging, their elevator pitch—most found themselves at a loss for words.

The study suggests that advisers need to learn how to better articulate the value they can bring to a retirement plan, and their role in a complicated landscape. Emphasizing good customer service and employee education—which can directly tie into improved plan outcomes and a workforce that is ready to retire with adequate assets—is one tactic.

Jeff Snyder, vice president and senior consultant of Cammack Retirement, explains that his own 45-second elevator pitch puts forth several key pieces of information.

In a former career, Snyder was a recordkeeper, which gives him a deep understanding of the nuts and bolts of recordkeeping administration. “I try to weave that in,” he tells PLANADVISER. “I’ve done a number of RFPs [requests for proposal] as well as due diligence on managers and recordkeepers.” Having been in the business in a different seat, so to speak, gives Snyder a knowledge of the marketplace that other people lack.

NEXT: Sell yourself in 45 seconds

It might be a challenge to articulate your specific, valuable services in 45 seconds, Snyder admits, but it can be done. “Lead with something substantial in your background, something that relates to what the prospective client finds meaningful,” he says. “I talk about the team approach we use. So it’s not just Jeff Snyder the plan sponsor works with but my other colleagues, and we have a real team approach. That’s a differentiator for our firm.”

Advisers need to see what people really need and then give their perspective on what value they can bring to help meet those needs, says Mathew Greenwald, president and chief executive of Greenwald & Associates. “It’s a combination of what they need, and thinking of your resources and capabilities,” he tells PLANADVISER. “As much as possible, see how you can uniquely help people with their needs. It also gives the adviser direction on what to develop.”

Greenwald’s own pitch, in less than 45 seconds: “Subject matter expertise plus research expertise. It narrows the field of competitors against people who aren’t narrowly focused on this.” That in turn helps the firm concentrate on those areas. “We have to train people, and we have to learn,” Greenwald explains.

The pitch should combine the needs of the potential client with what the adviser thinks are his or her best selling points. “Express that and build on it. Then practice the pitch and use it all the time,” Greenwald says, noting that it’s important for advisers to learn to show their own value. “For some reason, it’s something a lot of sales people aren’t experienced at doing: selling themselves. But who is going to demonstrate it, if not them?”

The MassMutual “Winning Combination Study” polled 565 plan sponsors: 449 that work with an adviser, and 116 that do not, with plan assets from under $1 million to $75 million. The research included two focus groups with plan advisers and was conducted in the summer and fall of 2015 by Greenwald & Associates.