How to Find Plan Sponsor Prospects through Social Networking

Retirement plan advisers can use industry resources and social-networking tools to gain new plan sponsor clients.

A recent Webinar, “Master the Art of 21st Century Networking Workshop,” hosted by RidgeWorth Investments, outlines how advisers can lasso those tools. Of course, advisers should check with their broker/dealers’ compliance before jumping into social networking.

Kip Gregory, principal of The Gregory Group and author of the book Winning Clients in a Wired World, and Elizabeth Wilson, national sales manager for RidgeWorth Investments, outlined the key steps of business development for advisers: create a target prospect list, diagnose, and deliver. The first step can be aided by social networking.

Gregory noted that advisers can be more effective if they do their homework in the first step before diving into diagnosing and delivering. “You may discover that of 10 people you could talk to, there are three that you really should talk to.” To create a target prospect list, Gregory outlined Web tools retirement plan advisers can use.

First, advisers can use industry services to find plans that can be prospects. Gregory demonstrated with Larkspur, a subscription-based service that tracks close to 1.5 million plans and offers criteria to narrow down a search. There are also similar tools on the market, such as the free service FreeERISA.

Advisers can then use social networking to better narrow their search. Google can be a helpful tool to find out more about the potential prospects. LinkedIn can help advisers find connections with prospects.

On LinkedIn, Gregory said advisers should look for second- or third-degree connections with prospects or any common ground (shared work experience, school, expertise, etc.).  Then he recommends advisers reach out to people in their circle who can provide insight into those firms, their people, or the industry as a whole—and possibly provide an introduction. Advisers can also use LinkedIn’s advanced search to search by industry, key word, relationship, or location to help find prospects and people in their network to provide insight about the prospects. “You’re not necessarily asking for a referral—you’re asking for insight, because that’s a much easier thing for somebody to provide to you,” he said.

Inside Out

The above process, which Gregory refers to as “internetworking,” is a method of “inside-out” business development, which is driven by relationships, as compared to “outside-in” business development (e.g. cold-calling), which assumes everyone is a prospect.

Inside-out business develop is “the act of reaching out through others in your network and connecting with specific prospects by request or referral or both,” Gregory said. “It’s a rifle-shot approach where you’re aiming at a specific target—not shooting into a large area hoping you’ll hit someone that needs what you offer … One of the obvious dividends is increased word of mouth referral.”

The secret formula for internetworking, Gregory said, is to speak your audience’s language and know how they tick—and use that knowledge to connect with them and help solve their problems.