Will Technology Replace Wholesalers?

Published Article By

Mary Anne Doggett

As robos elbow in on advisors’ business, wholesalers are also getting a hip check.

My bet is that they won’t get knocked into extinction. There will always be a place for the human side of financial interactions

Here’s the caveat: Firms that are able to both identify the soft skills that only a human can bring to a conversation and help their sales team hone those talents will have the advantage.

When it's "all about the conversation," that conversation better be stellar and memorable. Outside of product, performance and investment knowledge, wholesalers have to have a game-changer that sets them apart from competitors.

I suggest that weapon is in getting serious about the critical components — the words, sequence and delivery of what keeps the conversation engaging.

While most sales managers will say their reps are consultative sellers, it’s time to ask: How consultative are they? How do you really know?

Soft skills can be measured and tested.

National sales managers need to know who is a Level 1, 2 or 3, not based on tenure or today’s sales results, but based on true competencies. Sales results are directly linked to competency (unless you want to count on luck). The same rigor that goes into mastering investment knowledge, getting a CIMA certification and licensing must apply to the "art" of sales conversation — which is equal parts content and delivery.

The hard part is putting definitions in place. Once that’s done, you have your foundation for ongoing skill development. I am often surprised that firms with huge sales teams and billions under management cannot point to a foundation they rely on for successful sales conversations.

Every firm needs a scorecard.

That scorecard should include the specific competencies that link to the firm’s sales process. These competencies are then broken down into three progressive levels that are very explicitly defined.

This exercise helps spell out the criteria for "good" and levels of increasing difficulty.

You will be surprised at how challenging it is to demonstrate the skills with any consistency. Those of you who have struggled to get your entire team to deliver a consistent value proposition recognize the importance of observation.

Within each skill level there is plenty of room for a rep to put his or her own personality into the conversation, but the process is not unlike what great actors do: They need to learn their lines cold before they can effectively work on their performance.

Here’s an example of an abbreviated scorecard that shows the level of definition required. Each firm will customize the skills and definitions that go in the boxes to reflect their priorities.


Overkill? Not if your prospects are time-starved, selective listeners who are fond of saying "I gotta jump," or are aggressively limiting the number of wholesalers they will see. You just don’t get a second chance anymore. 

The devil is in the details. I challenge this industry to get serious and disciplined about the human element of interactions. Document what goes into a sale, have a process to assess each salesperson’s competency objectively and consistently. Require a written test along with live observation by judges à la a television talent competition where the stakes are high, such as The Voice or American Idol. 

Wholesaling has changed, sales conversations should be changing. But to know whether they are changing in a way that resonates with advisors, firms need a way to measure their teams and to answer the question “How do you know?