How to Ensure Success With Hybrid Wholesalers

Hybrid wholesalers are becoming a fixture at many industry firms.

A recent survey of 59 internal sales desk managers showed that 50% use hybrids as part of their distribution strategy. Close to 90% plan to add more in 2019, research conducted by Interactive Communications in May 2018 shows.

Impressive numbers.

What’s not impressive is how many firms believe that a successful hybrid strategy requires only a simple tweak of the internal and external roles. Over time, such tweaks kill the model.

Warning signs of an approaching death knell include:

Hybrid creep: Hybrids positioned as junior wholesalers who enjoy the outside much more than the inside and begin suggesting face-to-face meetings with advisors as their primary contact mode are exhibiting creep. Worse, they begin the classic rotations of in-person drip meetings.

Phone avoidance: Hybrids who stop dialing because they are no longer accountable for phone metrics (especially quality conversations).

Many sales managers will read this and think: “My hybrids are pretty successful. This doesn’t apply to me.”

But it depends on their yardstick. State-of-the-art firms can assess behavioral change along with the ability to balance phone, face- to-face and digital activities.

Re-engineering the hybrid role

Re-engineering the role, rather than just tweaking old approaches, requires hybrids to carry the burden of delivering new blood — those highly qualified prospects — to fill the sales funnel. Hybrids should lead the charge with creative ways to gain access to these advisors, which requires a different approach to managing time and developing a touchpoint strategy that differentiates them and your firm.

All sales managers should examine how their hybrids are "doing it differently" in order to:

  • Deliver sales in a more effective way (gaining access to the right advisors and building relationships with the right manner, whether it be via the Web, e-mail or phone, or in person).
  • Close more sales, disqualify sooner and shorten the sales cycle.
  • Motivate advisors to use technology (Web meetings, social media, etc.) and teach them how to use it effectively with their clients.
  • Replace breakfast, lunch and drop-in meetings with the personalized touchpoint strategies that today’s advisors demand.

Getting there: What works (and what doesn’t)

  • Hybrids should be hunters and thrive on gathering prospects. Not all tenured internals have that appetite, especially if they have been on the phone for a while. Hybrid selection should include an assessment tool that taps critical qualifying and time management skills. This might include scenario-based questions such as: “You are calling an advisor that shows promise from the data you have. What are the most important questions to ask before agreeing to meet face-to-face?”
  • The first meeting is what counts, so ensuring effective meetings requires criteria by which to measure success. Do you have a template that defines a successful first meeting? Can hybrids deliver a value proposition laced with benefits to the advisor and sets of expectations? For example: “I work differently from your typical wholesalers — advisors tell us they don’t have time for lots of meetings, really dislike being pitched and find little value in lots of calls from internal wholesalers. Here’s what you can expect from me...”
  • Hybrids make it OK not to buy, and at the same time challenge the status quo. Helping advisors see the downside of not considering portfolio changes is critical, but it must be done skillfully, to avoid the type of product push advisors tune out. Skilled hybrids preempt hidden objections up front, suggest competing options, and assess whether an advisor is window- shopping or serious about making a change
  • Re-engineering requires a new approach to "staying in front of me." This could be a 12-month touchpoint strategy that builds on digital marketing and adds the personalization only a wholesaler knows how to deliver.

Your hybrid strategy should reduce the number of wholesalers you need to distribute your products. The hybrid’s most powerful skill is a systematic and strategic approach to time management, and therefore hybrids’ calendars should look much different than that of the traditional wholesaler.

Mastering all this is a tall order. Firms need a "hybrid toolkit" including metrics and guidelines that support success. Managers need patience in sequencing behavior change and adjusting the way they measure success. That’s more than a tweak.