I’ve just returned from Austin, Texas. They say everything is bigger in Texas and that Austin is the San Francisco of the state. I knew I’d have a great time visiting our office there and meeting all of the folks that have been disembodied voices over the past few years. It was also my honor to spend the first week with several new sales folks integrating them into our company.
I always love the chance to speak to new hires on how we truly do things differently. It sounds like something all companies say about their services, but it’s true with startling contrast. What better place to begin talking about 401(k)s than with the sales process.
When you ask a salesperson for the first rule of sales, it’s that you’ve got to talk the same language. Get on their level and start from there.
Back when I first began in 401(k)s, my mom would ask, “tell me again what you do.”
Then, the conversation was over. It’s usually at that point when someone’s face glazes over or they start asking me to look at their 401(k) funds. “OH! You have your statement on you now!”
Rule #1: Talk in regular English
Folks come to look for a 401(k) because:
- They need more information.
- They know we’re the experts and expect us to be honest with them.
- They believe (or want to believe) we’re telling the truth.
And if we’re being honest? The language and industry jargon is confusing at best! We think people get what we’re saying, but who could without a dictionary of terms? We’re speaking a foreign language!
Cue the “nod and agree.”
Most of the misperceptions we find in this industry are actually perpetuated by the industry itself. Many sales folks in our business think if they use a lot of financial jargon and sound like they know what they’re talking about, then the prospect will be more inclined to trust them. This is where things start to fall apart. Not only do prospects not know 90% of what the sales person is saying, but they’re left wishing they could just get the price and be done with it.
Another good example is something as simple as who the main players are in the plan. It’s often said that the owner will likely be the trustee. Not too much of a stretch since the account is a retirement trust opened by the company they own. But what about the person who has to run it?
Most folks call this person the “Plan Sponsor.” It’s so common that there’s even a magazine with the title. To break it down, this person is the sponsor (person who helps) of the retirement plan. This person may also be called administrator, controller, or simply HR. While these aren’t wrong, they can be confused with something else. For example, the company hired to create the 401(k) is your Third Party Administrator (TPA).
In the end, make sure you’re picking up the language and learning a few things. There are constants no matter who you speak with, so get the basics down. And if you need help with jargon translation, hit me up!