Press Release: Fi360

How To Win On Paper But Lose A 401k ‘Finals’ Presentation: Fi360 Annual Conference

5 areas on which to focus

Winning tips.

“The most famous case of winning on paper and losing in the finals is the fight between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas,” Kevin Mahoney said in a presentation on Friday morning at Fi360’s annual conference in San Diego. “Tyson was heavily-favored, over-confident and he was beaten by Douglas.”

The session, coincidently titled “Winning on Paper, Losing in the Finals,” highlighted key areas on which to focus to ensure 401k advisors win business.

“Plan sponsors are way more educated than in the past,” Mahoney, business development officer with Stockton, Calif.-based Financial Decisions noted. “They even have special conferences to prepare them for their roles in plan administration. Advisors used to drive the RFP process, but no longer, and they must now be ready for questions and challenges that come from sponsors. It’s not something to fear, but something with which to engage.”

He added that there has been a 10 percent to 15 percent increase recently in the number of RFPs sent—and they’re moving down-market—because plan sponsors are increasingly required to check their own fiduciary requirement boxes.

He then described the three plan sizes, and what to watch for with each:

Small plans— “You won’t be dealing with the owner, typically, because they’re too busy and they’ll pass it off to the HR person or someone else. They don’t have time to meet with committees and that type of thing, so the sales cycle will be quick.”

Large(r) plans— “It will be a very detailed process. You’ll submit the RFP and won’t hear back for a month or two telling you if you were or were not selected for the next level. Embrace those levels, as it’s a learning opportunity for each stage. The sales process will take time, as long as two years for certain government plans.”

Small plans that act like large plans— “They might think they need more than they actually do; for instance, a $5,000 ERISA consultant for a $250,000 plan. You might not know who the true decision-maker is with these types of plans.”

If the 401k advisor is called in for a finals presentation, “focus that meeting on what got you there,” Mahoney advised. “You most likely have a contact at the firm. Ask them what that was.”

Other key areas on which advisors should focus:

  • Stay true to your roots—don’t say yes to everything. Make sure it’s in line with your practice capabilities.
  • Focus on you and your firm’s core strengths.
  • Someone wanted you there, but someone else did not. Everyone has their favorites, so know your competition and address any doubts skeptics may have.
  • Do not use canned presentations, customize each to the sponsor’s unique issues and needs.
  • Ask yourself if you even want the plan and the client. Will it be a healthy relationship? Are you stretching your services? Are you the incumbent? If so, is it time to move on?

“There have also been times where we felt we were the ‘throw-away,’ or the one they included because they might have needed three presentations at the direction of the owner,” Mahoney concluded. “It’s still an opportunity to impress, and we’ve won business that way.”

Tolen Teigen

Tolen is part owner of Financial Decisions and serves as the Chief Investment Officer and Chief Compliance Officer. In his current role, Tolen is responsible for overseeing the investment portfolios for individual and institutional clients and specializes in retirement planning, estate planning, and tax minimization strategies. In addition to these areas of expertise, he also oversees the firm’s compliance mandates.

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