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Building Your DC Practice through Education

Successful DC plan advisors know that consulting is more effective than selling, and that it’s education, not your sales presentation, that wins business.

Successful advisors use education and consulting to differentiate themselves from less experienced advisors. But most advisors who use education don’t really understand how adults learn. When they do, they can further elevate their practice to win more plans, increase success with current clients, interact more effectively with participants, and build a more successful practice management system.

Adults don’t learn by listening — they learn by interacting. Adults also do not trust experts; beyond concern about what experts might be trying to sell them, plan sponsors don’t think that experts know what it’s like to be in their shoes. Take auto-enrollment, which to most industry professionals is a no-brainer. Beyond the costs, some plan sponsors are concerned that there will be lots of grumblings from participants and administrative headaches. When we tell them that they will receive few if any complaints and that the enrollment will be easier, they think that we do not understand. But when a peer — another HR professional — says that they use auto-enrollment and that there were no problems, the response is likely to be significantly different.

So how can advisors use this knowledge? When presenting at, or creating, educational seminars, remember to engage — stopping every five minutes to ask questions. Try to create exercises in which plan sponsors are teaching each other, and help your clients or plan sponsors relate their experiences with auto plans. Why not do the same thing with enrollment meetings or participant education?

Finally, try to participate or join in a local study group with your peers. With all due respect to the great value add that providers have created, there’s nothing more powerful than hearing what works, and what doesn’t work, from peers. For those afraid to share trade secrets with competitors, the reality is that there are no secrets and it all comes down to execution and, often, collaboration.

So remember: Slick does not work. It actually has the opposite effect. Try to position yourself as an educator through your own programs or, better yet, through third parties, which can serve as an implicit endorsement.