LCDs key to Van Kampen mutual fund selling effort
Do you ever wonder how
your broker or financial adviser decides which mutual funds to recommend?
Van Kampen American Capital, one of the nation’s largest broker-sold
mutual fund groups, securing those recommendations takes the hard work
of a large professional sales force. But, according to Rick Pflederer,
Relationship Manager for IT and Sales at the firm, it’s a sales force
with a selling method very different from most. "Because we don't actually
close the deal with the end customer," says Pflederer, "or even ask
our brokers to sign a contract, we have to do something more educational
Sales presentations for Van
Kampen people are closer to training sessions than traditional sales
calls. They’ll sit down with a broker or bring a group of brokers together
to discuss the economy, the market, and Van Kampen’s offerings. Often,
they’ll make public presentations on the broker’s behalf. "If you've
had a notice from your broker," says Pflederer, "saying ‘we're going
to have a special meeting on this night at this hotel on the equity
market,' that would be our wholesalers giving the presentation. At the
public seminar they're not selling our company. They're helping the
broker out by helping him to sell the idea of investments in general."
Of course, the financial
services industry is very competitive, and Van Kampen’s methods are
shared by other firms. Yet, he says that "over the last few years, really
what's made our wholesalers stand out is the presentations they give."
To make sure their people give the best presentations possible, Van
Kampen purchased 110 Lightware VP-800 projectors last year, giving one
to each member of their wholesale sales force.
The choice of the Lightware,
according to Pflederer, was largely determined by size and weight. "A
year before we got the Lightware, I ordered 12 or 13 other projectors,
and the lightest one at that time was an eighteen pound unit. We also
bought an ATA approved case on wheels, and it was big. A few people
liked it, but because it was so big there was limited usage. The problem
was, you had a nine pound laptop on one shoulder and then an eighteen-pound
projector, plus brochures you had to carry as well. It was just too
much. Of course, once we saw the Lightware at nine pounds—that's when
everybody wanted one. So now we outfit our wholesalers with a projector
and a laptop. It's just standard equipment."
I asked Pflederer how the
Lightwares were holding up after almost a year on the road. "I would
say," he answered, "that we’ve only had maybe four or five that have
had to come in for repair. With as much traveling as they do, that’s
a very good percentage, especially since, now that the airlines are
cracking down on how many carry-ons you can take, our people are shipping
them through in their soft cases. They’re not supposed to check them
in those cases, but they're still not getting damaged."
If Pflederer isn’t worried
about service problems, it may be because he’s relying on United Visual
for repairs. United has been able to ship a loaner projector to any
Van Kampen wholesaler having trouble, and that’s kept their presentations
running on time and as planned. "I usually hear about it when there’s
a problem," he says, "but there have been no problems as far as I know."
With the entire sales force
using the Lightware, Van Kampen has been able to raise its presentation
quality another big step. "We’ve come out with a quarterly CD ROM,"
says Pflederer, "where we interview portfolio managers about their funds.
We can’t have our portfolio managers going around visiting everybody,
but this gives us a good way to help the brokers put a face to the funds."
In a very competitive marketplace, it’s yet another way Van Kampen has
found to give its people an advantage. The LCD program, so far, has
been a resounding success.