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Lightweight 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?

Rick Pflederer of Van Kampen American Captial selected the Lightware VP800 LCD projector for their wholesale sales force.For 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 in nature."

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.

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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.