How embedded is your competitor’s product in the broker-dealer’s infrastructure structure? How does your pricing align with your value proposition? Have you built up a base of advisors who use your product?
These are just a few of the questions that we ask our wealthtech clients as part of our Sales Enhancement & Target Market Recommendations consulting engagements. We’re sharing seven of the questions we have found to be most important when gathering information from new wealthtech firms that are looking to sell software into the broker-dealer segment.
This article was written by our Head of Research, Jean Sullivan. Jean leads our efforts to analyze the many client segments in the wealth management space and better understand the decision making processes unique to each one.
“Learn to sell. In business you’re always selling; to your prospects, investors and employees. To be the best salesperson, put yourself in the shoes of the person to whom you’re selling. Don’t sell your product. Solve their problems.”
— Mark Cuban
We’re all selling something all the time. But that doesn’t mean you can sell the same thing to everyone in the same way. If you don’t know your customer and their needs inside and out, your likelihood of success drop dramatically.
Customers are often frustrated when vendors don’t understand this concept. And the broker-dealer market is no exception. One CTO at a leading broker-dealer put it like this:
“Don’t tell us that your firm will customize the software to solve our problems. Tell me what our problems are and show me how your product will help us solve them. How will your product make us better?”
There are more than 3,600 FINRA-registered broker-dealers divided into a few different categories: wirehouses, independent broker-dealers, regional broker-dealers, and bank/insurance-affiliated. These networks operate differently and have distinct characteristics which will influence your firm’s sales success. Technology vendors must understand what it takes to be successful in each distinct channel.
At Ezra Group, we work with many software vendors looking for advice on how to sell their products into the broker-dealer channel. Our team has extensive experience working with broker-dealers and we have done serious research into how executives make decisions on software and translated it into recommendations and actionable plans for our wealthtech clients.
Here are 7 key questions we use when evaluating the market potential for new technology products looking for traction in the broker-dealer segment.
1. Did you build a better mousetrap?
Technology vendors often focus on building incrementally better versions of existing products, instead of coming up with a completely new idea. The risk of a new idea is that it might flop. But if it succeeds, then you have created an entirely new category of software that will be difficult for competitors to match. An innovative solution is much more likely to gain broker-dealer clients.
If you have already built a product in a crowded category, it helps to ask yourself these questions:
- “Does our product offer a solution that significantly improves the way in which advisors and enterprises do business?” If not, then you have some work to do around improving efficiency.
- “Are we offering a compelling alternative to existing solutions?” If not, then you’re not likely to sell beyond a small niche of clients.
Spend some time creating a clearly articulated value proposition and then identify specific ways in which your solution is different from the competition.
2. How embedded are your competitors?
It is sometimes difficult to quantify how embedded a technology solution is at an enterprise. It can range from being deeply integrated with the firm’s tech stack over many years to a new and mostly standalone solution. The more entwined a competitor’s product is with the client’s key business processes, feeding data to other applications or powering dashboards, the more difficult they will be to unravel. Few firms will consider replacing an integral component of their technology platform unless there are serious problems with it.
3. Have you built a critical mass of advisors?
Most broker-dealers require a new technology vendor to show that there is some level of interest for their product among the firm’s financial advisors before the home office will conduct a formal product review. Building a critical mass of users at a target firm is an important first step in the enterprise sales process in this space.
However, due to the onslaught of vendors working the field, many broker-dealers are now exerting greater control by getting involved early in the evaluation cycle to ensure that home office and advisor requirements are aligned.
4. Do you have enterprise features?
Broker-dealers have unique compliance, pricing, risk, integration, administrative and configuration requirements. Software vendors must take into these issues into consideration when building out their enterprise-ready versions. Most clients will not take a vendor seriously unless they have a version tailored for the channel.
5. Do you have the low-cost alternative?
Most broker-dealers will not consider a new product based on price alone. A lower price is not enough to get enterprises to unplug existing solutions and adopt new ones. Additionally, firms are suspicious and question the legitimacy of any vendor that offers technology at a price that is significantly below competitive offerings.
6. Does your firm have an API strategy?
Many broker-dealers are interested in leveraging APIs that allow them to embed software components into existing technology frameworks. The tools are becoming easier to configure and deploy, making it easier for broker-dealers to build more of their own user interfaces and control the advisor and client experiences. The development of an API business model also creates greater revenue diversification for vendors.
7. How receptive is the broker dealer to third party technology?
Broker-dealers vary in the degree to which they will use third party software. Many broker-dealers, such as wirehouses, eschew third party tools using them only to fill in gaps or solve for a particular problem.
Some broker-dealers are highly receptive to third party software. These enterprises license software solutions to avoid ongoing maintenance and development costs. They also rely on their software vendors to provide thought leadership and future development roadmaps.
There is no way that a vendor can predict the preferences of every broker-dealer, but they cannot be ignored. Successful sales into the broker-dealer market requires intimate knowledge of each channel and the problems that the underlying firms are facing. Doing the upfront work to get to know prospective customers and their pain points and adjusting your sales strategy and marketing accordingly are critical steps to winning business in these market segments.