Smart Strategies for Success When Selling Software to Broker-Dealers

“Don’t sell your product, solve their problems.” –Mark Cuban

I’ve spent the past two decades working with companies on both the buy side and sell side of fintech and have picked up more than a few tips on what works best when it comes to marketing and selling software in the wealth management space. 

One of the niche markets I get asked about most is broker-dealers. This is most often from product vendors who have had success in the RIA segment and are now looking to move upmarket to larger firms. They need answers to a bunch of key questions in order to build their go to market strategy, including:

  • What are b/ds looking for in enterprise software? What specific functionality do they need that isn’t normally part of RIA applications?
  • How do b/ds make their buying decisions? Who are the gatekeepers?
  • What are the right pricing models to use for b/ds?
  • How do you get these gatekeepers to consider your product, and what does it take to get them to buy it?

To get a broker-dealer to the table, a good first step is to build a base of their advisors as paying clients. No matter what your product is, a broker-dealer will rarely talk to you before you have enough of their advisors using it. (See The Velocity of Technology Change is Increasing: What Can Advisors Do To Keep Up?)

One question you need to ask before continuing is “does the b/d already work with one of your competitors? And if they do, is it part of their core advisor offering or just an option?  If the former, you’re dead in the water and should probably move on to greener pastures. if the latter, you have a chance to get your foot in the door and should continue reading.

This requires some planning and persistence to target advisors from the specific b/d you want to sell into.  Depending on the size of the b/d, the minimum number of advisors could be as low as 20-30 for smaller firms or as high as 100 for national IBDs.

The next step is to build out the enterprise features that a b/d (or a very large RIA) is going to need to manage your product across their firm.

This includes support for administrators to configure important parts of the system as well as create different roles with different access rights, the ability to onboard individual advisors or independent RIAs or OSJs, and an admin dashboard to monitor key metrics. 

Compliance features will also be required for certain products that touch client accounts, onboarding, risk assessment, financial planning, trading or other areas. These could include workflows that allow the compliance team to approve/reject things. An immutable audit trail will also be required to keep track of all system changes. (See Don’t Bring Us Vaporware, with John Rajes, LPL Financial)

Basic integrations are also important as most b/ds are working to build more seamless solutions for their advisors. This requires integrations across key applications that are able to pass the data advisors need for their regular business processes.  

Application programming interfaces (APIs) will be a requirement for those enterprises that have built their own user interfaces and have the development manpower (either in house or outsourced). They will expect you to provide APIs for your important data and functions, documentation of all calls, sample code and a developer sandbox for testing.

Pricing models also must be adjusted when selling to b/ds since the number of users could be in the hundreds or thousands (fingers crossed) and these firms will expect tiered discounts or other forms of enterprise price points. You’ll need to sharpen your pencil with your head of sales and CFO to ensure that you can still generate enough profit to make these deals worthwhile. (See Advisor Group’s eQuipt is a Quantum Leap in Onboarding Technology)

Once you have gathered enough of their advisors as clients and have built out the necessary enterprise features and decided on a pricing model, you’re ready to approach the gatekeeper with your sales pitch.  But even if they’re interested, you’re not home free, since you’ll have to pass through the double gauntlet of compliance and cybersecurity checks.

We won’t go into detail on either of these, but let’s say you will need a dedicated person for each of these processes to answer all of their questions and shepherd your product through to approval.

Now that your product has been approved, you should do your best to impress the senior decision-maker that your software should be offered to all advisors as part of the b/ds core offering. This could be a make-or-break point since being approved but outside of the core means that you will start from scratch and have to sell into their advisor base like an asset manager does with wholesalers.

This is not an easy task!

It’s much better, but more difficult, to be included in the core offering, since they b/d will often pay you as though all advisors are using it (with a hefty discount) even if they aren’t. This saves you the sales work and also having to bill for the exact number of advisors actually using your software.  

Finally, don’t forget about support and long-term relationship management. Now that you’re on their platform and a good portion of their advisors are using your product you need to keep them satisfied! That means excellent customer support, six sigma uptime, regular updates with new features and strong relationship management to stay in touch with key executives.

Congrats! Now you’ve got your first b/d enterprise client! Now use what you’ve learned and start on the second one.  

Schedule a free consultation with us to learn how we can help your firm improve your chances of landing a broker-dealer client.

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ABOUT ME

The Wealth Tech Today blog is published by Craig Iskowitz, founder and CEO of Ezra Group, a boutique consulting firm that caters to banks, broker-dealers, RIA’s, asset managers and the leading vendors in the surrounding #fintech space. He can be reached at craig@ezragroupllc.com

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