Blog Are Your Salespeople Prepared for the Future?

Posted August 10, 2017 by Jason Dauwen

In 2011, the Institute for the Future (IFTF) – an independent, nonprofit strategic research group – published a set of ten skills necessary for workers in 2020. This list is still relevant today and can be applied to workers of any stripe, but they are particularly interesting when applied to the modern salesperson at an asset manager.

Here are just a few of the skills and how we think they are relevant to asset manager salespeople today and in the coming years.


Sense-making is the “ability to determine the deeper meaning or significance of what is being expressed.” For a salesperson, this might include the ability to determine a more in-depth understanding of their prospects and customers by interpreting and analyzing data from disparate sources.

We believe understanding Business Intelligence (BI) data and reports, for example, will increasingly be a necessary attribute of the sales role. Data analytics will provide undeniable benefit to sales targeting with rich insights into how those targets should be approached, content and products they may have an interest in, and what their decision-making process might be.

Making sense of these insights becomes increasingly important for salespeople who will have to apply them to the real world of sales engagements. For example, if the BI organization is able to determine which advisors are using models, and of those using models, which advisors still take some discretion in selecting products for the models, that information is useful. However, these findings alone won’t increase sales of products that would be a good fit for those models. You need a salesperson to understand the advisor’s specific goals and show how the value proposition of the asset manager’s funds will help the advisor reach those goals.

Distribution Solutions Salespeople Prepared for Future illustration

Novel & Adaptive Thinking

Novel and adaptive thinking is “proficiency at thinking and coming up with solutions and responses beyond that which is rote or rule-based.” For salespeople, this is the ability to look beyond the status quo for solutions – to be able to find new, creative ways to solve customer problems/challenges.

For example, if an advisor being targeted by a salesperson wants to position her business to be more holistic financial planning rather than portfolio construction, merely pitching a mutual fund product might not resonate. However, perhaps if the salesperson could position the product as part of a tax planning strategy, it might be more persuasive.

The salesperson might even connect this advisor to an industry expert that can offer tax planning strategy as a service and explain why the product fits into the strategy in a way that goes beyond product selection. Novel ways of positioning products and being adaptive in the way products are presented could be a major competitive advantage for sales teams.

Design Mindset

Design mindset is “ability to represent and develop tasks and work processes for desired outcomes.” For salespeople, this may be the ability to design and develop sales processes that focus on the needs of the customer and deliver exceptional customer service. For example, if advisors in a salesperson’s territory are no longer taking meetings with salespeople from asset managers that are not on their preferred manager list, sales teams (hopefully working in tandem with marketing) must develop strategies that can put their value propositions in front of advisors without the benefit of that meeting. Perhaps sales and marketing could work together to design customized pre-recorded virtual meetings that would highlight why advisors want to meet with the salesperson as a way to get in the door.

Another example of using design-mindset might be in the way territories are defined. Rather than assigning salespeople to targets based on geographic location, perhaps the sales team could design a coverage method that is based on customer needs.

New-Media Literacy

New-media literacy is “ability to critically assess and develop content that uses new media forms, and to leverage these media for persuasive communication.” More than half of advisors say their interactions with asset managers will be largely digital by 2020. Being effective in driving sales through digital channels, then, is going to be very important for sales teams. This may require more collaboration between sales and marketing organizations or "upskilling" salespeople to be effective in digital channels. It may even require some asset managers to hire or train digital salespeople who are experts in selling through digital and social channels.

The rest of the list is relevant for salespeople, too, and as we move close to 2020, you’ll likely see these skills more frequently and see direct correlations to changes in the industry. For example, as big data becomes even more relevant in the day-to-day operations of companies, computational thinking may become a necessity.

Our industry is not impervious to change. Consumer expectations are changing, and advisors will change to meet those expectations, changing their preferences and practices in the process. Does your sales force have the right skills to succeed in 2020?

The next report in our series Prevailing in a Changing Distribution Landscape is Preparing Sales Teams for Change. The report focuses on how sales organizations will need to evolve to adapt to a quickly changing distribution landscape.

Jason Dauwen
Business Research Consultant
Research, Analytics, and Consulting

categories: wholesaler compensation, marketing strategy, advisor engagement/client engagement, advanced analytics

The views expressed in this publication are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of DST Systems, Inc. or its affiliates, subsidiaries, joint ventures, officers, directors, or management.

Of Interest...

Want to stay current with our latest Blog posts?
Subscribe to receive blog updates by email.


For More Information