The relationship between advisers and business development managers is one of the most crucial (and profitable) in the financial services industry – if it works. However, the argument that brokers increasingly see BDMs as irrelevant, with little power to help their businesses has re-emerged as of late.
Do you think your BDM is only good for free coffee? Then perhaps you should have a conversation with him or her – because you might be the best person to teach them how to be a better BDM.
BDMs are simple creatures: they’re responsible for the development of relationships with advisers, retention of existing business and new business sales. That’s more or less it. However, the effectiveness of a BDM comes down to two critical skills: the ability to build, manage and influence relationships, and being relevant to their clients’ businesses. Most BDMs are good at the first part. That’s why they were hired in the first place. However, the second part is more difficult – and is where you come in.
First, you can help your BDM understand your business, including how it fits into the entire distribution chain. This is where your BDM’s café loyalty card comes in useful. You have an intimate understanding of your clients, the market and insurers. You can provide invaluable insight for a BDM just through talking to them –and making sure they listen.
The smart BDMs will listen. They’ll learn about your business. They’ll go away and work out where they – and the companies they represent – can be more relevant to you. BDMs shouldn’t just be pushing the latest product bells and whistles: they should understand your problems and find the right solution. In that respect, you can teach BDMs an awful lot. After all, your livelihoods depend on solving problems every day.
You may argue that it’s not your place to train BDMs, and that their employers should do more than just give new BDMs a list of advisers, a budget, a credit card and a car. Admittedly, employers should do more to support BDMs. It’s also not worth wasting your time on every BDM that walks through your door. But I would urge you to make the time for the BDMs who are worth the effort.
To BDMs, I say that you should take ownership of your own development. Seek out role models – brokers and other BDMs – buy them as many coffees as they can drink, listen and learn. It will only help you get better at your job, and more relevant to brokers.
Really good BDMs operate in our market every day. You know who they are: they’re the BDMs you look forward to dealing with, because they make themselves relevant and they get results. But good BDMs aren’t born – they’re made. By working together, brokers and BDMs can improve the performance of BDMs as a whole: and that’s something everyone will benefit from.
Peter Marshall is development manager at underwriting agency ProRisk.