Retirement Plan Business
Get applause — and referrals — with successful participant enrollment meetings

6 MIN ARTICLE

Every interaction is an opportunity. That’s something Howard Martinez, an LPL Financial advisor based out of Brea, California, takes to heart when he conducts participant enrollment meetings. Unlike some financial professionals who view enrollment meetings as a perfunctory administrative exercise, Martinez sees these meetings as an opportunity to delight. When his audiences leave the room, he wants them to feel good — about their plan, about their employer and about him. “When I’m done,” he says, “I want people to line up to the lectern and say, ‘Thank you for bringing that guy.’”


Martinez began moving toward retirement plan business following the 2008 financial crisis, and now benefits from years of experience advising retirement plans exclusively. But you don’t have to be a specialist to run exceptional participant enrollment meetings. Even if you only advise a few plans, a little effort can go a long way toward helping you impress plan sponsors, position yourself for referral business and promote better retirement outcomes for plan participants.


Martinez cites successful enrollment meetings as a direct contributor to his high closing rate for new business. Here are his four top tips for leading attention-grabbing participant enrollment meetings.


1. Bring energy and enthusiasm to engage your audience


Martinez begins every meeting with an interactive script. Through a series of questions, he gets his audience engaged and focused on why they’re in the room listening to him. His questions include:
 

  • “Do you like where you are right now?” The thing about advice, he explains, is that you can take it or leave it. If you like where you are, leave it. If not, listen up.
  • “How many of you consider yourselves good with money?” At this point, Martinez explains, perhaps two of 10 people will raise their hands. He likes to joke with them, “If you’re good with money, then feel free to go to sleep.” 
  • “What are some habits of people who are good with money?” This question is designed to produce interaction. Often, people will list behaviors like saving part of their paychecks or considering value, not just price, in purchase decisions.
  • “What’s the best day to go to the beach?” Here, Martinez paints a picture of a busy weekend day at the beach versus a peaceful weekday experience. Then he tells the audience, “That’s what retirement is.” He explains that successful retirement planning gives you options and allows you to enjoy life on your own terms — and that it doesn’t happen automatically. It’s something you have to work for.

By the time this introductory exchange is complete, Martinez’s audiences are primed to receive information about their retirement plans in a way they wouldn’t necessarily have been if he had jumped right into plan details. In Martinez’s words, “The person who asks the best questions wins.”


As you consider how to energize your audiences, factor in your own personal style so you can engage with authenticity.


2. Make yourself available for participant questions


Martinez always passes out cards, or asks the employer to do so on his behalf, telling plan participants that he’s available to answer any questions. He also tells the business owner not to field calls about the plan, because that’s what he’s there to handle. He makes sure everyone knows that he’s the right person to call — and that he’s happy to answer.


Some financial professionals are reluctant to take this approach for fear of being bombarded by questions. “The perception is much different than reality,” Martinez notes. “The reality is, I get maybe two calls in a year.” However, the impression he makes by offering his services is a lasting one, and plan sponsors often appreciate his willingness to go the extra mile.


Another option to consider, depending on the size of the plan and scheduling availability, is adding 10- or 15-minute one-on-one consultations following the meeting. Just ask the business owner for a room you can use and a sign-up sheet so people can reserve time slots. This can be a great opportunity to form connections with people and help them answer questions they might not be comfortable raising during the presentation.


Martinez notes consultations are also an excellent time to ask for positive reviews. “At the end of the meeting, when I have employees feeling great,” he says, “I ask them, ‘Would you mind poking your head into the HR office and telling them what you thought of our meeting?’ If they get 10 or 15 people coming in to say, ‘I love that Howard guy,’ what do you think is going to happen when somebody calls to poach the plan?”


3. Come knowing the details of the retirement plan


As with many things in life, preparation is key. Before your enrollment meeting, Martinez suggests knowing the basic parameters of the plan. For example:
 

  • Is there an employer match?
  • What are the eligibility guidelines?
  • What happens if an employee quits, moves or is fired?
  • How do retirement plan loans work?

Additionally, you’ll be better positioned to engage your audience if you know a little about them first. Martinez suggests leveraging annual plan reviews to find out what the business owner thinks their employees would be interested in.


Some business owners may get a lot of questions about the statements and would benefit from a walk-through in the presentation. Others may have employees who are concerned about the economy and their account balances, or perhaps they have low enrollment in the plan. Ask them why they think that might be the case so you can address it directly.


Not only will you be improving the quality of your content, but you’ll also be strengthening your relationship with the business owner by actively seeking their input and buy-in.


You may also find helpful resources from your plan’s recordkeeper. Capital Group, for instance, recently launched ICanRetire.com, which can help participants understand their retirement outlook. You can also find resources to help you navigate the enrollment process, including logistical tips for conducting your meetings.


4. Leverage your success by asking for referrals


Martinez centers his enrollment meetings on making people feel heard and helping them make smart financial decisions. By doing that successfully — with enthusiasm and authenticity — he sets himself apart and positions himself to earn new business. He likes to ask wholesalers and recordkeepers with whom he’s cultivated relationships, “When you come across a plan where they’re unhappy with the advisor, will you think of me?” With his obvious passion for helping people, the answer is often an easy yes.


Even if you’re not looking to grow your retirement plan business significantly, you can still use enrollment meetings as an opportunity to strengthen relationships and promote better retirement outcomes for plan participants. Applause — and potential referrals — are just a bonus.


  1. Bring energy and enthusiasm to engage your audience.
  2. Make yourself available for participant questions.
  3. Come knowing the details of the retirement plan.
  4. Leverage your success by asking for referrals.

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