Financial advisors and brothers Mark and Jason Bradburn of Morgan Stanley Wealth Management don’t attend dinners or lunches when invited by asset managers. What does get their attention, Mark said, is when a manager brings in a business coach to help them or takes on the role of a consultant themselves.

“Some of the best athletes in the world have coaches,” Mark said, during Financial Research Associates’ Managed Accounts and UMA Summit in New York on Monday.  

The Bradburns are exactly the type of advisors asset managers want to get in front of. Mark said the team will bring in about $150 million to $175 million in net new assets this year, but about $75 million to $80 million of that will go to just two separately managed account managers. A large volume of their business is allocated to just five money managers, Mark said, so competition is tight. They’ve made one asset manager change in the last five years.

So how does a manager get a meeting?

“You have to come in in a unique way,” Mark said.

Bringing in a consultant or coach is one unique way to get in the door; Mark and Jason use Ralph DeSalvo of LD Professional Advisory Group. Besides, the advisors who want a coach are most likely the ones who are excited about their practice and growing—the ones managers really want to go after, Mark said. Many managers will want to work with $1 million producers, but a fast-growing $1 million producer has much more potential than a stagnant one. And the real potential exists with the very large producers who are asset gathers, not just “asset babysitters.” 

In general, wholesalers miss the mark when they come in and just try to get the manager’s product on their platform, Mark said. It's a relationship business.

A recent survey by Boston-based consulting firm Practical Perspectives found that advisors typically receive between 50 and 100 different marketing and sales contacts a week, the heaviest of which comes from asset managers. But advisors are three times more likely to pay attention to in-person visits than emails or phone calls, the study found.

“I think we as an industry have an old school servicing model,” said Vinay Nadkarni, managing director and head of financial intermediary distribution at Clearbridge Investments.

Managers need to shift to a “long-tail sale,” meaning the wholesaler is cultivating a long-term relationship with the advisor, Nadkarni said. That takes time.