Planning: 6 Core Components of Your 401(k) Business Plan

Written By: Chris Barlow
Date: April 2015

Building a business plan to guide your 401(k) sales and services activities will improve your probability of achieving your goals. I see it every day working with Advisors like you. There are six core components to your 401(k) business plan. Your business plan can include many more, but the purpose of this article is to focus on the core components.

1) Value Statement

Your Value Statement is your “workhorse” throughout the sales cycle. It is used in marketing collateral, sales presentations, and service initiatives. Your Value Statement answers the question prospective plan sponsors want you to answer, the “Why You?” question. Your Value Statement will inspire you and keep you focused on what makes your business uniquely valuable to you and your stakeholders. Developing a Value Statement forces you to think about the direction of your business and to commit yourself to certain courses of action.

2) Description of Target Prospect

You don’t need to pursue every available prospect in order to accomplish your goals. You should start and stay choosy as to which plans you pursue. Know why you are choosing a particular prospect. What industry, number of employees, years in business, number of locations and value of the plan to name a few descriptors. It has never been easier to obtain specific information to screen your target companies.

3) Prospect Stage Definitions

Defining the stages of your prospects will allow you to monitor your progress and better predict your future acquisition outcomes. Having prospect stage definitions will also allow you to monitor your or a team members activities. Definitions for Cold, Qualified, Appointment Candidate, Warm and Hot prospects are developed in your plan.

4) Goals

If your new client hasn’t already stated them to you, one of the first questions when first meeting with them is, “What goals can I assist you to achieve?” And if they stumble in addressing their goals you assist them to define them. Do the same for your business. Goal setting covers the “why” you are doing what you are doing.

5) Activities

Activities are the actions you take along your journey toward accomplishing your goals. It’s not so much what you accomplish, as it is what you did to achieve it. There are two phases to the 401(k) sales cycle and therefore two categories of activities you execute to accomplish your goals. They are Acquisition Activities and Retention Activities.   Acquisition activities take place during prospecting, profiling, and sales presentations. Retention activities include implementation and ongoing service. Define and execute your activities persistently over a prolonged period of time and you will improve your probability of achieving your goals.

6) Monitoring

You hold yourself accountable to executing your activities when you monitor them. Execution is the number one issue I discuss daily with Advisors. What does a great day, week, month, quarter, and year look like for your Acquisition Activity outcomes? As you begin your journey, frustration can become your greatest impediment to your long-term success. Monitoring your activity shows you the progression you are making daily and inspires you to carry on.


Chris Barlow is founder and Managing Director of KnowHow 401(k). Chris has been active in the group retirement plan marketplace for over 30 years working as an Advisor, Sales Trainer, Wholesaler, National Sales Manager and Strategic Director within some of the top companies in financial services. For more information go to,

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