Strong networking is critical if advisors want to attract defined contribution plans, according to a white paper from Franklin Templeton.

According to independent market research firm Chatham Partners , 81% of plan sponsors actively seek advisors through recommendations or referrals from colleagues, peer organizations, or retirement plan service providers. In contrast less than a quarter of plan sponsors responded to advisor solicitation.

Top criteria cited by plan sponsors to screen potential advisors included personal fit/sales process (60%), pricing (53%) and experience/expertise (44%). Interestingly, only 5% cited a prior relationship as a qualifier during initial screening. Personal fit/sales process remained a top factor for final round selection.

"Business development strategies, built with an understanding of the factors driving plan sponsor decisions, are critical when vying for business in today's highly competitive retirement plan marketplace," stated Yaqub Ahmed, senior vice president and head of investment-only for San Mateo, Calif.-based Franklin Templeton Investments.

"In an environment where relatively few plans change record keepers in a given year, our research provides actionable insights advisors can use in building their retirement plan business." 

Plan sponsors surveyed for the paper, titled "Insights on Closing the Sale," represented plans collectively managing over $6 billion in assets.