Delaware Investments is one firm that has adopted a consultative sales approach with its wholesaling unit. Last year, Delaware shifted all distribution of its products to Lincoln Financial Distributors, the distribution arm of its parent company, Lincoln Financial Group.

The move was intended to eliminate a product silo distribution model in which wholesalers sold only certain products depending on the unit of the company they worked for, said Lincoln Financial Distributors CEO Westley Thompson.

Wholesalers working under the new organization need to have an understanding of a variety of products in order to provide a single source of information for their customers. The company's 171 external wholesalers are now divided into groups that target the regional wirehouse, independent financial planner, bank, managing general agent and retirement channels, he said. "Our emphasis isn't just to market the hot fund, but to truly look at opportunities to work with brokers and address client needs directly," Thompson said.

That new consultative sales model has made it easier for Delaware to recruit top-notch producers well-versed in a multitude of products, Thompson said.

However, the shift in strategy had a negative impact for some wholesalers who were laid off as a result of the change.

Under the old model, each sales force had its own marketing and communications department. Those 26 positions were eliminated.

In addition, 11 external wholesalers who sold life insurance products to independent planners were laid off when those positions were handed off to internal sales representatives who could target the widespread channel more efficiently.

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