Wholesalers will be successful when they help advisors understand how their products fit into their portfolios, says John Meunier, managing director at Cogent Reports. "

The days of showing up at a Merrill Lynch office with donuts and catching up are over," he says. Indeed, gaining access to top advisors and centers of influence is a top challenge for wholesalers.

According to Cogent Reports, $100 million-plus advisors saw an average of 4.4 external wholesalers from mutual fund firms per month during Q1 of 2014, with a full 81% reportedly seeing at least 1 of the 44 firms tracked by Cogent. However, a closer examination of the data reveals that, on average, individual fund firms touched only 1 in 10 (11%) of the highly coveted $100 million-plus advisor population in any given month. In fact, 55% of high-end producers gave external wholesalers a neutral (52%) or negative (3%) rating, while fewer than half (45%) said they were more likely to invest in the firms' products as a result of the visit.

"It would appear that not enough preparation goes into the actual message they will deliver once a wholesale gets in front of an advisor," Meunier says. In other words, a one size fits all message won't cut it. The pitch needs to be tailored to the specific needs and interests of the individual advisor.

However, Cogent labeled a handful of firms - one in 4 - as achieving above-average ratings on both reach and impact. These 10 firms include BlackRock, Franklin Templeton, J.P. Morgan Funds, Lord Abbett, OppenheimerFunds, MFS Investment Management, Ivy Funds, Eaton Vance Funds, AllianceBernstein and Columbia Funds. "Clearly these folks are not only pounding the pavement, they've also got a message and products that are resonating," according to Meunier.

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