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Hancock Helps Brokers Through Bear Market

In January and February, when the market was falling, brokers were pleading with our wholesalers for help, said Kristine McManus, vice president of sales development with John Hancock Funds of Boston. McManus runs the John Hancock Business Development Institute which designs 10 to 12 often generic sales tools, seminars, and programs each year to help brokers build their businesses,McManus said.

Despite the fact that some markets have bounced in and out of bear market territory on a daily basis, brokers were saying that business was terrible, McManus said. So Hancock decided to create the "Bear Market Survival Kit." In late May, John Hancock began mailing the kits out. The bright yellow kits containsome humorous items and selling tips for brokers on how to increase their business and how to help clients through a difficult market.

"While the kit contains some serious content, it doesn't have to be all gloom and doom," McManus said. "It [the kit] told brokers that it was okay to lighten up a bit with humor. The message is that there are opportunities, and things you can do to make it work for you."

Each kit cost Hancock slightly under $10 to produce in house, McManus said.

"We want to distinguish ourselves from other companies," she said.

Hancock sent the kit to advisors recommended by its wholesalers, McManus said. It is also sending a modified version of the kits to intermediaries who respond to a mailing from Hancock which requests a quip, quote or story, McManus said.

The kit includes a Hershey chocolate bar, with a yellow over-wrapper designed by Hancock with a silhouette of a bear walking and imprinted with the words, "TAKE a BITE OUT of the Bear." There is also a circular cork drink coaster with bear paw prints and printed on it, the phrase, "I Survived The Bear of 2001!" There is also a black yo-yo labeled "The Market" on one side and "It takes skill to master it" on the other, along with a suggestion to call John Hancock Funds.

The kit, a corrugated cardboard box, which has a drawing of a growling bear on it, also includes a double-sided placard designed to stand on a desk and which reads, "Caution, Bear Market at Work" and a pocket breath spray labeled the "Bear-B-Gone Bear Market Repellant." It mimics Monster-B-Gone, a spray sold for children to ward off imaginary monsters.

The kit also contains several brochures and flyers that remind brokers to convey to customers that the downturn is only temporary and that markets are cyclical, said McManus. They also urge brokers to stay in particularly close contact with their customers during downturns. Charts in one flyer show past market corrections while another flyer contains a chart showing how stocks have outperformed other securities and outpaced inflation over the long run. Another enclosure enumerates eight common sense tips on handling unhappy clients such as empathizing with them, listening closely to their complaints, and asking them how they would like their problems resolved.

A brochure called "The Silver Lining" states that there is a bright side to the down market. It provides ten ways to take advantage of the bear market to building a broker's business. They include calling clients to answer questions, reassuring them and recommending alternative strategies, such as refinancing their mortgages, considering a Roth IRA, or selling investments at a loss to offset gains. Brokers are also given a short script to appeal to do-it-yourself online traders who have been overwhelmed by the market downturn.

A brochure called "Bear Traps" provides advisers with pointers on mistakes to avoid such as "don't create non-diversified portfolios" even when clients press for a particular security or sector. It also recommends that brokers reassure customers by pointing out that despite their losses, they will still have enough money to retire.