Tips From the Trenches. Part I: You Never Get a Second Chance to Maket a First Impression
While sales and marketing may seem easy and straighforward, it is imperative that novices understand the nuiances that exist in the industry they are working within. The investment management arena is full of these potential obstacles and it is imperative that you understand the dos and don’ts if you want to be successful in raising assets.
Being in the investment industry for as long as I have, over 30 years, I have seen a lot. The honest truth is that there really are not that many stellar sales professionals out there. I have seen many raise assets because they had a great strategy or because they were in the right place at the right time, rather than because they were great at what they do.
The last several years have been difficult, for sales professionals Even the best of the best are struggling. Sometimes, being good is not about actually raising assets, but instead putting your best foot forward to weather the storm and position yourself for a recovery. With this in mind, I have laid out some of the hard lessons I have learned throughout the years.
“You never get a second chance to make a first impression”
It is not unusual for people to get into the market before they are truly ready. While a couple of weeks may seem like an eternity for a manager looking to raise assets, the truth is that success lies in the planning.
Once you are out in the marketplace it is game on. There is no turning back. If you create interest, you need to be able to deliver. Whether that means providing the requested collateral materials or scheduling a conference call or meeting with the key decision makers or having your data available in all of the prevalent databases. You can’t tell someone who wants to learn more about your strategy now to hang on while you create the materials they want, get them the data they need or fix your website because it still shows people who have not been with the firm for years.
The other thing that you need to plan for your “dirty laundry”. These are those little secrets about things that have happened internally that not many people know about. In this industry you need to be ready when these things facts come to light. They always do and often they have a way of surfacing at the wrong time, making you look dishonest or like you are not telling evaluators the entire story. Many times, it is better for firms to take responsibility for who you are and control the narrative. The only way to succeed is to be yourself and to have a well-crafted way to articulate those stories you would rather keep locked away.
Embrace who you are rather than trying to be a single provider to every investor out there, if you are not you will waste the time of the decision makers which will only piss them off if they think you tried to hide it from them.
Be introspective – Take off your rose-colored glasses and realistically determine your firm’s strengths and weaknesses.
If you can’t be honest about your weaknesses - find someone who can be.
Identify your key competitive advantages and always state them up front.
Be prepared to answer to difficult questions. Take the time to think about the questions evaluators may ask you and come up with a short and concise answer that addresses their concerns.
Develop a full suite of collateral materials. You will need to have this done before you start making sales calls so that you can immediately follow-up after you create interest.
Ensure that your materials contain key information that evaluators need to know to move forward with your firm. Don’t make them search for it. It is just one more reason for them to not look at you further.
Have you presented your investment process in an understandable way? Ask someone not in Portfolio Management to review your materials and then ask if they understand what your key take-aways are.
Be sure all consultant and third-party databases are populated with current and accurate information before making any introductions.
Consistency is critical. Present the same information, in the same manner across all materials, databases, RFPs, presentations, etc.
Databases are more important today than ever before. Ensure that PMs are involved in the review process so that the information submitted represents what they do and not what marketing thinks they do.
Don’t forget your website – it is one of the first places evaluators go to look at your firm.
No matter how long you have been in the industry it is important to practice your sales pitch. Lack of preparation can often lead a presenters off on a tangent. Sometime it is just too difficult to get back on track without leaving the evaluator with an incorrect impression that something is much more important than it is.
Make sure everyone is telling the same story.
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