Last week I attended a virtual conference for sales executives of the asset management industry. Someone made an interesting observation that I would like to explore today. The remark was how do we remain motivated in the short term when the success by which we’re measured within our jobs is generally achieved over the long term? The protagonist of the observation suggested that by looking at your entire life – work and home – that the use of hobbies can achieve a good balance of personal reward. I wondered if we could focus purely within the work function to achieve the drive and inspiration we crave?
First, a bit of context. The sales cycle for an investment management product/strategy can be a very long one – potentially a number of years. This is particularly the case as the industry moves to ‘consultative selling’, in other words understanding your client’s requirements and configuring a solution that meets those needs rather than simply offering an ‘off the shelf’ product. A customised solution will often involve multiple decision-points by the institutional investor and a number of different teams within the asset management organisation – perhaps across asset classes and certainly involving product development, risk, operations, fund structures and distribution. This multi-party approach inevitably elongates the process and can, at times, be frustrating but of course the ultimate goal is to achieve the right solution for the client.
The customised solution can bring its own motivation, through the achievement of milestones. The milestones would include the initial acceptance by the client to engage, the mental gymnastics of creating a solution, the buy-in to the proposed approach – both from the client and also from a commercial perspective within the asset management firm – all the way through the various markers of the design to the eventual launch and adoption by the client. From start to finish the solutions approach can be rewarding in of itself; even if the financial motivation – when remunerated on the revenue flowing into the strategy at the end – may be longer awaited.
But can we maintain that motivation when we are looking at ‘off the shelf’ solutions? In this instance the process tends to be one centred around client engagement – from the initial approach and getting to know the individuals at the client organisation, through to understanding their needs. It is a rare client who will be looking for exactly the product you are offering at the initial engagement, so patience and constantly understanding their changing requirements is essential. For this type of engagement, I sought the sage advice of the internet and found an article published in Forbes – How to survive long sales cycles.
The author offers 5 tips for thriving in the sales cycle:
- Tip 1 ‘getting your pre-sales and marketing on track’ – in other words do the leg work and research your potential clients and consider the marketing material and approach most likely to prove successful in getting their attention.
- Tip 2 ‘befriending your CRM and doing follow ups’ – ouch, I hear the multiple groans reflecting painful memories of copying and pasting call reports from multiple systems into the CRM. Whilst I can relate to that pain, since going it alone and being able to configure the CRM to my own needs and ways of working, I am a convert and a big believer in ensuring it is up to date and frequently refreshing the reports on activity and follow-ups required.
- Tip 3 ‘knowing your deal-breakers and when to compromise’ – this is perhaps reflective of a later stage in the cycle, when the need has been identified but what you have either doesn’t fit the bill or maybe too expensive. Some organisations can be very flexible on tailoring a product to a client requirement or discounting a fee; others are ‘take it or leave it’. It is essential to know which your organisation is and your scope to be able to negotiate points.
- Tip 4 ‘ensuring the line of communication remain open’ – it can be a difficult balance to stay in touch with your potential client whilst not taking up too much of their time that they resent your approaches. I always found diversity helps – in how and why you meet the client and also the information you provide.
- Tip 5 ‘avoiding defeat’ – be persistent and focus on the partnership with your client/prospect rather than seeing it as a ‘one-sided sales pitch’ or to quote from the article: “..build not just business, but also personal relationships. Sometimes being able to close a deal comes down to human factors such as trust and reliability.”
I suppose maintaining the motivation comes from doing the best that you’re able to do and taking pride in the process – whether that is the conversation with the client or ensuring your CRM is up to date! Staying personally motivated can – as our protagonist suggested – also involve stimulation outside of the workplace so when faced with a dreary day in the office there is always a bike ride in the countryside to lift the spirits!
 How to survive long sales cycles, Sep 17 2019, Denis Kostusev – VP of Business Development at Itransition, a software development company.