Dan DiDomenico, President
There is a lot of time, money, and energy spent in getting a meeting with a potential institutional investor.
However, there is not always the same level of dedication to mastering what you do when you get in the room. At my firm, Dakota, we have done thousands of pitches, raised over $30 billion, and learned the hard way what works and what doesn’t work.
As I mentioned, in investment sales, there’s a huge focus on getting the meeting, often at the expense of planning what you’re going to do during and after the meeting. This oversight is a critical misstep that often goes unacknowledged.
Anytime you make a presentation, there’s a lot at stake – and not just for you. Every time an allocator recommends an investment product, they’re taking career risk. Every time you sit down in a meeting to present an investment strategy and you ask the institutional allocator to invest, they have a choice to make. If they do invest and the strategy performs poorly, it could cost them their job.
That’s why the pitch itself is pivotal. For the institutional investor sitting across from you, no is the safest answer. It’s your job to make them understand your strategy on the deepest level possible.
A strong sales pitch can be a true game-changer, but getting there is almost counter-intuitive. While the goal is to win a mandate, you cannot win the mandate in the first meeting, but you can lose it. The only goal of a first pitch is to get to the next meeting, where the allocator is required to do more work on your strategy. In order to get to that next meeting, you must be able to have your listeners really understand the foundation of the strategy and get inside the head of the portfolio manager (and therefore their investment process).
These seven ideas can help you in that process.
Every allocator wants to know the same things about your firm: AUM, location, year founded, tenure of PM’s, history, employees, product structures, ownership and length of track record, just to name a few. Answer all those questions in your opening remarks and avoid having to have your potential allocator ask you those basics or sit there wondering about them. It allows you to spend more time where the value lies, in Q&A, where you can have a conversation rather than a monologue. You know what they are going to ask, so tell them upfront.
People are naturally drawn to stories. Bring your story to life. Your pitch should be framed as a story, a narrative you tell about your investment strategy to help buyers better understand it. Yes, institutional investors need numbers, but they also need the story of how you got to the numbers. A narrative provides context and a linear structure to the data. The numbers should be a natural output of the story. This takes practice and thought because you literally have to tell people what they want to hear. In this case, they want to hear a captivating story about what makes your firm and strategy unique. We all have unique stories, it’s our job as sales professionals to bring it to life.
Bring your story to life. Get deep into the work the team does on a daily basis, but skip the jargon. People get nervous and use industry-specific jargon when simple words and language work best. Avoid trying to look smart. Instead, look to educate your buyer on who you are and what you do. By overusing big words, we can all look a little silly, and you risk losing your audience. Carefully choose short words that will animate your story in a way that’s both memorable and understandable.
Look around the room. How is your audience position? What is their body language? Are you talking too much? Are they drifting off? Are they asking a question but you or the PM are not answering it directly? If so, stop, acknowledge it, and ask them what you missed or where you could go deeper. The best investment sales professionals run the meeting, and a key part of running the meeting is reading the room. Be aware of your audience at all times and re-center the conversation if it starts going sideways.
This could be the best advice I ever got: answer the question your audience asks. Do not say “I’ll answer that after I say what I want to say” It's happened to me so many times in meetings, where the allocator asks the PM a question and the PM says: “I’ll come back to that.” Answer their question directly, even if it’s off of the current topic. You and your team are not the important ones in the meeting, the investors are the important ones; answer their questions.
We have a rule at Dakota. When asked, “How was the meeting,” you cannot say “great meeting.” That term is banned. Why? Because successful investment sales pros know that unless they got a commitment for $10 million in the meeting, it’s not a great meeting. They also know that they need to find out where they truly stand by asking the tough questions. For instance, at the end of a meeting say: “Susan, we enjoyed our meeting today, but do you see yourself doing a large cap growth search in the next year? If so, do you think we could be included?” If Susan’s answer is no,, then you have saved yourself a ton of time.
Additionally, try to get a commitment for a next step or a follow-up meeting. Ask them if they intend to do more due diligence on your strategy. It’s a completely fair question to ask given the fact that you just spent an hour together. In this instance, you can say: “Susan, we really enjoyed the meeting, but do you believe your team will be willing to do additional due diligence on our strategy?” We measure our team on their ability to get a next step.
Follow-up is critical, and it’s where most sales people fall down. The more personal and contextualized your follow-up, the better. Provide content on particular areas of interest and address specific questions from the meeting. Whatever you do: follow up! There are stories throughout the industry of legendary sales people begging for a meeting, getting the meeting, getting interest, and never following up. Follow-up! And I don’t just mean following up right after the meeting, but in the months ahead. Always be thinking about what you can send your prospects to better illustrate your investment process and connect them to who you are and what you do.
We operate in a world of long, long sales cycles. Stay on top of your prospects, be patient, and follow up consistently, even long after the first meeting. The best tool to leverage your time is a CRM, which helps manage all your accounts, contacts, activity, and pipeline reports. Through your activity (meetings completed) run 30-day, 60-day and 90-day reports that trigger you to follow-up. It’s one of the best ways to leverage your time.
The elements that make a meeting flow are truly next level and often, not intuitive. Keep these key things in mind next time you land that big meeting: get the key questions off the table early, use simple language, answer their questions directly, bring your story to life, read the room, ask the tough questions at the end, and follow up religiously.
We have all sorts of tools, tips, and techniques to help investment sales professionals, so please reach out with questions. Book a time on our calendly link or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.