“Don’t call us, we’ll call you”: The intermediaries’ attitude to asset management sales people, and how to get around it

Who make up a sales team?

Most asset managers maintain a distribution field sales team with a headcount somewhere between three and six people – with smaller groups having one or two staff, and larger groups supported by a further headcount of ‘Business Development Representatives’.

Typically, the field sales team follows the “80/20 rule” of B2B organisations: a core focus on the 20% of accounts that deliver 80% of the revenue. These are the major, ‘named’ accounts where small changes in favour of the seller can generate large capital inflows. Each rep works their own patch, with efforts centered on improving the asset managers’ place on ‘buy lists’ and gaining access to lucrative discretionary authority.

Double glazing selling it is not: the field sales team is invariably highly experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable (not to mention highly remunerated), and is often possessed of personal relationships that go back years if not decades. These relationships provide invaluable access to senior decision makers including Fund Selectors, Discretionary Fund Managers and Wealth Managers who have approval to act on behalf of investors: the handful of people who collectively exercise financial clout in the millions and billions.

 

So far so good if you already have a foot in the door…

…but, gaining access to this audience when you are not well-known in the market is extremely tough. In a recent study conducted by Cerulli in partnership with Investment Week, intermediaries were asked ‘how would you prefer an asset manager you don’t work with to approach you?’ Precisely none – zero – said over the phone, only one in ten would agree to a meeting, and a similar proportion would rather you didn’t contact them at all.

The best option, the survey revealed, is to meet them on neutral ground at an event, tied with introducing your proposition on an email. And just about everyone who has worked in sales knows the polite reply to your phone call of ‘send me an email’ is actually clear British idiom for ‘go away’.

In fact, across the board, intermediaries would prefer to see product specialists – those people at the fund group who are close to the running of a fund or the fund manager themselves – not the sales person. They particularly value engagement with actual fund managers. But fund managers have a day job to do – and it isn’t sales
Clearly, if you don’t have a relationship in place with a senior contact, or if you are new to the account, you will face a fairly steep challenge in getting your message in front of decision makers – and even more so if you are a boutique player whose brand name doesn’t necessarily open doors.
 

So how do you get a foot in the door?

Well, arguably the secret lies in giving them what they actually do want and leveraging it. In the survey, when intermediaries were asked ‘what information do you find most interesting to receive from asset managers’, the number one answer – ahead even of the performance of specific funds they have invested in – was market commentary. 

 This is the purpose of B2B content marketing: to attract and engage decision makers, and to leverage that engagement to create selling opportunities. Ultimately, the purpose of content marketing is sales lead generation. Sales and Marketing teams should work in harmony so you can:
  • Engage intermediaries with interesting content that they value, and use digital performance marketing techniques so you can engage at scale – and amplify the reach of your sales team.
  • Feed intelligence from prospect content consumption analytics into distribution Sales, and empower Sales to use marketing intelligence to create warm calling opportunities that generate face-to-face engagement.

This is what we term true sales and marketing alignment. And the asset management groups that are the most successful at achieving it are going to be the groups that create the greatest prospect engagement, the highest volume of selling opportunities, the most efficient use of sales resources, create superior relationships, and ultimately – all else being equal – superior revenues.