Institutional investors want to buy asset management services that address their specific objectives and needs. They abhor being “sold.” How does an asset manager win business without “selling”? The answer lies in the ABC’s of communication – Authenticity, Brevity and Clarity.
Asset managers who do all the talking or who give the same cookie-cutter, “all about me” presentations to all audiences, fail the authenticity test. The most effective communicators have several common attributes. They:
- Do their homework to learn as much about their client, prospect or consultant before they call, meet or present
- Prepare and ask appropriate probing questions to elicit objectives, interests, concerns, challenges, and to promote dialogues
- Personalize their communications in context to the client’s/prospect’s/consultant’s objectives and concerns
- Listen well
- Follow up and do what they say they will do
Importantly, the best communicators genuinely put the client’s/prospect’s or consultant’s interests first. Good communicators make certain there is a relevant fit. They also convey the benefits of developing a relationship and of working together.
For successful written and verbal communications, less is more. Fifteen-page presentations are more effective than 100-page tomes. Long-winded explanations and over-answers to questions are the kiss of death. Use the “power of three” to frame your points. For example: “We have confidence in the repeatability of our process and consistency of alpha for three reasons: First, our investment philosophy and process that have delivered over multiple market cycles. Second, the depth and tenure of our investment team. Third, our exceptional risk management.” Also limit responses to questions to three sentences. Allow people to ask for additional details if interested. For example: “We sell stocks for three reasons…Would you like me to give you an example?” Avoid run-on sentences and empty phrases such as, “If I may…,” “I would like to…,” and “I’m going to tell you.” When you are concise, it is easier for people to absorb your information, and they are more likely to ask you more questions and engage in a dialogue with you. Above all, honor requested time constraints and finish early when possible.
Institutional investors must understand the process that achieved a track record, and have confidence in the repeatability of the process and track record. The most important way to accomplish this is to “show” versus just tell. Give examples and tell stories to bring your process to life. Cite facts and figures to show the depth of your knowledge. Avoid using industry jargon and define any technical terms you do use. Show “videos” versus snapshots of portfolio characteristics and composition over time. Show performance attribution to help investors understand whether the majority of your returns come from stock selection or a combination of disciplines. Manage expectations and be clear on periods when your strategy can be expected to outperform and to underperform. Show performance over rolling periods, and to qualify and attract long-term investors. When you partner with clients to develop a customized solution, define benchmarks by which they can measure your success, and be transparent. Invite questions and confirm that you have been clear.
Being a skilled communicator is essential to long-term business success, as well as to strong long-term relationships. While we all know people who are naturally gifted communicators, the reality is that most people need to work at communicating well. It is easy to pick up filler words (“so, and, uh, um”), or for analytical types, to use tentative language (“we try,” “we think,” “kind of,” etc.). A valuable source to observe brief presentations by strong, effective, inspiring communicators is Ted Talks (www.ted.com/talks). You can be certain that these speakers have been coached and all have rehearsed. Mastering the ABC’s of Communication is an ongoing process that requires commitment, thought and practice.
“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.” – Brian Tracy
Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., a preeminent marketing consulting firm to asset management firms ranging in size from start-up firms to some of the world’s largest investment firms with over $1 trillion under management. Charnley & Røstvold helps clients with competitive positioning, marketing strategies, key messages, presentation refinements, communications and sales training, consultant relations and client service programs.
Christine Røstvold, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Christine was a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources), and served on the Advisory Board for more than a decade.