“Confidence is preparation. Everything else is beyond your control.”
~ Richard Kline
You receive the call that you have been waiting for – “Yes, you are one of four finalists. You need to have your team at the prospect’s offices in Charlotte three weeks from Wednesday for an 11:00 a.m. presentation.” They request a portfolio manager, and let you know that you have 25 minutes of formal remarks and 15 minutes for questions. The rest is up to you. What do you do?
You can just select a portfolio manager who is available to attend with you, make travel arrangements, order the books and fly out the morning of the presentation, discussing on the flight who will cover what during the final.
Or, you implement your Preparation Plan for a Successful Final.
First, you ask the person who called you if there would be time for a call to learn more about the prospect. If yes, you schedule a call. If no, you ask your questions right then. Key questions are:
- What are the main reasons for the search and what are they looking to accomplish?
- Who are the participants and what are their roles? How knowledgeable are they?
- What were the key reasons you were included as a finalist? If for replacement reasons, ask who was terminated and why.
- On what do they want you to focus?
- Are there any specific questions, objections or issues they want you to address?
- Who are the existing managers, who are their competitors and how do you compare?
- Will they share their Investment Policy Guidelines or any other materials with you?
- Is there an opportunity for a breakfast, lunch or dinner?
- Is there anything else you should know but haven’t asked?
Second, you research the prospect’s history, searching for press releases, articles, professional background, or speeches. You review the entity’s website. If a public plan, you review any meeting minutes and the manager line-up. You research the competitors, seeking to understand their competitive advantages and disadvantages relative to your own. You prepare a summary of your history with the prospect’s organization and the consultant (if there is one), what you learned from the phone conversation, and the research you conducted on the plan and competitors. You include the names and professional credentials of the individuals to whom you will be presenting. You create a list of likely questions and of tough questions that you may be asked, with concise, positive responses. You circulate the RFP response to be reviewed by anyone presenting.
Simultaneously, you review and decide who will be the optimal presenting team, and share the Preparation Plan documents with them. You arrange a meeting to agree on content, who will cover what, time allocations, logistics, attire and rehearsal times. You arrange to fly in the night before to have rehearsal time free of distractions from the office and to ensure you will be on time for the final.
You schedule your first rehearsal at least seven working days before the final. You have someone role-play the prospect and/or consultant. Using a prepared form that systematically and objectively reviews content and delivery of each presenter, you practice giving the presentation. You debrief, noting aspects that can be improved. You develop a personalized, succinct opening and close, and practice giving them. You note other areas where you can customize the presentation to the prospect’s areas of interest. You time each segment.
After rehearsing the presentation, you decide where it can be shortened, where transitions can be improved, and who will need more work to deliver as strong a presentation as possible. You practice responding to the likely questions and any tough questions you have been getting in the marketplace. You keep responses to about three sentences to permit the audience to ask for more information, and to avoid over-answering. You plan how you will resume the presentation after responding to questions. You practice using the names of the individuals with whom you will be meeting, and the name of the plan or prospect entity.
After you arrive at your destination, rehearse again, and make any final refinements. You all agree on a time and place to meet. The next afternoon, at 11:00 a.m. sharp, you walk in the room. As you meet your audience members, you smile, shake their hands and use their names. You are prepared.
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.
Jackie Charnley, co-founder of Charnley & Røstvold, Inc., is a popular industry speaker and author. Jackie serves on the ICMA-RC Board, a not-for-profit company serving the financial needs of over one million public employees. She was also a founding board member of PAICR (Professional Association for Investment Communications Resources).