Sales for Funds & Founders

If you grew up where I did, selling was a dirty word, a necessary evil, something that people in sharp suits & wide ties did. For over 50 years, every industry we can think of has re-imagined its sales people as consultants, business developers, advisers, customer success officers and plenty more meaningless descriptors that don’t fool anyone, least of all the owner of the title…

The unforeseen consequences are severe.

A skillset that every business and organisation on earth must have is prized about as highly as the manufacturer of chocolate teapots. As a result, almost nobody trains to be a sales person and those that do are often told it’s a great stepping stone to somewhere else.

Allow me to illustrate the point a different way. I typed in ‘sales’ to the Harvard University & Harvard Business School course search engine and got back 2 options: for Bioengineering & Biomedical Engineering. I laughed and cried.

Consequently, great salespeople tend to be graduates of the Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Ryan Serhant & Jerry Maguire schools of selling which, although definitely valuable, don’t carry quite the same weight on the resume. I mean one of them isn’t even a real person.

Now, indulge me to apply this state of affairs to a newish fund management firm, a tech founder pushing to put revenue on the door ahead of next year’s Series B, or a mature asset manager looking to grow assets after a break. Imagine the scene, the offices (or collection of work from home offices) are peopled with superstar fund managers, analysts, technologists, coders, specialists & interns. By definition most of the aforementioned roles will come out in spots when asked to sell just as a ‘3 star Colonel’ sales person will barely be able to work an excel spreadsheet.

Most small to medium size firms in these verticals will have less than 5% of the workforce in sales and marketing. Of the 5%, less than 5% have had any formal sales and marketing training and of the 5% left (yes you guessed it) less than 5% have had any negotiation training. By my maths, there is almost nobody in any of these shops with any ability to close a deal! I’ve even seen fund management companies trial data loving analyst types as salespeople & tech firms deploy accountants as technical sales talent. Businesses with 10 people & no sales resource at all. And worst of all, firms who do a great job of committing their story, not their products to paper and media & then forget to hire any sales people to tell the story! Madness.  

And, this dear reader, in my humble opinion, is mostly why so many funds & firms don’t fulfil their technical potential & grow assets, revenue or brand. You can pay for online ads, get speaking gigs, create content, attend all the gatherings, conferences, events and summits as you like (including ours on December 7 2023 in Dubai!), but if you don’t add a MVP sales team skilled in networking, conversation, relationship building with sociopathic likeability tendencies and with energy levels off the chart, your outcomes will be middling at best.        

But, you thought I missed it didn’t you. Let’s return to the 2 most important words in the entire blog so far.

Negotiation training.

Wouldn’t you agree that there is a professional yet military, acceptable yet adrenalin rush quality to these two words?

Actually, the entire sales process is a negotiation. Although it’s easy for fund manager/tech types to obsess and focus on the features of the product or the decimal places on the price, negotiations (sales) are won only on human emotion and perception. A superbly managed fund will not sell itself given the competition out there and a downright average piece of software will dominate if driven into the market by crack, navy seal sales people.

I’m getting the irony, don’t worry. I said at the start that we all keep calling salespeople something else because we don’t want to scare the customers off. And here I am renaming them again, as negotiators. But I passionately believe that consistently great sales numbers come from 6 or 7 memorable and straightforward negotiation techniques which take a career to perfect but only a few hours to start. Because this is a blog and it’s already too long, my editor has told me to tease the 6 or 7 hacks and invite you to say hello and contact us at  info@dxb.partners if you’d like to get on a call with a real sales person and develop your own negotiation techniques.   

Distinguish

Make yourself memorable to your prospect. Avoid scripted, repeated pitches and don’t be afraid to say something bold & thoughtful early on.

Understand

Demonstrate that you understand the role, challenges & style of your prospect. Don’t be aloof to their decision-making process.

Elephants

Address elephants in the room early. Don’t let them fester & dominate the mood.    

Humour

Inject a smile or even a laugh if the going gets tough.

Time & Listening

Never, ever waste your prospect’s time & always remember you have 2 ears and 1 mouth…

That’s correct

Move the conversation to hearing these magic words, note not ‘You’re right’ which has entirely different connotations.

Be likeable & present options  

Never lead with solutions, present the possibilities and avoid creating resistance by appearing to direct a prospect to a single solution.

Happy selling folks (I mean negotiating).