No, I am not indicating that the future will be void of human contact, nor am I down playing the importance of relationships. I am simply conveying that people now have a strong aversion to being “sold” to.
This is especially true for institutional investors. They want to feel in control, that they have objectively made the decision to approach you, not the other way around. You will never convince an allocator of anything. They don’t want to be convinced. You can, however, present information in a logical manner, and let them arrive at their own conclusion. How you present that information is “the sell”.
Are salespeople still critically important? Absolutely. Like anything else, sales is a respected profession. The difference today is that “the sell” has to be invisible: the salesperson is an omnipresent, supportive force that is unknowingly guiding interest, influencing opinion, and shaping the path forward.
IN THE OLD DAYS, YOU COULD GRAB PROSPECTS BY THE ARM AND PULL THEM IN YOUR DIRECTION. THIS IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE. MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, THE “PROSPECT” IS AS INFORMED, OR EVEN MORE INFORMED, THAN YOU ARE.
It is critical to keep this in mind when approaching investors. For example if an allocator is looking for a real estate fund, there’s a good chance they have spoken to a lot of managers running real estate strategies. If you enter into that conversation claiming to be “different,” it actually does you harm if the last 10 managers are making the same claim. This is a big point. Investors tend to have a way more informed outlook on the competition than you do. (Have you recently talked to 20 of your competitors…probably not.)
When shaping your sales process create an environment where the prospect falls through your information. The process has to feel natural. There can’t be any hard turns or twists. The fabled “close” can’t feel forced. The prospector’s journey should feel natural.
Lets look to the industry for an example. How many of you have forwarded an investment deck inquiring as to whether or not an investor might be interested? My guess, pretty much everyone, myself included. My point, if you do this cold, you are actually making the process more challenging. (And recognize that I am not promoting something you read in a marketing textbook. I solicit investors more than most people. I am just commenting on what I find works and does not work.)
In the old days, investors welcomed the prospect of looking at something new. Today, with all the modern forms of communication in play, investors are approached so frequently that they are actually put off when people ask for money. Even though they need us to survive, rightly or wrongly, you are looked down upon when you show up with your hand out.
So what’s the alternative? You create content that is inspiring, thought provoking and interesting. If you present this information with the appropriate tools in place, you can begin to profile interest when the investors start to circle. (And if you do a good job of creating the information they will undoubtedly begin to circle. Again, investors like to feel they “discovered” something.) Have you asked for money at the point? No!
The next step is to engage the investors in conversation. As the dialogue progresses you eventually reference some statistic or example that is derived from your own experience or strategy. If done correctly the investor is going to comment and take an interest in what you are doing. Again, you haven’t yet asked for a dime. Once you do start talking about your strategy, the investor is going to ask for more information. This is the pinch point, the hard part, gut check time, if the investor doesn’t ask at this stage the chances of you getting any money from that investor is slim to none.
This is a good example of how an investor can fall through the information. At a certain point there will be nothing left to say other than, “I can forward off some sub docs if you would like?”