Investment Banking – Winning New Clients
Why are some investment bankers more successful at winning new clients? Here’s my take…
The winning formula that determines your success in landing new clients turns out to be a function of: Credentials, Competency and Likability.
Credentials are garnered from previous, relevant deal experience.
To the potential client, relevancy of deal experience is determined by successful outcomes with previous client companies of the same size and the same industry. Of these, similar deal size is the most important (not much smaller and not too much bigger).
If your deal experience is also within the same industry, you will appear smart and the client will feel like “you get it”. Because you have previously marketed to and interacted with other firms within the client’s industry, you already have an in-depth knowledge of the players in their space and a reasonably good idea of the potential buyer universe, both financial and strategic. This is worth a lot, especially with first-impressions.
From the potential client’s perspective, competency is the most difficult quality to ascertain because it is mostly evident in the banker’s actual performance AFTER the banker is hired.
However, BEFORE being hired, potential clients primarily gauge the competency of an investment banker based on these observations:
- Credentials (discussed above)
- Quality of website
- Quality of pitch materials
- How articulate the banker is
Of these, the easiest to improve are the website and pitch deck. Work to make both aesthetically pleasing with easily digestible prose and ample white space. The most successful banks have simplistically understated designs.
Also, references are more believable if they also include firms for which the transaction did not close, but who will say that the investment banker was professional and excellent to work with nevertheless.
Great investment bankers are smart, engaging and, most importantly, they are likable. Much of investment banking is about being likable. You can be a rock star in Excel. You can know your finance and valuation theory. You can know the client’s industry and all the players, but if your “That Guy”, the client simply won’t hire you. We’ve all met That Guy at some point.
But it’s not enough to simply not be That Guy. Successful investment bankers are professionals at being likable. They are understated, thoughtful and polite. They are good listeners and ask good questions. They are genuinely curious about their client’s business and the client’s life goals. They are also OK with not landing the deal.
Several years ago, I was talking to a friend who heads a well-known M&A firm. He was relaying to me a conversation he had with one of his friends who had been very successful at landing new clients. Their conversation centered around the question: “What’s the secret sauce to engaging new clients?”. My friend’s friend had concluded that the M&A industry is so saturated with people of inflated egos, especially at the bulge bracket level, that his down-to-earth approach that’s measured and thoughtful was refreshing to clients. In other words, his secret sauce was simply being himself and being likable. That’s a good lesson.
Win new clients with Credentials, Competency & Likability.