Whoever coined the expression “Money talks, bullshit walks” was clearly never in sales.
I’m in a search to find the new Me: a lucky candidate to take on my old role, now that I’m moving up the ladder. But…how, dear diary, to put this without seeming arrogant…most people simply haven’t got it. ‘It’ is hard to define but I’ll know it when I see it.
Selling institutional fund management to Asian bureaucrats is about relating to your clients. It’s not really about understanding their problems and addressing their concerns. It’s about convincing them that you understand their problems and will address their concerns.
In the process of searching for the new Me, I’ve developed William T. Fitzgerald’s 10 Commandments of how the successful salesman – or saleswoman! – conducts himself. Or herself. Whatever.
1. Be like a rich guy who comes off as a regular Joe
Never speak of money, which is beneath your dignity, and of course totally unrelated to your goals and motivation. You’re in it for the passion! Anyway, doesn’t everyone share this lifestyle? Do mention how you occasionally spend your precious free time at ‘the club’ without ever specifying which one. For advanced sales techniques, rehearse casual remarks such as “I’m so bored of our place in Bali, it’s so much less real than camping on the beach” and “It’s actually been fun having the Toyota for a couple of weeks since Tamara crashed the Merc”.
2. Associate yourself with greatness
While I was in the US, Integrity paid me and about 700 other people to attend a three-day ‘management course’ hosted on the Harvard campus. This consisted mainly of irrelevant case studies and games catching eggs dropped from second-floor windows. Never mind: my resume includes Harvard Business School. It’s not a lie. Besides, I’m plenty smart for Harvard; I graduated sine laude in the top 73% of my undergraduate studies.
3. Edit history (aka the Bill Clinton Rule)
Simply pretend the less successful bits of your life/career did not happen. For example, nobody knows I got sacked after just five days from the asset-management arm of Swiss bank Suckham & Cie for ‘irreconcilable differences’. Hey, it’s the Bill Clinton Rule: don’t ask, don’t tell.
4. Assume that you are already doing your boss’s job
It’s only a matter of time before you’re in his seat, so why not carry yourself like you’re in charge? I spend my time wining and dining the CEOs, FDs and VIPs of the regional institutional investment industry. I need to have the right title on my business card. So, for those occasions when ‘VP – Sales North Asia’ doesn’t quite cut it, I’ve had some other business cards made up with ‘CEO – NJA Business Development’ under my name. It took some persuading (and HK$1,200) to get the printers to copy the original, but boy it was worth it.
5. Never be at a loss for words
Your job is to know everyone and everything about your firm, and be able to answer anything straight away. Always remember that you know more than they do, and have a few stock phrases ready for action. Evergreen responses include “Performance has been tough but they’re really turning the corner now”, “You shouldn’t believe everything you read in that rag”, and “She was just helping me get some dust out my eye”.
6. Make selective typos
Never get a client’s name wrong, but throw in enough typos of competitors’ and ex-colleagues’ names to demonstrate your lack of interest and/or their lack of worth. I really don’t know why this works, but everyone does it, even those guys at Ignits Asia. [Isn’t that one of those dodgy Wanchai bars? – Ed.]
7. Intimacy is a weapon
Use selective personal revelations to make people feel as though you have opened your true self just to them. Example: I have a small, discreet tattoo (Che Guevara. I was young. Don’t ask where). Sharing this with clients and with members of the opposite sex, always after a few drinks, makes them feel like an ‘insider’ and stores up goodwill for future exploitation.
8. Be busy and important all the time
Make your time appear more valuable so that your clients appreciate you more. Play hard to get: never accept a meeting time straight away, and reschedule, on the same day, informal catch-up meetings at least three times in every five. “Something came up with a big client in Omaha” is one handy excuse.
9. Beijing is the new Yale
This is actually more of a corollary to Rule 8. David Swenson is so 1990s! The true salesman can use this to hit several of my rules in one go. For example: “Sorry to cancel, babe, but my Beijing client is taking up all my time on this strategy. Trust me, upgrading to First for the slog up there isn’t as fun as it sounds, but that’s what they pay me the big bucks for. Not only that, but I have to miss my Harvard reunion at the club. Well, I’ll show you the tat next Friday, I promise!”
10. Shake hands like a man. Even if you’re a woman
But you knew this already.
Think you’re master of all 10 of William T. Fitzgerald’s sales commandments? You can pull it off with convincing sincerity? Send me your CV!
William T. Fitzgerald is a fictional character, as are all the other individuals and companies in “RFP Diary”. Any resemblance to the living or to real firms is purely coincidental. Will’s adventures continue fortnightly.