The asset management sales interview – what really matters?
Fram’s sales & marketing practice has a long established track record of working with firms hiring asset management sales professionals. It’s a competitive field, often seen as a glamorous and rewarding environment to work in, but it’s hard work. At a senior level it can be stressful, integral to firm’s future success, and boards can be uncompromising in their expectations that assets are delivered.
We’ve outlined below some of the things we feel firms are interested in assessing when they interview candidates, but we also hope it acts as a guide for hirers too.
- Market knowledge
The best salespeople are students of the industry. They live and breathe it. They are familiar with industry news, they know who the key people in competitor firms, they are aware of new product launches, they understand the regulatory environment and they are expert horizon scanners. This enables them to understand the competitive landscape and a particular firm’s position within the market. At Sales Director level this is key to developing the correct strategy and to future proof a business. It’s imperative that sales professionals can demonstrate this knowledge in an interview.
- A quality assessment of the interviewer’s firm
In our experience, firms like to interview individuals who have not only read up on the interviewer’s firm, but who have evaluated its prospects and who outline a basic plan. There are clearly constraints on what an outsider can know before an interview, and interviewees need to qualify this, but they should demonstrate that they have some good ideas for how to succeed at a potential new employer.
- A repeatable process
Too much emphasis is placed on salespeople having outstanding personalities. It’s a cliché, often a myth, and something too many hirers over-romanticise about. There isn’t such a thing as a “typical” salesperson at a surface level (more of this later).
Top performers often have a process they follow, that they could document if asked, and that they could share with others. The ability to share this knowledge is extremely important in the context of the fact that great salespeople are often asked to become managers. The reason the transition from star performer to terrible manager often takes place is that firms have often chosen the salesperson who can’t articulate how they are successful. To make it to the very top and to lead a sales function the ability to coach others is a valuable skill.
- They know their numbers
Top performers seem to have an uncanny ability to tell you what they achieved for most years of their career. They wear the stats as a badge of honour. Poor performers are often vague on numbers, they will point out what the business did or didn’t achieve rather than what their contribution was. Again, some strategic awareness can creep into this part of an interview. Top performers are often aware of the relationship between investment performance, price, and the effect on their asset gathering efforts.
- Ability to build relationships across a business
Assets can often take time to arrive – particularly in a turnaround situation. During this build phase, sales directors need to get the whole business onside. From fund managers, who they may need to coax to meetings, to the operations director who they may ask to reconfigure processes to accommodate new business. Most importantly, they must be able to build a relationship with the C-suite to ensure that they are kept updated on the progress of the strategy. These concepts are also applicable for less experienced hires, who must be able to build relationships across a business.
We don’t believe in stereotypical salespeople, but we do believe that those who make it to the top, as in most things in life, have grit. Our earlier article explains this further.
In short, psychologist Angela Lee Duckworth, author of ‘Grit – the Power of Passion and Perseverance’ studied high achievers over time, initially in education, but also in business and other settings. “in all those very different contexts, one characteristic emerged as a significant predicator of success," Duckworth says. “And it wasn’t social intelligent. It wasn’t good looks, physical health, and wasn’t IQ, It was grit”.
For this reason, we would strongly advocate personality profiling individuals for positions in sales (for more information on this, please do contact us)
Whilst the above isn’t a comprehensive list of everything covered in a sales interview, we feel they are the core of most interviews and we’d advise both candidates and clients to give them significant consideration.
Fram Search is a specialist financial services recruitment firm, which was established in 2010. Our clients include asset managers, private equity firms, wealth managers, and hedge funds. Fram’s Sales & Marketing practice focuses on experienced hires right through to “marzipan layer”.