Practical Advice from a Wall Street Buyer

6 Aug

I had the pleasure of recently attending a presentation by a Managing Director of one of the top Wall Street firms. His topic was “How to Sell to Wall Street” for small companies, specifically IT ones. It was a great presentation and the entire audience had his full attention. What I found most interesting was that many of his points were not focused on how the sales rep sells to Wall Street. Rather, much of his focus was on setting the vendor’s senior management straight on their obligations to ensure success. I just wonder how many senior managers in the room understood the “what not to do’s” were targeted at them!

Wall Street firms spend money on solutions to:

  • Reduce their costs now. Not in 2-5 years but right now.
  • Support expansion of their high growth market areas. Don’t waste their time on incremental gains in saturated markets. And don’t expect them to tell you what their high growth markets are.
  • Stronger risk & control systems. The current economic crisis is affecting financial services firms worse than the bubble of 2001 did for technology firms. If you have system that helps them reduce risk and improve compliance, they want to know about it. But remember that everyone is pitching “compliance solutions” nowadays.

Selling at the CIO level isn’t the best bet:

  • There are multiple decision makers, all below the CIO level.
  • Tech decisions are made bottom-up by really smart people with a great mix of technology and business savvy.
  • CIO doesn’t have time or desire to pick your solution. They pay their people a lot of money and empower them to make the right decisions. Or get fired. Either way, your only hope with the CIO is that they refer you to one of the decision makers.
  • Work the administrative assistants. Don’t screw with them because they can be your worst enemy.
  • It’s a long sales cycle and they’ll demand aggressive pricing.

The Managing Director said that Wall Street and the metro NYC market is larger than continental Europe. Larger than the next 3 US markets combined. Therefore, “…get in anyway you can….make it easy to buy…legal, pricing, best tech people….but don’t give it away.”

His practical advice for selling to Wall Street:

  • Understand your customer. Yes, this is obvious but remember that the customer knows how important they are in the biggest market in the world and therefore how important it would be for them to be your customer.
  • Remember who has the money. The one with the money (the customer) is the boss. It’s their rules or no money.
  • Don’t out-arrogant arrogant people. They’re successful Wall Street people and you are who?
  • Send them your best. They’re the best so send them your best.
  • Don’t send them resellers. Wall Street wants to work directly with the manufacturer.
  • Give them consistency in sales. Don’t send a new rep every 6 months or worse, a new Sales Engineer every 3 months.
  • Don’t break the process. Use their NDA. Use their license agreement. Don’t redline the agreements so that they look like your agreements. Let your business people review the contracts, not your legal team. Don’t make it hard for Wall Street to do business with you. They won’t.
  • Have a local NYC presence. A rep traveling in from Los Angeles or even Boston doesn’t cut it. Wall Street is the biggest market so invest here.
  • They all talk to each other. If you have cool stuff, they’ll tell the rest of Wall Street. If you fail to heed the advice from above, especially the parts about being too arrogant or not sending your best, they’ll tell the rest of Wall Street that, too.

He summed up his practical advice by repeating “…get in anyway you can….make it easy to buy…legal, pricing, best tech people….but don’t give it away.”


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