Depending on the circumstances, your written work, your physical presence or even a phone call will be your first introduction to a prospective investor or allocator. Your personality comes across in your correspondence as well as in person. Whichever way you start a relationship, your goal should be to make a positive, lasting impression.
Correspondence and Written Materials
I continually get emails from traders that have typos, two different sets of fonts, spacing errors, inconsistent use of the “&” sign (“&” in some places, “and” in others) and numbers (“1” in some places, “one” in others) and many other typographical and grammatical errors. Many don’t have the proper disclaimers at the bottom of them, when they’re clearly soliciting assets. Many don’t have a contact person’s name or may have the name but not a phone number, should they want to reach out to the firm.
Are you guilty of this behavior? What does that say about you to the recipient of your email?
You’re rushing to get something out there.
You don’t run your marketing material through spell/grammar check.
Your message isn’t clear as to why you sent the email (leaves too much room for interpretation).
You don’t consider the compliance consequences of what you send out.
The big concern is that the allocator starts to ask himself/herself: “Why should that behavior be any different within the rest of this person’s office? “ And they move on.
An average DDQ (Due Diligence Questionnaire) has 257 questions. One of the reasons it’s so long is that it give the allocator the ability to frame some of the same questions in different ways, to see if the respondent is consistent in their answers. It also allows the allocator to see if the respondent actually answers the questions or if they go off on a tangent that has nothing to do with the question. What do you think that tells the allocator when they’re hunting for the answers they’re seeking, but can’t find them?
Things you can do to improve correspondence:
Spell and grammar check all documents
Have someone else review your work… critically!
Print out a copy of whatever you’re planning to send and proofread it. Things always look different in print. And some words that are real can be ignored by spell and grammar checks but still misspelled in the context in which you use them (form vs from, lair vs liar).
Wait at least 24 hours before sending an important email.
Never send any correspondence to anyone if you’ve been drinking.
· Have a clear message, ensuring that the recipient is able to interpret it the way you want them to, not the way they decide to.
Up Close and Personal – Your Appearance
Business statistics show that when you meet, you have only seven (7) seconds to make an initial impression on your prospective investor. Within the first few minutes of the encounter, your prospect is making rapid assessments about your appearance, your intellect and your business acumen. The first impression lasts the longest. And it’s very hard, if not impossible, to reverse it.
Dressing appropriately isn’t just important. It shows that you respect your business and your prospects/clients. If you look successful and confident, then others will have more confidence in you as well. Lose the jeans, the sneakers, the tee shirt and even the rumpled shirt. Showing up to a meeting poorly dressed – and poorly groomed - says that you don’t care enough about the meeting to bother making an effort. When you’re dressed properly, there is also nothing to distract from your message.
Your body language is another key thing prospects now notice. If you slouch, you send the message that you’re either not interested in the person or the conversation or worse; that you’re afraid - of them – or yourself. Sit and stand straight and naturally, with your shoulders back, arms at your side and head up. That indicates that you’re interested, enthusiastic and ready to do business. Don’t cross your arms; that show that you’re defensive. When listening to someone, face them with your shoulders squared to theirs. Maintain eye contact with them. Remember, the meeting is not just about you. The allocator wants to know that you’re focused on him/her and what they have to say. They’re looking for ways to intellectually and emotionally connect. They’re looking for trust; they’re on high alert for anything that smells of dishonesty – verbal and non-verbal.
Additional things to consider when meeting face-to-face:
These points are seemingly common sense but you’d be surprised how often people don’t think about them:
· A good haircut and/or shave
· Neat and appropriate amount of make up
· Clean and appropriately groomed nails
· Brushed teeth
· Buffed or clean shoes
· A neat, organized briefcase and/or purse (equally neatly organized!)
· A business card that is clear, easily readable and doesn’t have the name of the printer on the back (because it was a cheaper way to go…)
· A genuine smile
You can dress someone up, but can you really take them out in public? Are you sure they won’t embarrass you with what they say? Here are two phrases to remember: “Open mouth, insert foot” and “Engage brain before putting mouth in gear.”
People don’t practice the art of conversation anymore. Emerging managers tend to be on a mission; they’re afraid a meeting will end quickly so they frequently race to get as much information to the prospect as they can verbally spit out – as quickly as possible. Or they go the other route; they clam up and give one word answers. Both show a lack of ability to properly express yourself. The prospect, however, has clear objectives. They want to know that the manager they’re considering putting their money with is intelligent, trustworthy, professional and HUMAN.
Here are a few tips to help navigate the verbal landscape, be it in person or on the phone:
Listen! What is the person saying or asking you? Focus on the comment or question. Speak to the comment or answer the question. Don’t deviate or embellish. Whatever they asked is important to them, so it should be important to you, too.
Don’t interrupt! Let the person finish their sentence and their thought before you interject yours. It’s polite. It’s respectful. It’s professional.
f you’re on the phone with a prospect or an investor (or any professional), don’t let the person hear a dog barking or children crying in the background. Translation? I work out of my house and have no separate work space designated for my business. I’m really at an early stage…but I want you to trust me, nonetheless.
Above all, being genuine is critical. Remember that clients know when you’re acting or giving answers that come out of a book. And no, not every client is going to like you or need the services you offer, so look for those signs. Don't be upset or continue to pursue them; just go onto the next prospect.
From the very first contact to the (hopefully) ongoing relationship with a prospective investor, everything communicates information about you. Each event either reinforces someone’s initial impression or brings into question who you are and what you’re offering. The key qualities you want to promote over and over, with everything you write, say and do are Trust, Competency and Professionalism.
As always, conferences are great ways to practice both physical and verbal communication. There are many firms that specialize in each of the topics I mention above to help prepare you for successful correspondence and meetings before, during and after conferences. If you feel you could use some help in the above areas and want some names, as always, feel free to contact me.