I posted a thread earlier in the month and there was a lot of interest in techniques and tips for cold contacting investment bankers so I thought I would share what I know.
First things first, I'm not an investment banker. I'm a data room sales rep with an extensive background in cold contacting (email/phone) investment bankers internationally. If you're working on M&A teams in North America there is a good chance I've called you. I've managed to create a pretty big network primarily from cold contacting so I'm here to offer basic sales tips and insights on methods that may work for you.
Note: I highly recommend reading the book How To Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. It's a pretty quick read that will help you understand how people communicate and how to leverage it to your will.
Disclaimer: I know very little about the recruiting cycles in banking and less about what specific traits/achievements recruiters look for. If anyone who has been through the process wants to chime in I will be happy to edit this post to create a better resource.
Before we get any further I wanted to emphasize that landing an interview will have very little to do with Investment banking. Sure, you may be able to pump out DCF models faster and more accurate than anyone else but it's irrelevant if you aren't given the opportunity to display your skills. In reality, getting an interview is a sales process in which you are selling yourself.
Cold Contacting Strategy
Anyone who tells you they enjoy cold calling and emailing people are lying to you. The reality is that you're going to interrupt someone and it's uncomfortable. The big thing to remember is that as long as you are polite and aren't overly aggressive with your contact volume very little bad can come out of cold contacting. Think about it, the last time someone cold called for a service you weren't interested in how long did you remember them for? 20 seconds? the same applies here.
There are 4 main topics relating to cold calling: tools, targets, timing and content.
Contact Information Gathering
Zoominfo/data.com are the two go to tools for getting phone numbers and email addresses. It's important to put an emphasis on direct phone lines. If the email isn't there it's alright, banks follow a uniform email format so a quick google search can land you any email(i.e [email protected])
Email tracking is a very important tool that has become common practice in sales and marketing. There are a lot of providers but the only one I've tried and can vouch for is Yesware.
The service is about $15/month but completely worth it. You will be able to track when/how many times your email was opened, if the email has been forwarded, and if any attachments have been clicked or opened. This is all useful information in gauging interest and gives you a better idea of where you are gaining traction.
Admittedly, this section is the weakest in the guide. I know my targets in my sales process, but I know this probably changes in terms of recruitment. If anyone wants to chime in here I would love to edit this to be as accurate as possible. Anyways, I've taken my best guess and added insight on what I know.
Analysts: Probably not decision makers in hiring
-From experience, Analysts are understandably the least likely to donate their time. In the case of recruitment they aren't your best target.
Associates: Worth contacting but shouldn't be your first target
- Associates are usually more willing to spend a minute or two to help you out. I may be wrong but I would imagine their role is more evaluating people already in the recruitment funnel. As a non- target you may want to aim slightly higher.
VP/Director/Principal: These guys are your sweet spot and my recommendation for targets
- My initial thought was these titles would be too busy/senior to get a hold of and generally not willing to give you the time of day. I was wrong. Internal data proves that these targets spend the most time on the phone and have the highest conversion rates. These guys have more pull and may be able to help you make meaningful progress. Don't be afraid of their titles.
Managing Director: Obviously your ideal target, MD's are generally pretty social and definitely have the pull for you to create meaningful opportunities
- Unfortunately, these guys are heavily gated and hard to contact. In BB firms it's near impossible that a cold request actually gets seen by an MD. They literally pay secretaries to protect their time and to act as a filter to make sure only important inquiries get seen. In boutique firms you might have better luck, use your judgment for these guys.
Timing and follow-up are very important when trying to get in touch with someone.
in terms of specific timing, the best time to email/call someone is from 4-5pm and the best days are Thursday/Friday.
In sales we use a term called cadence, which is pretty much consistent steps to attempt to contact someone. I would recommend the following cadence:
Attempt 1: Email
-wait 1 week-
Attempt 2: Call & leave a voicemail. Explain that you are following up on an email from attempt 1
-Wait 3 business days-
Attempt 3: Call - No voicemail
-wait two business days-
Attempt 4: Follow-up email (make sure to send it as a reply to your initial email)
At any point in this process, if they contact you, take them off the cadence. Use Excel to track each person and which step of the process they are on.
General: Investment bankers are among the most intelligent and skeptical people on the planet. In general try to be concise and avoid bullshit.
The goal of your emails should be to try and get someone on the phone or out for a beer/coffee. In person contact resonates 1000x greater than an email or call.
Explain who you are and why you are reaching out.
Explain why you want to work at X firm and why you should be considered.
If you are trying to advertise yourself stay away from subjective terms. I.e "I'm hardworking/motivated/etc" This is literally meaningless bullshit and everyone applying for any job will say it. Instead, provide objective examples that demonstrate this behavior. I.e I achieved an x GPA/I lead my schools finance club to achieve x/etc. You get the point.
Now we go ahead with our "ask" which is for a call or meeting.
Avoid a general asks such as "I would love to meet for a coffee or beer". Instead, do some research. Find a place near their office and make your request specific. I.e "I would be willing to meet up and buy you a beer. How does X bar on Thursday or Friday evening work?"
Your complete email should be no longer than a paragraph. Once you're done email it to yourself and read it on your phone. How does it look? If you received an email like this would you read it? If not, make some changes.
Plain and simple cold calling sucks. With that said, stats prove calling has a greater impact than email and can be a very powerful process when trying to achieve our goal.
You have to accept that you are going to interrupt someone but that's okay. Just like the email we want to keep this quick. Make sure to quickly identify yourself, bankers get called frequently by clients and it's important you bring down their guard asap.
In terms of wording, stick to a format similar to the email. briefly explain who you are and how you believe you can help their firm/team.
I hope this helps. I will be sticking around to answer any questions you guys have. The process can be pretty daunting, but keep in mind you only need one opportunity to work out to land a gig.
Mod Note (Andy): Best of 2016, this post ranks #43 for the past year