We recently participated in a roundtable discussion on the Evolution of the Institutional Asset Management Job Market hosted by Fundfire. One of the most interesting topics from that conversation was the need for greater Emotional Intelligence (EI) and a higher Emotional Quotient (EQ) to build successful client relationships with institutional clients.
We thought it might be helpful to elaborate on three key areas – empathy, self-awareness and gauging audience reaction – because each is so important today.
An empathetic attitude makes your prospective or existing clients far more receptive to, and appreciative of, meeting with you. Today, your clients are asked to do far more with fewer resources, so their needs have become more extensive as their jobs have become more demanding. Coming armed to client meetings with thoughtful questions is a key way to demonstrate that you understand the more complex nature of their role. Frame those questions so your client has an opportunity to vent or de-stress with an ally instead of asking one-dimensional buying questions.
A deep knowledge of your own capabilities, as well an authentic, transparent and objective understanding of your firm’s offering, has become increasingly important. Simply suggesting how your offering might complement a client’s portfolio is insufficient. The sales process typically requires a richer, solutions-based discussion. Often, that means the ‘right’ answer you came into the meeting with won’t be relevant once you learn more about your client’s needs. Being self-aware can refocus the conversation on your client’s best interest and enable you to serve as a strategic advisor instead of a one-dimensional salesperson. With greater self-awareness, there is an opportunity to identify the best solution to suit your client’s needs as opposed to pointedly selling your strategy. The net effect: Long-term, quality relationships that lead to progressively more opportunities.
Gauging Audience Reaction
The art of successful client relationships is largely predicated on the strength of an individual’s interpersonal skills. As a result, accurately assessing your client’s communication style can make a huge difference in performance. A visual learner may find great benefit in a presentation. An analytical learner may prefer reports or spreadsheets. An auditory learner may simply want a phone call. Some clients like pithy, bite-sized updates. Others need to brainstorm or discuss ideas over big blocks of time. Introverted clients might open up more in a one-on-one lunch, while extroverted clients might be perfectly fine to meet in a social setting. Understanding your audience and calibrating your communication to your client’s preference is an art. Mastering that skill can’t be underestimated.
The Bottom Line
The growing competition in institutional asset management requires more than just technical investment proficiency or even the CFA® designation. Success happens when great investment expertise is complemented by a strong emotional intelligence and a high EQ. Reflect on your own EQ and gather feedback from colleagues and clients. It’s imperative to continually refine your approach to better serve your clients and more effectively earn the trust of prospects.