What I was never told about sales careers in investment banks

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I worked in sales jobs at both Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs in London. If you haven't worked in a banking sales role before and are thinking of applying, let me tell you that it is probably not what you're expecting.

The job is not about being good with people. Content, expertise and reliability matter more.

When you work in a sales job in a bank, uour clients will deal with you if you are nice to them, but over two equally nice people they will choose the one with the greatest technical knowledge, context and reliability. A salesperson that knows his trade and is there for the client day after day will go a very long way. As with most things in life, consistency and perseverance are among the most powerful predictors of career success. If you think you can build a career solely on the back of buying your clients drinks and expensive dinners, think again.

When you screw up, anything you say beyond “I am sorry” will be too much already

You will make mistakes, and you will make clients and traders angry. Accept it as part of your learning as you grow. When the mistake comes, raise your hand and say “I am sorry”.

Whatever you thought you could say after those initial three words should not get out of your mouth. No half excuses. Apologising should be a quick entry and quick exit process. The bolder you are apologising, the more respect you will gain from your clients and your colleagues.

Clients need you to listen to their needs, not recurring machine-gun pitching

I quickly learnt that a blanket pitch of an idea to all of my clients (the classic Bcc email) would never work. In fact, showing an idea to a client that cannot trade upon it will undermine your credibility.

Clients have different booking systems and risk management limits, and they will focus on some products and not others. Your first responsibility as a salesperson is to know your client’s positions, risk limits, and things he will or will not do as part of his regular trading. Only once you know those things you focus on selling.

I learnt to keep a spreadsheet with all my clients’ positions and currencies they were following at any given time (I was in FX sales). There is nothing more rewarding than calling a client with an update, when market moves are affecting his position, to find him or her away from the desk. Being on top of this stuff will go a long way when building a relationship with your clients.

A good salesperson will solve client problems FAST

Clients also make mistakes. For instance, they may do the deal the wrong way round, selling a stock when they wanted to buy it instead.

When this happens, you have two options: 1) Put yourself in their shoes, minimising the financial impact and the noise, and getting them a quick and fair solution, or 2) Be an ass with zero empathy that hides behind a sad “I have my hands tied” motto.

True fact: when your client screws up (and they will), you have a massive opportunity to take your relationship to the next level. It is down to you to take it, and to show leadership skills in the process. A thankful client will most likely become a great client down the road.

Former Investment Banker & Pro Racing Driver. Performance junkie. More @ rafaelsarandeses.com

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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