When selling services, whether liquidity, technology or specialist ancillary services to retail brokers these days, sales, and the method by which it is conducted, is critical. We look at how top industry professionals consider the sales channel in today’s electronic trading world
“Put. That coffee. Down. Coffee is for closers only.”
The dark days of the sales departments of the analog early 1990s may well have passed, and the harsh words of Blake in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross now the subject of nostalgic amusement, however the ultimate objective remains as important as ever, that being the conversion of leads into live customers.
In today’s sophisticated FX industry, in which retail FX companies constantly push the boundaries of innovation in order to create value propositions that make themselves stand out above similar competition whilst margins are critical and acquisition costs are high, engagement tool such as adaptive Mirror Trading technology, automated retention tools and adaptive systems which match specific products to specific potential clients have been developed.
Very complex international IB networks have been forged, taking the sales aspect into a multi-tier environment, however the emphasis on direct sales is still very much instrumental to the retail FX business, albeit not at all similar to the trawling of the Yellow Pages that took place in the 1980s and early 1990s in so many retail businesses.
Nowadays, the retail customers are not only very astute and knowledgeable, well versed in electronic investment as well as what is offered by competing companies, any information not known being available at the touch of a keyboard, thus being a successful sales person in a retail FX firm is now more than just a numbers game.
For this reason, institutional liquidity providers, technology vendors and ancillary service providers that develop specialist products for the FX industry have to continue to maintain their ultra-modern approach, to achieve two main goals – to continue to stay at the forefront and provide the quality and class that is expected by many top brokerages these days, and to ensure that the cost of their own operations is optimized, as well as making a value-added contribution to broker customers.
No sales teams and no leads at all
Indeed, in some cases, there has been a drive toward the abstinence from employing a sales team at all, a notable example being that of Darwinex.
FinanceFeeds today spoke to Juan Colon, the company’s CEO, who explained that Darwinex does not employ sales people at all. “All we do is provide outstanding execution, customer service and a differentiated product. We’ve been growing 8% a month like this for 18 months so don’t see much need to change.”
Plus500 led the way in this respect, showing the entire retail business that there is a way of becoming a publicly listed company with a $1 billion market capitalization whilst remaining very lean, with a small payroll and no sales team whatsoever.
One senior executive on the institutional side of the business whose brokerage clients range from British to Cypriot entities, lauds Plus500 as the example to follow from a retail brokerage point of view. “If you look at Plus 500, they have romped it with new age visions and style” he said.
This particular senior executive said “They have no sales department, no calling customers to convert leads and no complaints. It is purely a media buying exercise that has been done right and the numbers are speaking.”
Sales professionals as industry experts: Quality speaks volumes
Jeff Wilkins, Managing Director at ThinkLiquidity today spoke to FinanceFeeds on this matter, explaining “Brokers have seen every sales trick in the book. They have also seen the same faces revolving around the industry.”
“For selling fintech or anything else to a broker, the sales person has to be clean cut, honest and knowlegable about the product. Smoke and mirrors doesn’t work as our industry has matured. Another important aspect is the product has to work! ThinkLiquidity only has a few remaining competitors in the bridge space. The current players are here to stay.” – Jeff Wilkins, Managing Director, ThinkLiquidity.
Andrew Lane, Managing Director at Acuity Trading shared his perspective with FinanceFeeds “So you have naturally born sales people, but the mistake most people make is to think that is enough. You need to invest in sales education for your staff, to smooth the rough edges of good sales people” he said.
“Secondly when selling, you need to understand the cultural differences of the market you are selling into. Selling to a client in Spain will rely heaily on the personal relationship, whereas perhaps in other countries a prior relationship will not be so important. A good sales person will change his pitch accordingly” – Andrew Lane, Managing Director, Acuity Trading
“With regards to our industry its a very dynamic industry that has low barriers to entry in setting up brokerage houses. Often owners of brokers themselves are entrepreneurs, and are very willing to accept new pitches and new ideas. Time to market compared to well established banks is quicker as retail brokers are nimbler. That makes it a conducive environment for good sales people” concluded Mr. Lane.
When hiring the right talent to represent companies whose services are provided to the electronic trading brokerage industry, Jordana Barkats, HR Manager at Leverate explained to FinanceFeeds “One of the characteristics needed to excel in the fast moving world of B2B sales in the electronic brokerage industry is to be an avid and fast learner.”
“Technology and industry developments are moving at an unprecedented pace and top salespeople need to be abreast of new developments and changes in the ecosystem to be able to answer questions and differentiate their offerings. In addition, when they thoroughly understand developments in the industry and trends, a salesperson can appreciate the challenges their clients face and thus really partner with the clients in providing value and meeting their current and future needs” – Jordana Barkats, HR Manager, Leverate
Natalie Badash, at specialist CRM developer for the FX industry PROFTIT explained to FinanceFeeds today “There are good sales people and there are exceptional sales people. Anyone can be taught the skills and groomed to be a good sales person but not everyone can be exceptional. The exceptional sales person has a natural talent and flair in dealing with people, he has exceptional knowledge of his products and solutions and creates confidence in the customer that’s gets him the sale without having to ask for the order.”
“When it comes to a solution like PROFTIT, it requires exceptional sales people who have an in depth knowledge and understanding of the FX industry and how it works” said Ms. Badash.
“They also need to have excellent knowledge of the various trading platforms and CRM solutions that are available in the market. Armed with this knowledge, the sales person can identify the key challenges and pain areas of a brokerage and explain how PROFIT is able to address these areas.”
“Probably the most important quality that a PROFTIT sales person should have is the ability to listen. Too often, sales people talk too much and don’t understand the specific requirements of the client. Every brokerage is different, with varying approaches, marketing techniques and so on” – Natalie Badash, PROFTIT
“The only way a sales person can achieve success is by asking the right questions and listening to the customer to establish their needs and thereafter, addressing these needs with the relevant features of PROFTIT” concluded Ms. Badash.
Natallia Hunik, Global Head of Sales at Advanced Markets and Fortex has four distinct categories that she considers those who should NOT be hired into the position of business to business sales in the FX industry.
Ms. Hunik, a very astute business development leader, categorizes those to avoid as follows:
1: The Coronated Sales Diva
This candidate used to be a top sales performer at their previous company. A sales diva, praised by executive management ,regarded as the # 1 breadwinner in the company and enjoying all the perks that come along with this wide recognition. Overly confident, knows how to impress intelligently and throws around names from an extensive FX network to confirm it.
They know everyone in FX, all the big banks contacts and all the major players. But look closely and you may find out that this sales diva was placed in a fertile territory where only a tiny fraction of the potential business was actually captured, or that the “multi-million” dollar revenue boasted on the resume was collected from accounts that were inherited from previous sales persons.
2. The Gambler
We all know that sales is a numbers game. Some “talented” sales reps may find a way to deliver numbers that look outstanding on the surface, but have lots of caveats behind them. Smart sales reps who are looking to game the system know the rules of engagement and craft their strategies in a way to direct attention towards the major KPIs, the data that their managers measure them by and the metrics on which they are paid sales commission.
A typical way of gaming the system in the FX B2B space is, for example, to achieve high revenue numbers by striking “loss-leading “custom deals by convincing management of high potential volume and returns down the road if they give in on price to acquire the client. By offering the most lucrative deal, the sales person automatically beats any of their competition that adheres to a rigid, onboarding price structure.
They, in turn, earn a sales commission that is based on revenue produced but, alas, they generate negative margins on the account for the company. Also, in the retail FX space, where most of the reps are paid commissions based on client deposits, some foresighted sales people find ways to have deposits in before the end of the quarter and schedule any withdrawals until after the pay-day cut off.
3. The Bully
One may think that impudence is second nature to a sales person, but while a slightly cheeky, healthy assertive salesperson is the typical profile of a top producer, those attributes may be used in less productive ways within the company environment.
Your sales superstar might have earned their track record by forcing other junior reps to do the heavy lifting for them,or by cherry picking leads from the company’s pipeline, or by taking prospects from their peers based on their tenure, personal meetings, etc. This personality type is certainly counterproductive and extremely disruptive to your entire sales team.
4. “Trust Fund Baby”
A “trust fund baby” is a salesperson coming from a widely recognizable , large industry-leading company that generates lots of qualified leads daily from strong brand equity alone. A great sales track record in this case directly correlated to the sheer number of leads produced as a result of a multi-million dollar marketing budget and global brand recognition.
Indeed Ms. Hunik focuses on the distinct character traits of these stereotypes in her analysis.
I can remember going to a conference in 2005, the year that the MetaTrader 4 platform was released and the subsequent move from analog to digital trading took hold worldwide across retail brokerages. In the conference center, in West London, was a simultaneous sales conference being held by one of the major telecommunications switch providers for mobile infrastructure in the country.
One of the delegates explained to me that they arrived at the venue, were taken into a room, and in the room was a blank desk with only a phone resting on it. They were then given the BT Greater London telephone directory and asked to cold call businesses that could be a potential customer, and before lunchtime must have 20 appointments each. Soul destroying, ineffective, requires little product knowledge and of course far too localized.
Thankfully, the days of that are long gone. Long live the sophisticated approach and the imparting of quality industry knowledge among sales people and commercial customers alike.