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5 Things that shocked me about Sales at Swiss Banks (and how to fix them)

Coming from a quantitative sales style environment where cold calling and high frequency sales was my daily bread, the cultural clash was immense, when I started in the Investment Banking department of a leading Swiss Bank. The pace was much slower and fresh ideas were hardly accepted.

There were five particular things that shocked me about how sales was handled:

  1. No Cold Calling
    Sales staff were very conservative and concerned to disturb or even annoy prospects/clients by calling them. Obviously not many people enjoy cold calling, it is a tough task, but can you imagine any sales team not doing cold calls at all? Even though some might consider cold calling to be unnecessary, it still is a cheap and efficient way to build a pipeline with fresh contacts outside of your network.
    Solution: They could have had a much bigger impact in the Swiss market by only adding a few cold calls per day.
  2. Low levels of activity
    I believe this to be an issue of the banker generation that enjoyed sales in the 80s and 90s. Seasoned bankers are used to be in a more comfortable situation, as prospects called them to buy products, allowing them to build their client books. At FX brokers I used to work, I was expected to make at least 50 calls (inbound and outbound) and e-mails per day. Salespeople from different banks told me in conversations that they were making a maximum of 10 calls or emails per day. Naturally, quality of client interactions is very important for having meaningful conversations and building relationships over time. If salespeople however spend an disproportional amount of time on research and personalizing emails for each prospect, the quantity of calls to reach revenue targets suffers.
    Solution: Frequency could be improved by automating tasks and setting daily or weekly activity targets.
  3. It´s a Boys Club
    Compared to Asian and US banking, Switzerland lags behind on the women front, especially in areas such as sales and trading of financial products. Even now, 10 years into my career in financial services, a women in banking still easily feels to be the odd one out. Standing out as such is not a bad thing, but – oh boy – getting the boys club to accept you as equal (as opposed to a “coffee runner”) is challenging. The lack of female senior managers (Executive Directors and above) in investment banking needs to be improved.
    Solution: Targeted mentoring of motivated female junior bankers, builds on their willingness to climb the ranks and presents a positive step to phase out said imbalance.
  4. The “It’s how we’ve always done it” mind set
    Probably one of the most expensive sentences in business: “It’s how we’ve always done it”. Finance professionals know that track records of past investment performance are no guarantee of future returns. So why would that be different in other areas, such as sales? In times where the rate of change accelerates steadily, improving the way we work and sell is crucial for success. Creating order, automating and keeping track of leads is paramount. Similarly, awareness of modern technology to increase one’s reach can make all the difference.
    Solution: Automating sales processes with the help of modern CRM software or increasing the reach of individual salespeople through social media, offers more return than risk for financial product sales teams.
  5. Not sharing know-how
    Established salesmen appeared hesitant to share know-how, citing the old adage of “knowledge is power”, staying surprisingly straight-faced. Sharing know-how with newcomers, instead of making them find out entirely by themselves, would allow sales to pick up faster however. Office culture should condemn the honing of information and instead foster a collaborative work environment that foots on sharing of information.
    Solution: Sharing is caring!

We will be looking into different types of standardized sales processes on the blog, but if you’re itching to find out more now, please do not hesitate to contact me here or join my mailing list bellow.

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