How to secure your first Sales role in Asset Management

Written by Dan Woods on 30/08/2016

Despite an inconsistent market this year, mainly due to the uncertainty and market slow down pre-Brexit and conflicting views post Brexit one thing that has been consistent on the Sales & Business Development Desk here at Black Swan Group is the constant demand for sales professionals at all levels within the Asset Management space. In particular, bright, hungry graduates or second jobbers with some sales experience already under their belts have been of real interest. As businesses continue to reward their top performers with promotions and additional responsibilities it is often seen as sensible in terms of strategy and succession planning to replace them with ambitious candidates wanting to embark on a career within Asset Management sales.

Each time we work on a new assignment for a client that is in need of someone with the usual requirements; drive, ambition, track record of sales success, excellent communication skills and a real team player it can be quite tricky for us to ascertain who the best suited candidates are in the market from the many thousands of job seekers out there. Until we speak with individuals for the first time and subsequently meet them it is really only then that we can confidently say if they are the right fit in terms of cultural fit and relevant experience.  To enable us to get to this point it really is up to you to make sure that you sell yourself and experience on your CV that really sets you apart from the tough competition out there. Your CV is obviously a vital tool in your job search to getting your foot in the door with a new employer. It provides you with an opportunity to sell your skills and market yourself as someone one of our clients would want to meet and hopefully employ.

What makes a great CV that will secure you the interview?

  1. Relevant detail

As a sales professional, you can make yourself stand out by including relevant, impressive details and track record of sales success. For example, there is a huge difference between “exceeded sales target in first year” and “130% sales target achieved in first year and highest performing member of the graduate intake.”

  1. Sales figures and track record of success

To secure a good sales job, you must include your sales figures and achievements in your CV. Focus on detail such as how much revenue you have generated and percentage of your target that you hit over a period of time in each of your roles. This is the first thing employers will look for when scanning your CV because it instantly marks someone out as a high achiever and appropriate for the role.

  1. Punchy, stand out ‘buzz’ words and phrases

While you should avoid obvious, tedious clichés, the odd one or two sales-focused buzz words and phrases can make your CV interesting to employers because you’re telling them what they want to hear. For example, “cold calling”, “new client acquisition”, “built from scratch” and “networking” where relevant words hiring managers like to read. It may seem obvious but there are words and phrases that we search for as recruiters and we know from experience that our clients look out for these too.

  1. Tailor-made

While a generic CV listing all your skills and achievements may be eye catching to some, you’re much more likely to get approached for the role you are applying for if you tailor it to specific employers. To do this effectively, you need to find out exactly what the role entails and what the employer is looking for. Carefully examine the job specification and if you need a better understanding ask the recruiter who will know exactly what the employer needs/wants, to help guide you to really highlight all your key relevant transferrable skills and experience.

For example, if you learn that a particular Asset Manager has an opening as a business development executive, you need to find out exactly what someone in this role would be selling and to whom and where. With this knowledge, you should tailor all the content in your CV towards this. If your experience isn’t a direct match, think about how the sales knowledge and experience you do have could be seen as relevant and appealing by the employer.

  1. Don’t just sell your sales experience, sell you yourself too!

A lot of our asset management clients like to see good academics, relevant detail and sales achievements etc but also like to get a feel for the person and their personality where possible from the CV. It can showcase or endorse your professional skills and particularly if you have achieved some level of excellence or expertise in activities out of work. For example, include if you played a sport to a high level or represented your country in any activity even if it was some years previously - it demonstrates focus, discipline, that you are a high achiever. Many clients comment to us that if CV’s are all very similar they often select those for interview who sell themselves in addition to their relevant skills or have fun and/or impressive out of work achievements and interests.

The interview

So, your CV has been sent by your recruiter, he/she has also sold you in to your client and has arranged an interview for you. It is important to remember that for every role you are interviewing for you will be up against some very talented and impressive candidates also really wanting to secure the same position so preparation and making the right impression now is extremely important.

There are 4 key areas to consider for an interview:

  1. Make sure that you research as much as possible about the firm and their investment products.  The more information that you can sell back to them, the better placed you will be towards the end of the interview.  Our advice to all our candidates would be to go through the company website, have a good look through the Financial Times website, Bloomberg, Reuters etc. and find as much information about them either past, present or future, and keep that up your sleeve.
  2. Know your CV– this is what has got you in front of the company in the first place! Be able to discuss, elaborate on, or justify anything covered on your CV; including specific experiences, duties, achievements, or any gaps. Be sure you know each bullet point covered as anything on your CV is fair game. The last position you want to be in is to be asked about something that is on there that you have forgotten about.  With each point on there, ensure that you have a practical example to back it up, and vocalise your answers clearly and confidently.
  3. Treat the job spec as a list of questions. Rather like your CV, turn each bullet point into a question, and have a list of specific examples for each bullet point. You must ensure you can respond with a concise and confident answer that sells your abilities and relates your experience to the role.
  4. Make sure you do your homework on the person/people you are meeting with! Use LinkedIn to understand their current role but career history prior to that. Also, most Asset Managers should have employee profiles on their website. Also, ask your recruiter what the hiring manager is like – what is their interview style, their personality, how have they interviewed other candidates in the past you have sent them etc?

What you can expect to be asked

Typical Basic Questions

  • What do you know about the company? 
  • What can you bring to the business? The Business Development/Sales Team?
  • What is your sales process? How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd with your approach?
  • What has made you successful and list some sales achievements to date?
  • What are your career goals and how can this role and Octopus contribute to your development?
  • Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
  • How do you see yourself fitting into this team?
  • Biggest achievements/sales successes
  • Strengths and weaknesses (use a positive ‘weakness’ to show recent improvement of an attribute, and flip it’s on its head; the strength is naturally the point to sell yourself the most). 

Further, Technical Questions:

  • What types of clients have you had interaction with before, and how you have gone above and beyond to cater for their needs?
  • Give me an example of a time you have dealt with a difficult client query. How did you handle it? What was the result?
  • What products have you had experience in?
  • What relationship building experience have you had and how have you gone about this?
  • What markets have you had experience with?
  • How is the team structured where you currently/previously worked? What team structure do you work best in?

First impressions and creating rapport in your interview

The interviewer will be looking at how you communicate in the interview situation to assess your skill in controlling a sales situation. Show your ability to manage a situation by having good interview answers prepared and by asking questions at appropriate times during the interview process. Your interview body language should convey confidence and control.

Communication skills are key to success in a sales job and you need to be articulate, confident and provide punchy, concise and confident information and answers. Also, don’t forget that first impressions count so make an effort with how you dress and present yourself. A firm handshake with warm engaging smile and good eye contact are the first things that an interviewer will notice and look out for – trust me this really makes a huge difference! If you immediately make a good impression and start to build rapport you will feel more relaxed when the interview starts and will already have the interviewer fully engaged.

Close the Interview

At the end of the interview process take control and close properly. Ask if there is any other information the interviewer requires. Express enthusiasm and commitment for the opportunity and the concept of working for that business. Ask for specific details of the next steps in the process and make sure you stay informed and finally express your appreciation and thanks for them taking the time to meet you and how it was pleasure to meet him/her.

Summary and overview

Already in Quarter 3 we have experienced over a 100% increase in Sales and Business Development positions in comparison with Quarter 2 with our Asset Management clients so we constantly need to attract exceptional talent.  Quite often these are at entry level and our clients require bright, driven and ambitious individuals with a track record of sales and personal success in other industries or recent graduates and someone that can stand out from the crowd in what is a tough but very rewarding industry to get into. One of our Sales Directors informed us only last week that they only take one in every 20 people that they meet with and that is after recruiters have sent them the best and most relevant options so it really is pretty competitive out there! Therefore, make sure the CV really highlights your relevant skills and experience, include relevant detail and sales success you have had and when you are able to secure an interview do your homework and research - make sure you get as much information as possible from us recruiters as we know the client well and exactly what they are looking for. Finally, and most importantly create rapport, look smart and professional and make sure you sell yourself and express what you can bring to the role and business and why you want it. The biggest reason that candidates get rejected in sales roles in this industry is due to not being the right cultural fit, lacking in impact or not enthusiastic enough. You are in sales so let the personality shine through – it makes all the difference!

Asset Management Sales & Business Development opportunities with Black Swan Group

We are currently working on numerous, excellent Sales & Business Development positions with a variety of reputable, entrepreneurial Asset Managers wanting to increase headcount to improve sales productivity and success. From entry level roles selling over the phone, to regional based client facing roles up to senior Sales Director positions on both the Institutional and Retail sides of the market, we have options for candidates at all levels. For a confidential conversation on current openings, for help with your CV, interview advice or what is happening in our market please do contact myself or one of the Sales & Business Development Team.


Dan Woods, Head of Sales & Business Development


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If you would like to find out how the Black Swan Group can assist you today, please get in touch via either of the below:

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