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Is This the End of Investment Banking as We Know It?

Like many, I was deeply saddened to see the end of Credit Suisse as we knew it.

However, my reasons were probably different to yours.

My relationship with this amazing Institution began when it was actually known as CSFB - Credit Suisse having just acquired First Boston.

I worked for NCR Corp at the time. Barclays was trying to sell its BZW Trading subsidiary and I just knew that CSFB were going to win that deal such was their prowess in dealmaking.

I made a play to run Credit Suisse as an account as I thought I could learn from them. And I did.

Credit Suisse was my first ever global account, and quite possibly the first ever global customer for any technology vendor.

I confess to falling under the spell of its huge offices on Cabot Square, oozing with chutzpa and an over-excitable mass of deal-hungry salespeople waiting to be met in CSFB's grand and cavernous entrance lobby. For a boy who grew up on a council estate on the south coast, it was magical.

(note: it was the meeting rooms on the 16th floor, where butlers in morning dress served gallons of coffee and a seeming limitless supply of chocolate digestives, where the real deal-makers hung out 😉).

My 1st Big Deal

I took Credit Suisse First Boston - a “new logo" customer - from a standing start to £2.5 million annual spend in less than 12 months. My then employer at that time believed a £100k/annum deal was large; bulge bracket banks however, were something else.

But that was just the start. The customer wanted us to use our capital to invest in a bespoke Trading Room which would have represented a massive investment for us.

The Customer Context

Former CEO Allen Wheat

Regulators - including the SEC - accused then CEO Allen Wheat of running a "gigantic gaming casino", such was the perceived lack of controls underpinning CSFB's financial processes.

In working closely with CSFB senior managers, I discovered that EACH "audit point" could cost a Managing Director $50,000 reduction off their annual bonus.

That was a compelling incentive to invest in my company's services!

Question: What Makes You Think The Customer Will Invest With YOU?

The only way my Chief Executive could be persuaded to make this kind of investment was to arrange a meeting between him and the customer, so that he could see “the whites of their eyes“ (I dislike that phrase but his words at the time).

Was it Because I Was So Brilliant?

Of course, we'd all like to think that big deals are all down to us salespeople because we're so brilliant. The truth, of course, is never quite that simple - winning deals at that level involves many moving parts and no surprise events from externalities outside of your control.

I don’t know if it was the atmosphere, my warm and affable personality or the bottle of 1997 Cristal that night at The Dorchester (a different era for expense claims) that made the deal happen but happen it did.

3 Signs Your Customer Could Be Ready to Cut You a Big Deal

  • Is your customer in the right place to make those investments (budget, operationally, reputationally)?

  • Is there a compelling reason for them to invest? Why now? And why you?

  • Is your company in a good place also? It needs to have the means and the risk appetite to invest in those those kinds of assets and at that scale

How to Significantly Increase Wallet-Share

As part of that emerging relationship, we jointly invested in a 150,000sq ft office block to use for disaster recovery purposes. In going ahead with the acquisition, we knew there was at least one major fly in the ointment that needed to be removed.

The "fly" was a competitor investment bank (let's call them Bank X) who already had a lease on the building's top floor. This prevented Credit Suisse from fully realising its goal of building a full size, "always on" Trading Room for CSFB's exclusive use in the event of a disaster.

What Exactly Is A Disaster?

Normally, disasters (or unforeseen events) are rather mundane situations, such as a power failure or lack of running water to the building. On one terrible occasion however, two jumbo jets were flown into the side of skyscrapers in lower Manhattan.

Anyway, we needed to solve the problem of the competitor preventing my customer achieving its goal and so we quickly got everyone in a room and asked "Who knows anyone over at Bank X?" (before LinkedIn was ever a thing).

“I do“ said Martin, Head of Global Networks.

"Okay Martin, I need you to phone up your contact and arrange a conference call with them, your boss James, my boss Peter and let’s make a deal."

We Made a Deal

So we made a deal. It took just 30 minutes over the phone with a collective 45 person-years of of deal-making experience and our lawyers (always use your lawyers) drew up the paperwork.

Another crazy thing that happened along the way, was a call I received out of the blue from Tom - whom I'd never before spoken to - who asked "what does your firm know about Year 2000 consulting?"

"hmmm...not sure; let me make a couple of calls and I’ll find out for you" I replied.

Note: 90% of account managers, SDRs, and Account Directors wouldn’t have bothered making that call because it didn’t directly benefit them; they wouldn’t have made a commission from any resulting deal.

This is a poor sales behaviour - which I call sales myopia.

90% of account managers, SDRs, and Account Directors wouldn’t have bothered. They have what I call sales myopia.

I made a few phone calls to regional sales directors I knew and they put me in touch with a professional services sales guy based in Atlanta. He knew about this Year 2000 stuff and, within two weeks, he phoned me to say "hey thanks. I just won a $1.2 million consulting services deal with Credit-Suisse and wanted to say thank you. That made my day (but not my number).

How was that deal able to happen so quickly?

One word: Trust.

Sales Lesson: Do the right thing by the client. Always. Even if it doesn't benefit you directly, your Trust rating will soar in the eyes of the client

Although I didn’t really know it at the time, I was demonstrating a behaviour known as unconscious competence, I had adopted a set of sales behaviours that few other companies or sales reps exhibited at this time. I knew the value of Trust.

The warm fuzzy feelings generated around the client's Trust in me were so powerful that they drowned out even the most aggressive moves from my competition.

Learning points: when representing your particular line of business in a major account, you only represent that line of business for your company. For the client however, you ARE that company, so you need to do the right thing by the customer.

After we had successfully entered the year 2000 without the world ending, Tom (my main contact in New York) gave me another call and said:

"We’re always exploring new kinds of relationships with our vendors so I want you to meet one of our investment bankers to talk about your company."

So I duly met with Gordon Rich: Gordon was on the phone but ushered me into his office to take a seat whilst he finished the call.

I later learned he had just closed a deal with IBM for just over $5billion (!) - 45 minutes listening to a master on the phone, closing, calling out some staggering numbers. What an amazing experience!

Gordon explained that he wanted to talk to my company to explore a potential relationship and asked if I could introduce him to my CFO.

We had by default co-created, a relationship of value and moved our company out of the “me too” segment and right up into the "Trusted Advisor" level of the Zyman Pyramid (above), significantly strengthening the ties between our two companies.

Strengthening customer relationships beyond simple donor/recipient status makes it much harder for the competition to unseat your company

The above means your revenue pipeline is significantly de-risked.

So, I hope you can now see how, working ever closer with your customers - helping them to protect their business, win more business and protect their earnings can enhance your customer relationships too!

Ring Any Bells?

Want your sales team to grow their customer accounts like this?

My next Sales Masterclass Series Starts in in a few weeks' time - the last cohort included Vodafone Group and a Cyber Security SME too. Details:

How to build more Trust? Short video

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