Questions this article answers:

  • What are best practices for selling IT into Financial Services companies?
  • Who are the major decision makers in financial services companies? 
  • When it comes to buying technology, what do financial services companies prioritize?
  • Why is relationship building so important when selling into Financial Services?

If you ever get the feeling that your industry is evolving more and more rapidly by the day, you’re not alone. This acceleration is especially felt in the financial services industry, where massive companies have to react nimbly to constant shifts in regulation, innovation, and consumer demand. Recognizing this push and working directly with your customers to alleviate its pressure over time is a strong way to win – and keep – a deal in FinServ.

Emissary advisor John, former Group CIO at Fidelity, describes the FinServ industry as “an environment of constant change, constant movement to the next thing.” To land a sale and keep a customer, former execs from major FinServ players say to not only emphasize your solution’s specific value in the present, but also be ready to demonstrate how you’ll keep working and adapting with them into the future.

Be specific, not generic

Step one to selling into Financial Services: Tailor your pitch to the customer you’re approaching. It may seem obvious, but execs say they too often see pitches run on autopilot. In a sector as competitive as finance solutions, you have to find your product’s potential users and paint them a picture of exactly how your tool will improve their day-to-day workflow and the experience of their customers or employees.

“The generic approach doesn’t work typically,” says Clark, an Emissary advisor and former Senior Director of Data/Software Engineering at Capital One. “Be pointed on what you solve and exactly how you do it and why it’s innovative.” John from Fidelity’s advice: find the specific person or department who will be using – and therefore likely paying for – your solution and pitch directly to them. “Show me the value,” he says, “and lead with and be concise about the business benefits.”

In order to reach this level of specificity, it’s crucial that you understand the landscape of the business you’re selling into. This goes beyond doing research and leveraging connections for an intro, but requires  an open dialogue where you listen to the customer’s needs and adapt your product to meet those needs – both in the present and later down the road. 

Be future-focused

“Understand not only where the bank is today but where it’s going to want to be in a week or in a year’s time,” says Sebastian, an Emissary advisor and former SVP of Information and Governance Architecture at Bank of America. Come prepared with scalability models, demos, and examples of how your product will be able to adapt to fit the company’s changing needs.

According to Swathy, an Emissary advisor and former IT Leader at Quicken Loans, FinServ companies are “always thinking about their future customer, not just their current one. They are always innovating and working to find better ways for their clients, and that’s what makes them so unique.” To win these companies over, Swathy says, “Give them real stuff with substance backed up by a long-term view.”

“Spend a lot of time talking about where you’re going rather than what you offer right now – demonstrate that you’ve got a roadmap,” says Clark of Capital One. Come in with evidence that you’ve pivoted in the past to improve things for other customers, and display a willingness to do the same for this customer, too.

But when do I approach?

The billing cycle dance of timing your pitch perfectly tends to be stressful, but these FinServ execs say that it doesn’t need to be.

“The best time to bring your offerings is now,” says John of Fidelity. Worry less about budget cycles and more about establishing relationships with your customers. Just because your first pitch came at the “wrong time” for the company doesn’t mean it’s a “never.”

Instead of giving up on that account, use that first meeting as an opening to a longer conversation. Keep in touch with the company to learn its pain points and how you can adapt your solutions to address them. Staying in contact will put you top of mind when budgets open up again and it’s time to bring in new tools.

Maintaining the relationship post sale

Making a sale is not a one-and-done deal, especially in FinServ where new, innovative solutions are constantly hitting the market. Once you’ve started working with a FinServ company, don’t get complacent. Nurture your relationship, prove to the customer that you’re still listening to their needs, and continue to prove your product’s value over time if you want to keep their business.

“The current vendor is always at risk and a new vendor will always be in play. It’s an environment of change, so understanding that I’m working with a vendor who’s adapting and changing too is a key point.” – Clark, Capital One

To stay ahead of the competition, keep your ear to the pulse of your customer’s needs and adapt with them. Clark says the strongest way to maintain a relationship with a customer is to come in and say: “We want to be a partner, here’s what we’re willing to do for you.”

Relieve tool fatigue

One major pain point that all of our former FinServ execs shared was tool fatigue – the pile-up of tool after tool after tool as new niche solutions are developed for ever-changing problems.

According to John from Fidelity, tool fatigue “can be likened to the Whack-a-Mole game. As one new problem emerges, a new tool gets deployed, knock it down. Another one pops up, deploy another tool.” He says this can result in major companies utilizing hundreds or even thousands of individual tools that target specific small problems, but don’t integrate well or adapt over time.

According to Sebastian from Bank of America, one major question that FinServ execs are asking is, “How do we build platforms and systems that are streamlined and can talk to each other in a way that is a real benefit to the end consumer?”

This is where having an open channel of communication with your customers can help you swoop in and save the day. If you can anticipate the customer’s needs and adapt your solution to address them before they even have to consider adding a new “Band-Aid” solution, you’ll prove yourself even more invaluable to that customer and strengthen your relationship with them into the future.

Keep a strong momentum

From your initial introduction to cementing yourself as a key vendor within FinServ, building and maintaining relationships and open lines of communication are key. Starting from day one, be ready to paint a curated and long-term picture of your solution’s value and stay true to your commitment to evolve. While banking itself may be about transactions, working with the FinServ industry is all about relationships.