CEOs have an ever-increasing number of options in choosing an investment banker. In addition to fielding cold calls and emails from bankers and M&A advisors almost daily, they can use services like Axial to proactively research and contact bankers.
As competition continues to increase, investment bankers and M&A advisors need to find ways to rise above the pack to continue to secure engagement letters.
Here are four ways investment bankers stand out to CEOs.
1. Prove your experience in the CEO’s industry.
For the hundreds of CEOs we speak with monthly, this is the single most important criteria when considering hiring an investment bank.
“I don’t want to just hear ‘yes, we can work with renewable energy and energy efficiency companies,’” says Jeff Perlman, CEO of Bright Power, an Axial member. “I want to hear about the work you’ve recently done in the space and the relevant industry connections you have for my business.”
Keeping a detailed record of transactions you’ve worked on easily accessible on your website and your Axial profile, as Axial member Lincoln International does, goes a long way in demonstrating relevant experience.
2. Individualize your responses.
While this sounds like common sense, a surprising number of bankers don’t respond to CEOs in a timely manner. Others send CEOs emails that feel templated and impersonal.
“I chose Lawrence, Evans & Co. because they were timely and personalized in responding to my messages,” says Joe Hale, CEO of Georgia Medical Transportation, on his recent decision to hire Lawrence, Evans & Co. after becoming acquainted with them through the Axial network. “I could tell that they were carefully customizing their insight to my company, rather than sending me templated responses.”
It may take a bit more time to personalize your messages, but the payoff — more clients — will make it time well-spent.
3. Demonstrate the value you add — beyond the dollar value of a transaction.
It’s no secret to the CEO community that investment banks greatly increase the value of a transaction through their negotiating expertise with buyers and capital providers. Banks that truly stand out go beyond the dollars and cents.
“I haven’t yet chosen an investment bank, but when I do I’m going to hire one who can prove strategic value beyond money,” says Perlman. “Some investment banks have really stood out already by introducing me to new potential clients and candidates for open roles I have at BrightPower.”
Further, investment banks who take the time to educate often win over CEOs who are new to M&A and raising capital. “I hire investment bankers because that’s not my world,” says Scott Walker, CEO of ethosIQ, an Axial member. “The banks I’ve hired took the time to build up my knowledge on the options available to my business.”
4. Publicize your values
Social responsibility is top of mind for CEOs: Their clients and employees are demanding it. A Business4Better survey showed that two thirds of mid-sized companies are seeking to enhance or establish their corporate social responsibility programs.
“I won’t respond to an investment bank whose website doesn’t talk about their values,” says Clint Howitz, CEO of dogIDs, an Axial member. “Social responsibility is a top priority for dogIDs, and we won’t consider hiring anyone who doesn’t demonstrate the same.”
Howitz says most of the time he can get a “pretty good feel if culture is important to them” from browsing their site. He looks for firms that are community minded (e.g., involved with local charities) and that explicitly lay out their values.