In my 20 odd years in the treasury business, I have seen the sales efforts of banks from many perspective. I worked for a bank selling FX and MM products for six years, I was a banks’ customer working for a corporate treasury for five years, and the last ten years, I have worked with several banks to sell solutions to corporate treasuries.
The banks’ sales people have an excellent starting point for effective sales. The banks typically have existing relationships with the clients and only few companies refuse to meet with a sales person from their bank. Despite this excellent position, the banks’ sales people quite often manage to blow their chances — they do not prepare well enough for the client meetings, they do not acquaint themselves with clients’ needs, they don’t check what they promised the last time around.
When I worked at a corporate treasury, we tried to keep an open mind for the banks’ sales calls. We were quite direct about the problems we were facing and we asked for solutions. When we started noticing that the meetings were a waste of time, we devised a test for the banks.
During two month’s time, we met with the representatives of six international finance institutions. We presented them all with the same challenge regarding the centralized hedging of FX risks in our South African subsidiaries and asked them to give us suggested solutions with the help of the banks’ experts.
The bank representatives nodded their heads while having their bisquits, wrote down our request, and promised to get back to us. With a request this tangible, we thought that all the banks would have gotten back to us (even though we did suspect some of them did not have a full solution).
Rather mind bogglingly, only one of the six banks got back to us. This bank that met the bare minimum requirement of sales effort, soon became our main partner in FX dealing. I don’t actually recall if the solution suggested by them was any good or even if we used it at all. What was relevant was that they kept their promise.
The other banks probably did not realize why their volumes went down. And we did not feel it was our job to tell them, either.