Presenters: Hibre Teklemariam, VP & Partner and Marilyn Dale, VP, Creative Services Director
Marilyn: I would like to thank everyone for taking the time out of your busy days to join SunStar Strategic for our webinar today. We're ready to start, so without further ado I will turn the presentation over to our speaker, Hibre Teklemariam. Hibre?
Hibre Teklemariam: Thank you, Marilyn. Hello, everyone. Thank you for joining me. My name is Hibre Teklemariam, and I am vice president and partner at SunStar Strategic. Welcome. Today I'll be talking about strategies and techniques that we pulled out of our media training workshop that asset managers can use to communicate more effectively, whether it's a meeting, a reporter, a client, or a prospect.
Communication strategy. How do we better prepare and communicate what's relevant to us and to our goals? I'd like everyone to think in terms of – I'm sure there are incidences, I know there's been incidences for me where we've left a client or a prospect meeting feeling a little frustrated that maybe you didn't get the right message out or you didn't get to answer a question a particular way or you forgot to mention X, Y and Z. I'd like to offer some tips that we share with our clients - some techniques that you can use that work, whether you're talking to the media or you're meeting with a client or prospect.
The approach I'd like to take is perhaps have each of you take a piece of paper and just jot down – if the Wall Street Journal were to do a story about your firm, what would it say? What would you like it to say? Ideally, what would it look like? What's the value proposition? What are you offering? Where's the value? What are the key facts? Not all facts, but the essential ones that you'd like to highlight. And what are the differentiators? How are you different from the hundreds or thousands just like you or who are offering the same thing, or they say that they're offering the same thing as you?
Know your story and keep it simple. Know your story. So, no matter what questions you may come across or you may come up against, your story must remain consistent. Thinking in terms of that Wall Street Journal article, what's your story? What would say? Who are you? What are you? What are you offering? How would you describe yourself in a meaningful and impactful way?
Then keep it simple, knowing what to say but also making it easy to understand. Avoiding jargon, keeping answers succinct and short, and of course this will depend on the type of meeting. For example, if it's a more sophisticated audience you'll need to elaborate of course but, the story must remain the same.
And then lead, don't be led. Go into your meetings prepared with all possible scenarios and questions that you may be asked, have those in mind and have your responses ready. For example, a meeting with a reporter, a reporter may come to the table. Typically, they have a story that they're writing, and they have a story deadline. And they might want to speak with you about a particular sector or a company that you do not invest in. So, coming prepared is really important.
A prospect meeting may look very different. They might not understand your strategy or they might have a concern that you don't have a long-term track record, or how are you different from the others just like you? Why are your fees so high? These are some of the things that may come up, and so this is part of preparation and having all your answers ready or at the ready and being able to lead and not be led down a road you don't want to go down.
If it's a client meeting it may be a review or your client may have a concern that performance may be down year to date, and just have those things ready. And also part of leading a discussion is when you're in a conversation or you're doing a presentation, a meeting where potentially Donald Trump's name may come up, you may spend half an hour talking about politics. That’s a waste of your time. You want to be prepared to lead the conversation, and when you're taken off track how do you bring the conversation back to your agenda?
I'm going to review five different ways to control the conversation and lead the conversation and be in the lead and not being led. So, having a consistent and well-articulated story is - how do you tell a consistent story about your firm or your strategy? How do you make it a compelling story about your firm? It could be an interesting asset class. It could be unique and interesting strategy. How do you look against the competition?
For instance, I know a lot of small firms that have better products, better performance than some of the largest names out there. Your expenses, you have low expenses. Or if you have higher expenses, being able to articulate how the higher expenses do translate into the shareholders being better off. Because you can demonstrate a long-term track record where you're making your shareholders money. Experienced managers or managers that have a stake in the firm, a niche expertise that your firm may have, access to key research and resources. Maybe you have family members working in the business, and this is typical of the smaller, more boutique type firms. Your Morningstar rating and long-term track record of success, all of these things make up your story and being able to articulate those things in a consistent fashion is important.
The message map is a tool that we use that keeps you focused on your goals in a meeting. Typically what we would recommend is having the sort of a message map filled out beforehand, before you go into a meeting. And so, if you look at the left side of this message map are your static messages. And it starts out with the goal. The goal is important because who's your audience? Who is the meeting with? Is it a sales meeting? Is it a meeting with a reporter? Is it a meeting with an existing client? That'll determine the goal of the meeting.
And then you can focus your presentation to your audience. And then the pains and gains of the asset class, perhaps large caps or small caps may be out of favor during that time, maybe if you're investing in commodity, commodities aren't doing well at that time. Whatever the current headwinds are for the asset class or sectors or strategy that you're in, being prepared to respond to those and understanding what those are and understanding what the audience's concerns are going to be and then being prepared to address those.
Your investment process is pretty self-explanatory. It's being able to articulate how you're uncovering opportunities for the portfolios that your firm manages. And then of course anything else that you can think of that's part of your static message. On the right-hand side our evolving messages, and of course this will depend on the current time period or the period that you're in and the current market environment.
For example, currently a theme could be companies that offer luxury items, for example. Being able to articulate that theme - you like these companies that sell luxury goods because energy prices are down now, consumers are saving more on gas, which means consumer spending is up on discretionary items, such as luxury items.
And then you can go in further and articulate companies within that area that are doing very well that are benefiting from lower energy prices. So, having that at the ready to express how you're investing is very useful. Another example is, you could perhaps maybe like small caps currently in the healthcare sector because you're noticing a trend in the pharma and biotech spaces where you like these companies because they're finding value in the clinical trials for pharmaceutical and biotech companies because of biotech financing in recent years has increased and therefore companies in these areas are benefitting from that. So, that's another example of a theme that you can go in with.
And then the portion where it says, "Story," is telling stories is really useful because it resonates with people. For example, if you have an international fund, let's say, and a manager's traveling to a particular country to meet a CEO of a company that's in the portfolio you can say, "I recently traveled to India, and saw that Uber is taking off there, and it led me to research Uber and now my team's researching Uber and maybe other transportation areas. And it's opened up opportunities there because I saw this when I was there in India." So, telling stories like that that are more personal really resonate.
The third bullet, Bridging Techniques, describes a technique that we teach when asked a question that you may not know the answer to or maybe you don't necessarily care about or that is not relevant to you. How do you shift the conversation back on track? And this is kind of getting back to the lead, don't be led point. For example, if you own a tech fund, and you're asked about ACA Repeal and Replace, what do you do?
Let’s review some bridging techniques that you'll see here, one through eight. These are just examples. You may have your own that you already use and implement that are working really well for you, but these are just some examples to show you. And on the right you see a picture of a bridge and that's why we call it a bridging technique because when you're asked a question that is not relevant to you, how do you take it from one side of the bridge to the other side of the bridge to a response that is relevant to you and that matters to you?
For instance, number two, you could say – I like that one because you could say, "Well, I don't follow –," if you're asked about energy, for instance. You could say, "I don't follow energy, however, I do like the consumer discretionary area now because energy prices are down and consumers are spending more, saving more, et cetera." So, you can bridge it to your portfolio or your strategy in how that is relevant to you when you're asked a question you don't necessarily have an answer for.
Or number four where it says, let's say you're asked about ACA Repeal and Replace you can say, "Oh, we don't really look at macro. We're bottom up investors. However, speaking of healthcare, we like the small cap healthcare space because biotech is financing these types of companies. So, we like that space for this reason."
So, these are just some examples of how you can bridge from something that doesn't necessarily resonate with you or you don't really invest that way, to a place where you do invest and something that does matter to you.
Bullet number four is sell versus tell. Sell versus tell is – a lot of managers have had to wear the salesmen's hat where telling about yourself doesn't necessarily work anymore like it used to 20, 30 years ago. Because when you're telling you educate and you get your name out and you sound smart, obviously. And I'm sure a lot of you have seen a lot of the talking heads on CNBC or Bloomberg or Fox where they're just talking and talking. And you don't necessarily know what they stand for or how they invest.
And so, when you're telling you don't necessarily get your story out. You don't necessarily get your key messages out. It's just highly unlikely. What we like to think managers should think more about is selling because selling you are able to persuade, you are able to get your story out, you're able to attract investors, you're able to build your brand while doing all of these things. It's a more effective way of communicating, and it's a more updated way of communicating.
Knowing your ABCs. That's the fifth and last bullet point that I will be discussing today. What are your ABCs? A is answer, don't avoid. Why we say that is I'm sure you've heard politicians, for example, that are asked questions and they completely avoid the question, and they just go right to what they want to talk about. That's not a good way to communicate your story.
We want you to acknowledge the question, but then using those bridging techniques bring it back to what you'd like to talk about, what your goals are for the meeting, what the messages are that you're trying to get out. And so, you can use one of the bridging techniques that we offered earlier, or again, you may have your own that you use that work well for you, and we'd be happy to know about them if you'd like to share.
And then of course the core message is articulating the key messages you'd like to highlight or convey in that meeting. So, the five ways to control the conversation, consistent, well-articulated story, using a message map so you are focused for that particular audience that you're speaking to, using bridging techniques so that you're not avoiding questions but that you are bringing it back to what you'd like to talk about, and then selling versus telling where instead of just sounding smart you're actually potentially attracting investors and getting your story out, which goes to the ABCs.
So, if there are any questions that you have heard where it took you to a dead end, please share with us, and we can review them.
Marilyn: You have all been unmuted now, which is why we hear all that noise. Anyone would like to ask a question or share with us a question you've received where you got off track and didn't know how to get back. It doesn't sound like we have any coming from the audience, so I will put you back on mute. If you do have a question you can type it in. And Hibre, I believe you have a few examples.
Hibre Teklemariam: Absolutely. I know something that comes up often are fees, for example. You may be asked about fees, your fees are too high. Why are they so high? Again, this could go down a very negative road, and so, again, be prepared to articulate that your fees actually are not high potentially compared to your competitors.
Something that I've seen work really well is comparing yourself to the larger firms, whether it's performance fees or product where a lot of smaller firms actually have better performing products than large firms that we know about. And getting back to fees, if your fee is maybe a little bit higher, perhaps you can articulate how that benefits your shareholders at the end that the returns are high enough where the fees make sense.
If you're able to, be prepared to address those - that works really well. I also reviewed some of the bridging techniques for you. I used some examples there when asked a question that you don't necessarily care about or you're not investing in a particular area and you're asked about that. Which often happens with managers who do television interviews, for example, where CNBC might have breaking news on something and they'll just ask whoever they have up on the panel that question about the breaking news. And it may not pertain to that manager.
Being prepared when asked a question that you don't care about, or you don't invest in that space, being able to articulate how do I then bring it back to what I want to talk about? For example, if you're asked about ACA, perhaps you invest in healthcare companies, and then you can bring it back to that. Or if you're asked about energy you can potentially bridge that to, "Oh, energy I don't invest in energy companies, but consumers are saving more, which means they're potentially spending more. And here are companies that are benefiting from that."
So, those are some techniques you can use to bring the conversation back to what you care about, and what's important to you. And it's just really about being prepared and going in with what you'd like to articulate, going in with the messages you'd like to highlight, going in with why you are different than your competition in your value proposition.
And always being able to have a consistent story and consistently articulating that in every single meeting that you're in. Whether it's a reporter, a prospect, a client, it should be consistent. Of course, it'll be tailored to each audience, but it should be consistent messaging throughout.
Marilyn: Can you give another example of how to get back to my messages after there's a question on, say, the economy?
Hibre Teklemariam: Sure. Perhaps you're asked about or to speak to the Fed and what they're doing in terms of interest rates and how this affects your strategy. And a lot of times when a manager is a bottom-up stock picker, they're not necessarily looking at what interest rates are doing. They're looking at their investment strategy and criteria for the best companies that fit into their portfolio, and so if you're asked about the fed and interest rates you can say, "Well –," you can acknowledge the question and the respond by saying something like, you can give an opinion, "I think that the Fed won't raise rates again this year. However –" and that's the kind of however, and then bridging that back to the fact you're a bottom-up stock picker.
We don't look at the macro picture. We are bottom-up stock pickers. We like companies that have low valuation, a competitive advantage and then just pick three or four key differentiators or key criteria that you look at when investing in a company and then you just bridge it to that. We think the – again, going back you can say, "We think that the Fed won't raise rates anymore this year. However, we are bottom-up stock pickers, and right now – and we like companies that do this, this, and this. And right now we're finding value in the biotech sector, and here are companies we like."
And so, you can just keep going and keep going. And typically what happens in that situation is once you've gone over the bridge, then your audience is right there with you. And so, potentially the follow-up question that'll come up will be then about, "Well, tell me about these companies." Or, "Tell me about this sector. How is this sector benefiting?" Or, "Why do you like this sector?" So, that bridge is really important to be able to do that.
Marilyn: Hibre, I wonder if you could make any comments on when questions are asked and you don't answer them directly or if the Kellyanne Conways of the world, do you respond with something that seems completely different? Isn't that rude? How do you talk about that?
Hibre Teklemariam: I think that's an important question. Thank you. That is where the ABCs come into play. It's not rude if you acknowledge and politely say, "Well, you know, we don't invest in healthcare. However, right now we like the energy sector because companies are benefiting from lower energy prices or what have you."
So, the acknowledgement is really important. We don't want you to do what a politician does where you completely just avoid the question and you're bridging to your answer. That's what we do not want you to do. However, if you acknowledge it very polite, and it's honest. "We don't invest in healthcare, but we do invest in this. And here's why we like this space now."
Marilyn: Okay. If anybody else has any questions you can type them into the box on your control panel from GoWebinar. If not, any closing comments, Hibre?
Hibre Teklemariam: Everybody, these slides will be available on the SunStar Strategic website, and if you have any follow-up questions, please do contact us at Sunstarstrategic.com.
Marilyn: Terrific. Thank you so much. Again, thank you everyone for your participation. We'll let you know when those slides are available as well as the recording of this webinar. If you have ideas for future sessions, feel free to contact us via our website. Thank you so much. Thank you, Hibre.
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