This post’s title purposely has some resemblance to the title of Dale Carnegie’s famous book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, which has sold 15 million copies since being written in 1936. If you’re like me, you might ask why does a book covering such a basic concept sell so well?
Based on my experience, influencing others is a much more difficult skill to master and use on a consistent basis than we typically think.
As equity research analysts, we need influencing skills for two key constituents:
- Getting information sources to provide us insights useful for stock picking (could be someone you find on your own, or the management of the company you’re researching)
- Getting others to act on our stock ideas (your portfolio manager if you’re a buy-side analyst, or your clients if you’re a sell-side analyst)
These 8 steps melt away tension like butter and draw others to you like a magnet
In researching this topic, I reviewed numerous books, papers, journals and websites to arrive at 8 key elements required for equity research analysts to win over others, which comprises our PRACTICE™ framework.
In the table that follows, I highlight how to use the framework to obtain insights from information sources. In Part 2 of this post, I provide two tables to help:
- Sell-side analysts win over institutional buy-side clients
- Buy-side analysts attempting to win over their internal portfolio managers
PRACTICE™ to Win New Information Sources
|Step of PRACTICE™
|Steps to Influence Others
|Prepare to influence (1 of 2):
“What’s in it for them?” (WIIFT)
“How can I conform?”
- Research “what’s in it for them?” (I’ll be writing a future post on WIIFT) to ensure you know what will motivate them to have a conversation with you
- Search for the person on Google, LinkedIn, Bloomberg, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to help identify potential needs (notoriety, knowledge, friendship, etc.)
- If you’ve been provided the contact’s name via a colleague, ask about the contact’s motivations
- Research their background so you know how best to conform to “their ways” (as discussed in the “C” of PRACTICE™ below). This isn’t to say you automatically adopt their way of thinking and style, but know it so you are prepared.
|Prepare to influence (2 of 2):
|Self-assess by honestly answering these questions (resolve deficits where possible):
- Will you be credible to this person? (Ensure you know the critical factors for a stock)
- Do you have strong communication skills?
- Are you a good listener? (most people over-estimate their ability)
- Are you empathetic?
- Do you adapt well?
- Do you have a large network of contacts to potentially share as “currency” with this contact?
- Be the first to say “hello” and thank the interviewee for his/her time
- Ask questions to get to know them, in a sincere and genuine manner, which will build the all-important trust (work towards answering WIIFT)
- Show reverence to the person by noting why you have reached out to him or her
- Mention if you were referred to the person by someone they know
- Listen attentively -- at all costs, do not interrupt – it shows a lack of respect and may convey an over-sized ego. When others want to speak, let them do 95% of the talking for the first conversation – it’s all about them
- Establish common ground by agreeing with points they make – don’t have a debate during your first conversation
- Be confident (but not arrogant) by having researched the topic and practicing the questions to be asked (using the ICE™ framework). Individuals are more likely to respond to a confident person than someone who is unsure or hesitant
- Offer to provide something to meet their needs (the “rule of reciprocity” will likely lead them to offer you something)
|Ask about needs (WIIFT)
|If you haven’t already learned the interviewee’s “WIIFT” during your research in the “Prepare” step above, start the conversation by getting this answered (I’ll be writing a future post on WIIFT)
- Avoid passing judgment if the information source says something you disagree with (you won’t build trust if you start by disagreeing with the person)
- Use terms or jargon that show you know the topic, but not those that may not be understood by the information source (e.g. “ROIC”, “PEG ratio”)
- If in-person, dress in a manner that will help connect with the person
- Embrace “their ways” by showing interest in something unique to their profession, personal background or geographic region
|Trustworthy (build credibility)
- To illustrate your expertise, show or send the information source some of your insights, if allowed (in advance of the first meeting/conversation if possible)
- Be honest about capabilities and deliverables, and follow through on commitments and promises (take notes during meetings and then review afterwards)
- Proactively explain that you will maintain their confidentiality
- Treat everyone with respect (e.g. even the information source’s assistant or receptionist)
|Ignore distractions (external and internal)
- “Be in the moment” with the person by avoiding distractions such as emails, phone calls, texts, etc. (turn it all off or to “do not disturb” mode)
- As discussed in our ASPIRE™ framework, for in-person interviews, try to find a location conducive to a conversation - and potentially note-taking (not a loud coffee shop or convention banquet table)
- Ignore internal distractions such as:
- Self-absorption (which can include mentally preparing for your next question before the current question has been answered)
- Personal biases
- Use a comforting non-threatening tone, timing, pace and volume that will appeal to the listener (A person who feels attacked, rushed or doesn’t understand your question isn't likely to provide open and honest answers)
- Convey body language that shows you are interested in the conversation:
- Good eye contact, posture and facing the other person
- No crossed arms or legs
- No scanning smartphone
- Avoid skepticism in facial expressions and tone
- Lean forward to show interest
- Ask the interviewee’s opinion on topics
- Use these strategies below, which can be found in the QRC “Utilizing Weapons of Influence for Equity Research”
- Commitment and consistency
- Social proof
|Ensure needs are met (WIIFT)
|These are discussed in detail in the “R” portion of the ASPIRE™ framework. Some of the most effective best practices include:
- Satisfy all reasonable direct requests in a timely manner (e.g. send them information they requested or connect them with another industry contact)
- Offer to include the information source in a proprietary event such as a private monthly conference call with 5-6 other experts
- If allowed by your firm, offer to send the information source your research
- Periodically contact the information source to offer help, not just when you need information
Nothing in the table above is complicated, but it can be tough to incorporate into your day, just like going more frequently to the gym or eating more healthy food. For that reason, if you want to be better at winning over information sources, I encourage you to review this table once a week for a month so you can periodically reflect on where you’ve successfully used the skills in the past week and steps you should take to incorporate even more in the upcoming week.
My next post will provide a table that uses the PRACTICE™ framework for winning over those who influence your pay and promotion.
This Best Practices Bulletin™ targets activities #1, “Generate Informed Insights,” and #4, “Motivate Others to Act,” within our GAMMA PI™ framework, which is discussed in detail in our workshop: Generate Differentiated Insights Through Better Discovery, Questioning and Influencing.
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©AnalystSolutions LLP All rights reserved. James J. Valentine, CFA is author of Best Practices for Equity Research Analysts, founder of AnalystSolutions and was a top-ranked equity research analyst for ten consecutive years