Hello Wolf Pack!
Two blog posts ago, we talked about the three different ways you can break into investment banking, and which one may be the most appropriate for you. Then in our last blog post, we gave you a step-by-step walkthrough of how to network with bankers. We suggest reading those two posts first if you haven’t already, since what we are going to be talking about in this post – how to cold call/email effectively – is really the last resort and will have a much lower success rate. Nonetheless, for many of you, it will come down to this tactic because it’s the only shot you’ve got.
This is a very long post because it’s something that’s extremely hard and I wanted to give you all the details I got. Here’s a TL;DR on what we are going to cover:
- Who should be using this tactic
- Having the right mindset
- How to create a target list and find their contact information
- What are some useful tools
- What’s better – calling or emailing?
- How do I sequence my outreach?
- Who should I be contacting?
- What do I say?
If you want some inspiration for what you should say in your emails and calls, make sure you download our all-in-one recruiting resource, the WSMM Master Toolkit, by clicking below if you haven’t already. Inside you’ll see an exact script of how to do your 6-step outreach. All you have to do is personalize the responses based on your own situation and what feels comfortable for you, and practice using it. Keep this file open as you go through this post, it will make it easier to follow along when we explain the sequence in more detail later on.
Alright buckle up, here we go!
Who Are You?
In the best case scenario, you are still only a freshman in college (which means you still have time), and you already know you want to break into banking but you have no relevant work experience. You want to find a small regional boutique bank to work for so that you can just get your foot in the door. You don’t even care if it’s unpaid. Well, this tactic is perfect for you.
Worst case scenario, you are a junior or senior in college, and you’ve truly exhausted all other options (such as transferring to a target school, networking through mutual connections, etc). This is the only option for you because you have some or all of the following red flags on your resume: non-target school, poor grades, no relevant finance experience. You’ve tried everything and are repeatedly hitting dead ends, but are not ready to give up yet. Don’t worry, you still have a chance.
What if you’re an MBA student? Honestly you should probably rely on networking instead (again, refer to our previous blog post on this) since you’ve been working for awhile, are in business school, and theoretically should have a lot more industry connections than undergrad students. However, if for some reason you’ve tried that route already and did not find success, and you want to give this a shot, who am I to stop you?
The main point I want to get across here is this: cold calling/emailing is your last resort. Try the other more effective methods first, and don’t do this until you absolutely have to.
But First, Get Your Mindset Right
Before we dive into the tactics of how to go about cold calling/emailing bankers, it’s important to first talk about mindset. If you go down this route, what you’re going to be doing is going to be FRICKEN HARD. No ifs or buts about it, so just set the right expectation now. But in a way, that’s a good thing. Because if it was easy, everyone would be doing it. The fact that it’s hard means that if you want it more badly than your competition, you can actually turn this into an advantage. So how do you get into the right mindset?
- First, you need to ask yourself “How bad do I want this?” What’s your motivation? Why is it important to you that you get a banking job? If your reason is strong enough, you will do anything necessary. When you start getting the rejections that are bound to happen, all you have to do is remind yourself of your “why” and then you should be able to keep pushing forward. Use your motivation as your true north. Write it down and hang it up in a place that will serve as a constant reminder for yourself when the going gets tough (on the wall in front of your desk, on your mirror, etc.).
- Speaking of rejections, do not take them personally. You need to have thick skin. Don’t let your fear of rejection keep you from trying. What a lot of people don’t realize, and what I always remind people of, is that nobody thinks about you as much as you think about yourself. What do I mean by that? Well, the reason why we fear rejection is because in our head we have this crazy idea that when people reject us, they are going to remember us as that weird annoying guy/gal who kept calling them to beg for a job. The reality? Nobody cares about you that much except for yourself. No banker is talking to their wife and kids about you after they get home. Once they say no to you, they’ve already moved on with their lives and forgotten about you. The last time you got an unwanted call from a telemarketer, how many times did you think about them after hanging up? Zero? So what exactly do you have to lose? Exactly, nothing.
- You lose 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you’re too chicken to do it, just think about how there’s some other kid out there right now, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing, because they were able to get over themselves. You have two options:
- Chicken out, and then 5-10 years from now sit in your cubicle at some mediocre 9-5 job, wondering to yourself “what if?”
- Go for it, eat a ton of humble pie in the process, but possibly come out with your dream job. If you go with #2, I promise you will learn a ton and grow through all the SH*T you eat, even if you don’t end up getting the job. Then 5-10 years from now, you’ll either be sitting in your corner office as a big shot on Wall Street, thankful that you took my advice today, OR at a minimum, you’ll be at peace with yourself for having given it your all. You only live once. Don’t live with regret #YOLO
Don’t believe me? Fine. Go listen to Gary Vee on why Regret is Poison.
Remember: you’re just ONE offer away. You can call 100 bankers and get rejected 99 times. All you need is one offer, and your entire career trajectory changes. I myself got rejected dozens of times before landing my full-time offer.
OK You’ve Convinced Me. What Do I Gotta Do?
OK great, you’re still reading. If after setting the right expectations about how hard this is going to be, you still want to do this, let me tell you how.
Create a list of banks and people you’d like to contact. Ideally, they’re local to where you are so that it’s easier for you, but if that’s not an absolute must then you can cast an even wider net. Focus on the smaller regional boutique banks as those are more likely to make exceptions in recruiting for candidates who cold call/email. Bulge bracket banks have pretty structured recruiting processes that they’re less likely to detour from, not to mention much fiercer competition.
If you’re cold calling/emailing just to get the first relevant finance work experience on your resume, and not the actual full-time analyst offer, you can also look at industries that are not investment banking but are highly relevant. After all, this is a numbers game, and it’s always good to increase the number of options you have. The best industries include private equity, venture capital, hedge funds/family offices, equity research, and to a lesser extent private wealth management. Any type of job where you’re required to analyze companies and their financial statements can be relevant. The rest is up to how you talk about the experience on your resume and in interviews.
To find a list of investment banks near you, there are a couple of options. The paid option is Factset or CapitalIQ, which I assume you don’t have access to yet because you’re not working in finance yet. If you have a friend who’s currently in banking and willing to help you, have them use their subscription to run a screen for you. Note that if you get your list this way, you need to do some additional research to make sure the information is still up to date. Google the bank/person you’re thinking of contacting. Or use Linkedin. Which actually brings me to my next point.
If you can’t get your hands on a Factset/CapIQ screen, the best unpaid tool that anyone can use is Linkedin. I talked about how to use Linkedin for networking purposes in the last post on networking, but as a refresher: simply go into the search field and type “investment banking.” After you get to the search results page, edit the locations field to be the largest financial center near you or whichever city you’re targeting. Make a list of all the banks you see on the results page, then go look up their website one by one. Most smaller bankers will have a team page, and I would start there. Oftentimes they will have the bankers sorted by seniority already, with their email and phone number right on the website. See the screenshots below for a step-by-step example walkthrough:
Let’s pretend you are going to school in San Diego and want to find the local investment banks. A quick search on Linkedin returns four different banks before you’ve even scrolled down on the first page of the results. You decide to take a closer look at each bank by going to their websites.
Cascadia Capital’s website quickly reveals that it’s actually located in Seattle. Because we’re looking for an internship that we can do part-time during the school year, this one won’t work.
Next, we go to Objective Capital Partners’ website and go to the team page. They actually list the contact information for all of their Managing Directors, right there on the team page. Perfect!
Repeat this process for every investment bank, private equity shop, venture capital firm, and any other relevant employers you can find in the area.
What If the Banker’s Phone Number and Email Aren’t Listed on the Website???
If the bankers’ contact information is not listed, then the next place I would check out is the “About” or “Contact Us” page of the bank’s website. Usually, the general office number will be listed on at least one of these pages. This is less ideal than a direct line because you’ll likely have to get through one additional gatekeeper (i.e. the office secretary who mans the phone lines) to get to the decision makers, but it’s at least a backup option.
Another way to get the banker’s email is to brute force it by guessing. You can poke around on Google or Linkedin to find emails that end with @[bank].com to see the format of the email address at any given bank. It’s usually either [first name].[last name]@[bank].com or [first name]_[last name]@[bank].com or some variation of that. You can also use a tool called Mailtester to test if an email actually exists. Better yet, you can use one of my favorite tools, called Hunter.io, which allows you to either 1) enter the company you’re searching for, and it’ll show you the most common email syntax pattern, or 2) enter the name and company of the specific person you’re looking for in their email finder, and it’ll show you the person’s likely email along with a confidence score. Hunter.io also comes with its own free chrome extension.
If you are willing to pay for people’s contact information, there are also services like Zoominfo or Data.com that sell databases of contact information. Zoominfo has a free trial option, and Data.com has a Free Plan but it requires you to add a contact for every free contact you get so it may not be all that realistic. Of course, you can always go with either of their paid plans as well.
While we are on the topic of paid tools, there is also Yesware, which is used by salespeople for email tracking. It tells you who’s opening your messages, links, and attachments in real time. It also has other functionalities like email templates (if you’re sending the same email all the time, which you will be), mail merge (so you can email a bunch of people at once but still customize the email for certain fields (like name, name of bank, etc.), send later (allows you to schedule when you want to send your emails), amongst others. As of the time of this post, you can get the 4-week free trial, and after that it’s $15/month (or $12/month if you pay annually). If you’re on a budget, you can also go with Yesware’s competitors like Bananatag or Mixmax, which both do similar things as Yesware but offer a free plan. They also both come with free chrome extensions as well (here and here).
To be 100% clear, don’t worry, I’m not an affiliate of any of the tools listed above, and I don’t get paid if you buy their product. I will also say that I’ve never used any of these products personally, but I know friends in sales who have. I’m not vouching for any of them, but simply pointing out their existence in case you choose to use them.
Call Me Maybe?
Now before you start reaching out, a question I get a lot is whether it’s better to cold call or cold email. Different people have different opinions on this, but first, let me state the obvious: if you only have the contact’s email or phone number, but not both, then your choice is pretty easy.
What if you have both? Then my answer is you should use a combination of both. Because the honest truth is every banker is different and will have different preferences for how they’re contacted. Anyone that tells you one method is definitively better than the other is lying, because it’s always going to be case by case. Ultimately, the goal is to get the banker on the phone with you, but that doesn’t mean emails can’t assist in the process.
Next Comes the Hard Part… The Pitch
OK, now that you have your target list and their contact information ready, it’s time to nail down your pitch. Before you start calling the banks you’re interested in, it’s a good idea to do a few practice rounds by calling banks in a different geography that you don’t care about. Practicing your pitch to yourself is different than delivering it to a real banker. Doing a few dry runs will help you perfect your delivery, and get rid of your jitters.
Your pitch should:
- When emailing, have a subject line that makes people want to open your email
- Use a professional yet personable tone, and be concise and to the point
- Build rapport immediately, ideally through “uncommon commonalities” if you can find any
- Demonstrate the value that you bring to them as opposed to the other way around. Quickly touch on the following points:
- Who you are/your credentials: what school you go to, what year are you
- What relevant work experience and/or classes you’ve had in the past, and what skills you bring to the table (even better if you provide past examples)
- Ask for an opportunity (this is the call to action)
- Express deep gratitude
Here’s How I Would Sequence Your Outreach (2-3 Week Process)
Below is a basic outline of the outreach sequence I would recommend. I’m being very prescriptive here because that’s what some people like. You don’t have to follow this to a tee if you don’t want to; do whatever makes you the most comfortable. Now is also the time to open up the WSMM Master Toolkit that you’ve downloaded; it’ll make it easier to follow along (here it is again if you need it):
- Lead with your first cold email
- Why: An email is less intrusive than a call, so it’s always better to go with email first on a completely cold contact. Give them the opportunity to respond to you this way first. Even if they don’t, they’ve at least now been contacted by you once and seen your name. The next time you contact them, it technically won’t be 100% cold
- When: Saturday or Sunday, between 6-8am or 7-9pm. The rationale is that bankers get A LOT of emails, especially during the week. It’s quite possible for your email to get buried in their inbox during that time and never see the light of day. Sometimes even if they see it, they won’t respond right away because it’s not urgent and they’re occupied with higher priority things (client meetings or deadlines). Then they forget to come back and respond later because it’s just not that important to them. Don’t believe me? See the hard data on this
- Follow up with your second cold email by replying to the first email
- Why: You want to keep your emails in the same thread, to show that you’re being persistent. The primary goal of this email is to get to the top of their inbox again in case they already saw your email last time but just forgot to reply. Also mention that you know it’s the weekend, and that you’ll try following up by phone in a few days. You’ll see why this is important in the next step
- When: A week after your first email. You don’t want to seem pushy for following up too quickly unless you are running out of time for some reason
- Follow up with a phone call
- Why: Since you’ve already emailed them twice and didn’t receive a response, it’s time to hit the phones. If you get their voicemail, you can leave one and say you’re following up on the email you sent over the weekend, and leave them with your contact information and ask for a call back. If you get their assistant, you can say you’ve been in contact with them over email and they should know who you are or that they’re expecting you to call. This is not a lie because of the emails you’ve already sent previously
- When: Wednesday, either between 4-5pm or 8-9am. The hard data is here, and the rationale is explained here
- Assuming you got the voicemail last time, try calling again the very next day but don’t leave a voicemail this time if you don’t get through
- Why: You just left a voicemail yesterday, don’t leave another one right away or you’ll just come off as annoying
- When: Thursday, either between 4-5pm or 8-9am. Same rationale as the previous step
- Wait another week, and place one last call
- Why: Maybe last week was just a really busy week. Maybe the banker was on vacation. There could have been multiple reasons why you couldn’t get through. Wait until the following Wednesday and try one last time. If you get the voicemail again, it’s OK to leave one this time since it’s been a week since the last one. Your last message may have been buried deep in their voicemail at this point
- When: Wednesday, either between 4-5pm or 8-9am. Hopefully I don’t have to explain the rationale at this point
- One last follow-up email
- Why: Assuming you haven’t been able to get through to the banker after your previous four attempts, this is a last-ditch effort before you move on. As the data shows, additional persistence beyond the 6th attempt leads to minimal marginal benefits
- When: Thursday, either between 6-8am or 7-9pm. Try your last email the day after your last phone call. Try a weekday instead of the weekend in case that was why your previous emails failed. Maybe the banker doesn’t want to be bothered on the weekends
But Who Should I Reach Out to First?
This is a tricky question to answer, as there are pros and cons and some of it also depends on when you’re reaching out. Let’s look at the different options and the pros and cons of each:
Analysts: they’re the closest to you in age, just went through recruiting themselves and could potentially sympathize with what you’re doing, especially if they also come from a non-target school and had to cold call their way in just a year or two ago. If you’re calling during the regular recruiting cycle, they might be the ones screening resumes and could actually have influence over who gets interviewed. On the flip side, they’re the most likely to be getting crushed at work, and as a result can be less generous with their time. Also, if you’re calling outside of the normal recruiting process, they have less power to make exceptions for you.
Associates: similar to analysts, but possibly more willing to talk. They often come from business school, so they’re used to the idea of networking with strangers. Or, they may have done a career change from some other field into banking, and as a result, can sympathize with what you’re doing. They are generally less busy than analysts and could be more generous with their time. Finding a good analyst for the group who ends up owing them some goodwill can also be useful to them later on. The downside with associates is that they don’t have as much pull in making exceptions like the senior bankers do.
In general, if you’re resorting to cold calling and emailing, I’m assuming you’re doing it outside of the normal recruiting cycle (otherwise you should really be trying more effective things like on-campus recruiting, networking, and going to info sessions first). With that said, the analysts and associates are good to talk to if you’re starting early and have the time to do so. It’s always good to network and you can say you’ve done your homework later on when you actually talk to the senior bankers. But just don’t expect them to be able to pull any strings for you.
VPs/Directors: probably the ideal level of seniority for you to be targeting. They’re senior enough to be able to pull strings for you, and their time is less guarded than that of Managing Directors. At many banks, the mid-level bankers are also often the analyst staffer and/or in charge of running recruiting. They’re senior enough to be responsible, but not so senior that they need to focus all of their time and attention on the clients and revenue-generating activities.
Managing Director: if you can get through to these guys, they obviously have the most pull within the firm. However, they are also usually the hardest to reach, especially at larger banks where they each have a personal assistant that screens every single call for them. There are exceptions, however, especially with some of the smaller banks. Sometimes banks will list on their website the Managing Directors’ contact information but not that of the rest of the team. If this is the case, their contact information actually ends up being the easiest to get your hands on. In that case, this may actually be your best bet.
What Happens When They Say No?
Most bankers will say no! You need to have your objection handling prepared. Common objections that you should prepare for include:
- We don’t hire interns
- We don’t have any more openings in the class
- We don’t have any budget for this
- I’m not the decision maker
Ask open-ended questions instead of yes/no questions, keep probing and asking follow-up questions so that you can get to the bottom of the real reason for their objections, and address it until they can no longer reasonably object.
OK sorry for the super long post, but there’s just so much to cover and I did warn you up front! I try to give you as much value as I possibly can with these blog posts, because like I said, you’re just ONE offer away. If for some reason you still haven’t downloaded the all-in-one recruiting toolkit that has our cold call/email scripts, here’s one last reminder to grab it by clicking below.
As always, if you’d like more hands-on and personalized help, you can check out our coaching program here. If you have comments or questions, please drop a line down below. Otherwise, remember: