How to Dominate Your Investment Banking Sell Day

65 Comments | Investment Banking - Preparing for Work

5 Flares 5 Flares ×

Investment Banking Sell DayAfter setting up 114 informational interviews during recruiting season, you made it through alive and got 3 bulge bracket investment banking offers.

You picked your top choice, and now you’ve spent the last 5 months in Buenos Aires partying.

But then one day you get a letter from your bank: your sell day is coming up next week.

So what do you do now?

Why?

You already have an offer, so why does anything else matter?

Because your performance on sell day determines which group you’ll be placed into.

And that determines which exit opportunities you’ll get, which business school you’ll get into, and your life 30 years into the future.

Screw up your sell day, and you could just fail life.

What?

It’s called a “sell day” because the bank is courting you for once. You already have the offer, and now different groups are lining up to recruit you.

Each group will present and pitch you on why you should join them: they’ll pull out league tables, PE / business school placement stats, and will do everything short of bribing you with cocaine to convince you to join them.

At the end of each presentation, you’ll get a chance to network with the bankers who presented and also “sell” yourself to them.

The ranking mechanics are simple: you rank your group preferences, and then each group ranks the incoming analysts or associates it wants.

HR then tries to match up everyone so that you get into one of your top-ranked groups and each group gets their top-ranked recruits.

Speed dating meets investment banking.

Who?

Summer analysts, full-time analysts, summer associates, and full-time associates all go through the sell day process.

It doesn’t matter quite as much for summers because it’s only 8-12 weeks rather than 2-3 years.

If you’re a former summer analyst who accepted a full-time offer with a specific group, you won’t get to play unless you’ve asked to switch groups.

And if you interviewed for a specific group already, then you also won’t get to participate in the festivities – this is more common in regional offices and at middle-market / boutique banks.

Not every group recruits at sell days, either – sometimes a group might have no openings because summer interns already filled all their spots.

How?

There are 2 parts to the execution of a sell day:

  1. Preparation beforehand.
  2. Performance on-the-spot.

Preparation

You want to do some research on the bank, the different groups, and recent deals they’ve done.

You don’t need to memorize league tables or the names of everyone at the bank, but it’s good to have a few talking points.

Go and contact alumni or anyone else who’s already at the bank before your sell day to ask these questions and get your name out there.

Don’t bother “studying” for technical questions. Bankers will not ask you to multiply 35 * 17 or what a PIK note is – “fit” questions and chit-chat are far more likely.

You should also contact everyone you met during the recruiting process and set up in-person meetings around the time of your sell day – and before it, if you can.

90% of incoming analysts and associates never bother to set up these “off-book” meetings so you’ll have a huge advantage if you can get the real scoop on different groups.

During these meetings, cut to the chase and ask which groups are good, which aren’t, and how you can really get placed where you want – remember how you need to ask for what you want in order to get it.

Performance

This one’s very similar to investment banking information sessions: don’t do anything stupid, meet as many people as you can, and collect business cards.

What Not to Do:

  1. Ask lots of irrelevant questions during the presentation just for the sake of asking questions.
  2. Stand in a corner and avoid introducing yourself to anyone.
  3. Appear too casual and start talking about how you just got arrested in Vegas or anything else you would not mention during an interview.

After the presentation, introduce yourself to as many bankers as you can and try to chat with each one for at least a minute or two.

Unlike information sessions, where it sometimes pays to get into an extended discussion with a banker, on sell days you don’t have enough time to do this.

So talk to each person, collect a business card each time, and if you’re pressed for time focus on the staffer and the other senior bankers because they have the decision-making power.

Types of Questions

Unlike informational interviews or information sessions – where you’re better off sticking to personal questions – you can and should throw in business-related questions on sell day.

Examples:

  1. How do you like this group?
  2. What kind of deal flow have you had lately?
  3. Why did you decide to work here?
  4. How many / what type of deals are you working on right now?

You can still ask personal questions about their backgrounds, but sell day is as much intelligence gathering for you as it is courting recruits for the bankers.

Follow-Up

After you’ve gotten business cards from everyone, send follow-up emails quickly – within a day – especially to your top-ranked groups.

If you’re ranking 10 groups, you don’t need to follow-up with every single banker you met – focus on your top 2 or 3 choices.

Unlike normal networking situations where you want to ask a substantial question in each interaction, saying “It was nice to meet you” and writing a short note is fine for these emails.

The purpose is to get your name out there and to make them remember who you are – not to build a relationship with every single banker.

You can reference whatever you spoke about with them as well – but chances are you won’t remember dozens of conversations very well.

What Next?

Contact everyone you met during the recruiting process and anyone else you know at the bank to ask which groups are solid, and see if you can meet with or speak with them before sell day.

Figure out which group you want to get into, and then dominate your sell day by meeting as many people as you can, following up quickly, and doing what you can outside sell day to come out ahead.

And maybe, just maybe, you won’t get stuck doing equities in Dallas.

Questions & Answers

Q: Which group should I pick?

A: Depends on your goals. If you want to do PE, groups like M&A, Financial Sponsors (maybe not this one quite as much), and Leveraged Finance are better; if you want better hours or you’re interested in investor relations, go for Equity Capital Markets.

It also comes down to the people in each group – M&A might sound nice on paper, but maybe the hours are better and the exit opportunities are the same in another group all because of one Sycophant in M&A.

There’s no “right” answer here because it depends on your background and what you want to do in the future.

See: Investment Banking Summer Analyst Group Selection.

Q: What happens if none of my top choices ranked me highly?

A: Unlike speed dating, you can’t just be rejected by everyone – so they’ll place you in a group that wasn’t as popular or that couldn’t get their top choices either.

This doesn’t happen all that often – believe it or not, not everyone in the world wants to do M&A.

Q: I am obsessive compulsive and need to study something beforehand. Are you sure I shouldn’t study technical questions or memorize league tables?

A: Knock yourself out – some people are happier in hell.

The usefulness is close to 0, though.

Q: Are there any questions that I shouldn’t ask in the networking sessions after each presentation?

A: Don’t ask about the lifestyle or hours, because you might give the impression that you’re actually expecting to have a life.

Also don’t do too much “dirt digging” in these sessions – asking about which MDs are good and which are bad – because your conversation will be overheard. Save that for your off-book meetings.

Q: Should I meet my contacts for coffee or go to their offices if I’m setting up meetings before sell day?

A: Duh, go to their office so they can introduce you to everyone else.

Q: Do I need to get HR’s “permission” / go through HR to do any of this?

A: No, once again HR is useless. Do as much as you can without their involvement.

More questions? Ask away.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

Break Into Investment Banking

Free Access to Exclusive Content for Members Only!

Loading the player...

Sign up for The Banker Blueprint today and enjoy:

ebook
  • Free Report: 57-page guide with the action plan you need to break into investment banking - how to tell your story, network, craft a winning resume, and dominate your interviews,
  • Exclusive emailed bonus material,
  • Free Banker Blueprint newsletter with more in-depth advice,
  • Unlimited access to all articles, videos, and advice - and free updates whenever new content is added to the site,

 

We respect your email privacy

Read below or add a comment...

65 Comments to “How to Dominate Your Investment Banking Sell Day”

Comments

  1. Anon says

    Hi,
    I was wondering how to answer this question,

    “Do you have any questions for us?”

    Any help? Thanks in advance

  2. CC says

    So if you’re at a BB that simply asks SA’s to rank their industry group preferences, how much can you do to help increase your chances of getting into a particular group? Speaking to bankers in the group is certainly informative, but I don’t see how that necessarily translates into helping me get into that group? Thanks.

    • says

      Be very direct with them that you’re interested in that group and that they’re your top choice. You would be surprised how much getting your name out there helps – like anything else networking-related it sounds stupidly simple but hardly anyone does it in the first place. Aside from asking good questions and indicating that the group is your top choice, you can’t do much.

  3. Melody says

    Great post as usual!!!!!

    Just curious, what is the percentage of analysts or associates who are interested in M&A, 90% percent?

  4. Blink IB says

    I got this strange question,

    “As a junior person in PWM, how could/would you add value?”

    how should i have handled this?

    • says

      Probably say something like “Come up with new investment ideas or ways to change a client’s portfolio that they haven’t already thought of and suggest them to senior people without being asked” or “Find a way to make the investment selection / other processes more efficient”

    • says

      For S&T not really because you usually interview for a specific desk, even at large banks. Research I’m not certain of, but I would also assume “no, or at least not in the same way” because they accept fewer recruits to begin with.

  5. says

    I have an SA position at an investment bank this summer and i have a few weeks before the start of school – if I were to do a second internship (likely in hedge funds because i’m interested in that as well) would that put me in any hot water with the original company? the start/end dates will definitely not overlap

  6. says

    if say i was president of a club for 2 terms in the past but not anymore and also secretary at one point, can i just say President & Treasurer under the club on my resume or do i need the years? i dont really care if they find out, it just looks neater without dates next to each one

  7. John says

    Haha yeah I suppose so. In all honestly, it is more like 80 hours a week isn’t it–are most claims of 100 or 100+ exaggeration? At least on a regular basis?

  8. Mike says

    Awesome post!

    Last summer I interned in a team that is regarded as one of the most “prestigious” in the bank (i.e. one of M&A, FSG, Lev Fin), and whilst I was converted I didn’t really like it there. It was nothing personal, they treated me very well and the work was great, but the hours and the constant intensity was what put me off. I’ve also heard a rumour that the bank won’t do a sell day for the returning analysts, they’ll simply place them in teams they’ve interned in.

    How do I go about asking the HR to invite me to a sell day? I know the simple answer would be just to ask them, but I’m afraid that it might get back to my team and it will make things very awkward if I won’t be able to switch teams.

    Thanks

    • says

      Other than asking HR, all you can really do is ask anyone you know in other group you’re interested in at the bank. No matter what you do or who you ask, it may get back to your team – that’s just the nature of gossip at banks.

    • says

      Depends on the bank, region and other factors… usually M&A, LevFin, and industry groups will pay more than capital markets.

  9. MW says

    Thanks for the reply. In terms of pay, how is it usually structured for an associate in M&A, LevFIn or Mezzanine Finance? Base + bonus only – or is there another component in there somewhere besides the bonus? When you get an offer is there any room to negotiate any of these components in todays market?

    • says

      Just base + bonus. There is no room for negotiation unless you have several years of experience in banking already – newly minted analysts / associates can’t negotiate anything at bulge brackets.

  10. MW says

    For a new first year associate at a mid market firm, what would you say is a reasonable all in comp to expect for the first year? (working in Mezz finance, PE, Lev Fin, Debt restructure)

  11. MW says

    Really – that is quite a bit more than I would expect. How much of that would be base? Is this salary at a GS / UBS type firm or a true mid market like Cantor Fitzerald / Piper Jaffray?

    When I say 1st year associate I mean some just graduating with an MBA and with 6 years work experience in commercial banking / lending. This would be a career change for me. I have not worked in the IB industry before.

    Thanks again for answering my questions. I am glad I found this blog.

    • says

      Usually associates start at $95K or $100K base. Smaller firms pay less in bonuses but base salaries are usually the same at both bulge brackets and middle market firms. In a bad year you might not get much more than your base salary – those estimates are based on what you would get in a decent year.

  12. MW says

    Any idea what would be the best approach for someone trying to break into industry coming from the midwest and not having any direct connections to the industry? I plan to use my college placement office but don’t expect them to be able to offer much.

  13. MW says

    Two Q’s for you.

    1.) What is FIG? (Does it mean Financial Industries Group?) If so, what are some of the better bank’s to get into that specialize in that type of industry?

    2.) New MBA fresh out of school, worked in commercial banking for six years as a commercial credit analyst, federal bank examiner and a brief stint in a public accounting. What level do think someone should expect with this type of work experience and education? (Upper level analyst or Associate) neither?

    thanks again

    • says

      Financial Institutions Group. I’m not sure on the best banks there but I think GS/MS/JPM do the most work.

      If you have an MBA then you’ll be an Associate.

  14. MW says

    Love your blog – in all seriousness how many hours a week on the average should one expect to work as an associate?

    Does it get better as you move up?

    Does it vary from firm to firm or from bulge bracket to boutique?

    thanks

    • says

      You will never work less than 60 hours no matter how high up you are. Associates will start out close to analysts (80-100+ hours per week) but it gets better over time as you reach the VP level. It may be slightly better at smaller firms but bonuses are also much smaller.

  15. MW says

    For someone trying to break in, what is your advice on the best size of bank to start with? Which one sets you up for better opportunities down the road? I assume it would be Bulge but thought I would ask.

    – Bulge
    – Mid
    – Boutique

  16. Chris says

    I didnt know where my question would fit in so I just put it here. I am interning in Equity Sales this summer but I am looking to get into trading. I applied for an internship for spring 2011 and got invited to an interview but Ill be interviewed by three salespeople so it’s certain that the internship would be in Sales.

    I like Sales but I definitely want to do a trading internship so what would you do? I am thinking of politely asking the recruiter if they have any vacancies in trading.

  17. Prashanth Cherukuri says

    This has to be the best blog on banking so far. Thanks a lot !
    Question: I have a meeting with the Division VP of Banking at a bulge-bracket next week. My background is in technology design and development (Read cubicle bird), and I am at a top 3 B-school.
    I’m interested in banking.
    What should I talk to him about ? I don’t want to look stupid, and I want to make the most of my time, and do some sort of a plug that I’m interested in banking. How do I go about it? Any thoughts?
    thanks a lot
    PC

  18. T says

    I accepted a FT offer in IBD, and have a sell day coming up before training. My first choice is TMT, but I do not have much to support that on my resume.

    Do you suggest that I find a tech-related internship/interest before the sell day? Or would that be a complete waste of time considering placement is more based on fit?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  19. bluesky says

    Great post as always!

    I just had a sell day, and I focused on 3-4 groups that I have strong interests in. But it was a large crowd – not enough time to have deep conversations and was very hard to make an impression within 5 minutes or so with each banker. I did collect business cards though.

    Before I need to officially rank the groups, I have about 2 weeks’ time now. What should I do within this time period? Should I continue emailing/calling the people I already knew + the people I met at the sell day to get more insights? I want to get into my top choice groups (which are the popular groups everywhere), but I don’t want to overkill or appear annoying. What are your suggestions? Appreciate your insights. Thanks a lot!

  20. Latam says

    Another great post, thanks for all the information!

    I had a question regarding Latin America IB groups as I just recently got that specific placement. I was wondering what the preception of these types of group is. With M&A and other coverage groups, do they serve more as a relationship manager? I was wondering if the exit opps are more limited as well. Thanks for help.

    • says

      I don’t think there’s a particular perception other than they work on mostly regional deals; exit opps would probably be more limited to going to something else in that region.

  21. nigel says

    Thanks for the insightful article!

    I am an intending SA in a BB in asia. I guess the process is a bit different here and I seldom heard of anyone having a sell day. From what I heard of, they usually just ask you to indicate your group preference and then get back to you with the result.

    But normally, when would we be asked for group selection and when would the result be out?

    • says

      Yes in Asia it might be a bit different esp. if they would have to fly you in it might be a different process and they might not want to pay for that.

      Normally group selection happens a few months before you start working full-time, results are usually out quickly after that.

  22. REL&L says

    I recently had an interview with an M&A group at a well known region investment bank. The position is for an experienced analyst. I am entering my 2nd year at a BB bank in the real estate group.

    I know the interview went well and the interviewers’ feedback was that they were impressed but I was told the job was given to someone coming from an M&A group at another bank. I found out today that that person declined the offer, would it make any difference to reexpreas my interest at this point in the position or am I completely out of consideration? Thanks.

  23. Don says

    Hi,
    after an internship in a BB regional office, I was invited in London to meet the IB teams; the invitation says I will network with junior bankers at lunch and meet the senior bankers individually afterwards, the day after I will meet the team of my preference. I don’t understand whether will be more like a superday or a sell day? Thanks

  24. Suganthi says

    Hi Mr Brain,
    I am Suganthi, i work a KPO in India for a U.S based Hedge fund. I have been working for US market for the past 2.5 years. I have access to Firstcall and Reuters news sources and we have our own huge database, which has historical data about the companies. If new news coming about the stocks in the universe track list, I will try to capture the probable impact on the companies’ profitability, I will also categorize the news based on the parameters such like, whether it is expected by the market or not, is it one time or will it continue, structural or cyclical, any impact on supply chain or industry so on.
    I have tried CFA last June, i dint get through. I dont want to give one more try because my salary is less. I want to do equity research, is there any course which can enhance my skill. Kindly suggest me a course. Thank you

    • M&I - Nicole says

      CFA will help ER. CAIA might also help, not as useful as the CFA though. You can also try breakingintowallstreet.com/biws/

  25. John D. says

    Hi Brian!

    Thanks to M&I I got an offer and we went through our sell day(s) where a lot of coverage/product/s&t groups presented. One MD started shooting in depth questions at me that I knew a fair amount about, so he was extremely impressed with my performance. Now he’s asking around about me (presumably to take me into the group). The problem is that this is not my top choice (maybe 4th,5th)and I want to push for other groups. How do I stay on good terms with him while saying (in terms of banker speed dating)”let’s just be friends?”

    Thanks in advance,

    John D.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congrats! I’d suggest you to have a coffee with him and see what he’s thinking. You should also network with MDs in groups of your 1st and 2nd choice and see if you click with them. If this MD really likes you, you might want to get to know him better because you might end up wanting to work for him!

      • John Doe says

        Thanks Nicole, but unfortunately HR has put restrictions on “approved” networking/interaction, so coffee is out. I definitely will follow up with my top choices though. Your thoughts?

  26. Juan says

    Hello,

    I’m interning at a BB in IBD this summer and am interested in one particular coverage group there. The sell day hasn’t occurred, and we haven’t even received information about the placement process yet.

    Nevertheless, one of my interviewers is an MD in my group of choice so I contacted him over phone so as to indicate my interest in the group. He then forwarded me to a senior analyst in the same group whom I chatted with as well, who again referred me to yet another analyst in the group I will speak to over the phone in two days time.

    From your experience, who ultimately has the say when it comes to sorting interns in specific product/coverage groups in IBD? What do you recommend I do in addition to hopefully land a place in said preferred group?

    Your advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      The whole team has a say, because you’ll be working with the whole team, and most likely under the supervision of an Associate and Analyst. I’d recommend you to meet everyone on the team and make a very good impression! I wouldn’t pester them, though I would be subtly persistent!

  27. ESF says

    I will be joining a BB in Hong Kong as a FT Associate. Have not heard anything about a “sell day” and in fact this is the very first time I have heard about this.

    Is this event still true, does it hold true for Hong Kong (“regional”)? And if I wasn’t made aware of it before, is that an oversight, or is this just something that will be made aware to us during training.

    Thanks

  28. Joe Chen says

    I’ll be joining Bar Cap in two months as an associate. I’m kind of curious what process we go through, because after training we have a three 5-week rotations before our final group placement. Can anyone provide insight regarding this type of process? Do we also have a sell day and then we rank our top choices and those are the ones that we get for the rotation? Or is there no sell day and rather everyone gets at least 1 of their top 3 choices through their rotations and then that’s how teams choose?

    Thanks

Leave a Reply