What with monitoring market activity and economic data, meeting with managements and kicking the tires, so to speak, at the companies they cover, sell-side equity analysts don’t have as much time as they might like for direct interaction with clients. That role often falls to the members of a firm’s sales team, who promote the analysts’ research, arrange meetings with corporate executives, coordinate road shows and perform a thousand other tasks that fall under the general heading of customer service.

“A good institutional sales team understands research from the client’s perspective,” one U.S.-based participant in the 2011 All-America Research Team told Institutional Investor. (We keep confidential the identities of the survey respondents and their firms to ensure their continuing cooperation.) “The team has to have a good understanding of our investment process and recommend research that fits our style.”

We asked this money manager and others who cast votes in this year’s survey to tell us which firms field the best teams when it comes to U.S. equity research sales. We heard from investment professionals at roughly 90 percent of the participating buy-side institutions; these firms control three out of every four of the $12.7 trillion invested in U.S. equities. (In the navigation table to the right, click on Methodology for more information about how this ranking was compiled.)

When it comes to sales, Morgan Stanley is the clear favorite and takes the top spot on the inaugural All-America Sales Team.

“The team at Morgan Stanley has done an excellent job of providing access to analysts in a timely fashion,” says one buy-side backer. “They also provide value-added ideas and trading ‘color’ for the sector and the companies that we cover.”

A portfolio manager from China is similarly enthusiastic. “Morgan Stanley’s U.S. sales team has the broadest coverage and the most proactive attitude — they tailor their services not just for different clients, but even for different individuals within the same client firm,” this survey participant says.

Nick Savone, who with Suzanne Charnas directs Morgan Stanley’s U.S. equity research sales efforts, notes that “clients are becoming increasingly global in their approach as they need to consider the impact of macroeconomic forces in their analysis.” The firm’s analysts collaborate across regions and investment disciplines to deliver broad-based research to clients.