M&A upside: How to win amidst daunting statistics

I’m sure you’ve heard the numbers—various reports and research put the failure rate for mergers and acquisitions (M&A) between 70-90% (Harvard Business Review). Yikes.

The idea of a merger can be a romantic one—enhanced products, new customers, cost cuts and the list goes on. It is easy to get excited about what the new relationship will look like when the two are married. However, when the courting is over, all too often executing the necessary steps to make the union a success falls by the roadside. Revenue-generating teams are left scrambling and navigating uncharted waters without a vision or plan—namely how to unify marketing and sales operations under a common go-to-market banner.

Success or failure is less tied to compelling profit and loss models or ingenious product roadmaps than one might think. Instead, M&A success is predicated on the proper investment in enablement and coaching of the combined sales teams around a common sales process that employs compelling buyer messaging.

There are three primary opportunities for unleashing revenue performance success when it comes to M&A initiatives:

  • Cross-sell/up-sell powered by an enhanced value proposition: If you have merged with or acquired another entity where products afford opportunities to provide additional value-add to each company’s install base, in effect you now have the opportunity to reach two new markets. This can prove rewarding as there is often already a level of buy-in due to the earned trust with their previous solution provider. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to leverage that trust. In light of your new solution offering, take the time to re-think the three components that build a compelling value proposition: pain, solution and gain.
  • A new trigger to overcome status quo: Maybe with a recent acquisition your solution just got a facelift by adding capabilities and features you couldn’t offer before to the problems your prospects are facing. This provides the opportunity to go back to those clients who align with the new buyer profile and revisit their pains again, but now with something that might finally uproot them from status quo.
  • More compelling differentiation to distinguish you in competitive sales cycles: Your offering is now more compelling, providing you the perfect opportunity to craft a new value proposition to put into the hands of your combined sales team. What are the new unique, valuable, provable and memorable factors you need to take into account? How does that stack up in the marketplace with competitive offerings? It is critical you find a way to distinguish your offering from the competition in an effort to fight the “me-too” conundrum.

There can be a lot of confusion around effectively realizing these opportunities. While the decision to merge or acquire can look like common sense from 10,000 feet, success is found when the details are painstakingly outlined, understood and executed properly.

No matter where you are in the decision-making and due diligence process, never assume someone else is taking care of the logistics of how solutions marketing and sales operations need to power the plan for accretive success! Here are three quick steps that need to be taken immediately in the event of a merger or acquisition–and some actions that should be outlined during the due diligence efforts:

1) Educate. As sales teams are joined or expected to work in tandem, they need to be informed of the purpose of the merger/acquisition, how it impacts them personally, their role, their product and their prospects/customers, and the benefits it brings to all the key parties impacted. Create a team of leaders (a few from both organizations) to manage the change, be point to answer questions and create an action plan.

2) Engage. (It is critical this step is taken immediately) Get appropriate representatives from the combined marketing, sales and solutions/services teams into a working session where they outline key elements of the new go-to-market strategy your teams are about to begin executing:

  • Define ideal buyer profile
  • Research and describe competitive landscape
  • Outline issues and opportunities your ideal buyers need to fix/accomplish/avoid
  • Create differentiated messaging and value proposition to be employed
  • Craft client stories to prove your enhanced value proposition
  • Describe uplift to value proposition
  • Define how to amplify buyer pain

Be careful about communicating extensively with your target buyers through marketing campaigns or sales meetings until this occurs. Instead, be proactive and accelerate the earnouts for not only the professionals in the combined company, but most importantly, your customers!

3) Equip. Even if you combine two of your market sector’s top sales teams, if they are not given the sales ready assets they need to succeed, failure is inevitable. Is a new playbook needed? How about enriched tools to reach and engage a new audience? How do we train our sales channels on the new or enhanced product and related go-to-market approach? Make sure solid leadership (possibly bring someone in from the outside) is in place to help guide and facilitate these needs. Even the best sales “athletes” need the right tools and guidance to succeed.

Defy the odds and make your merger a success by taking the time and resources to ensure your sales team is prepared for the change.

How have you aligned marketing and sales teams in the event of a merger/acquisition? What lessons have you learned?