Price is often the number one focus in mergers and acquisitions and everyone is eager to get down to the numbers.

However, as you might expect, buyers and sellers have very different expectations on price, which can lead to friction between the two parties. On the one hand, most sellers plan to offer their business to the highest bidder while buyers are looking for a cheap deal. Given the opposite viewpoints, it can be difficult to broach the issue of price and come to an agreement.

The best way to bridge this gap is to make sure you don’t focus on price as a primary driver for the acquisition. Before you even begin talking about dollars and cents, you should make sure the deal makes sense. Initially you should communicate the strategic value of why an acquisition between your two companies makes sense. This is a critical step, especially when approaching owners of not-for-sale companies. Aligning your vision with the owner’s vision prior to even discussion the details of a potential deal (such as price or deal structure) is paramount.

Once you’ve achieved strategic alignment and you begin negotiations, you must think about what you can offer an owner in addition to price that will convince him or her to sell to you. Money is a strong motivator, but it’s not the only motivator. As a buyer, you must identify the nonfinancial factors in addition to price that will motivate an owner to sell. Understanding the owner’s psychology is key to building a mutually beneficial deal.

Owners do sell their businesses for many reasons other than high price including:

  • Age – They may want to retire and are burned out
  • Family – They may have no heir to take over the business or their spouse may be nagging them to retire
  • Insecurity and risk – Selling now while the business is performing well may mitigate their risk
  • Excitement – They simply are excited to be considered for acquisition, because of the prestige or a possible financial windfall

Achieving strategic alignment before discussing price as well as identifying the issues that matter the most to the owner can help you bridge the gap between your number and theirs. When you approach owners with a complete understanding of all the different factors that are important to them – age, community, family, financial, and risk – you increase your chances of building a successful acquisition.

“I’m not interested in selling my business right now.”

“We already have a strategic plan in place.”

“We are already talking to another buyer.”

“Why should I listen to you? I get asked to sell all the time.”

“I may sell in a few years when my company has a higher value.”

“Who are you????”


These are the typical responses owners give when contacted for the first time about selling their business. While it can be discouraging to hear “no,” it would be more surprising to hear an owner say, “Yes, I am ready and willing to sell you my business over the phone right now!” Experienced acquirers know that an owner’s initial “no,” is simply a knee-jerk reaction resulting from surprise more than anything else.

The majority of owners of privately-held businesses, especially those that are healthy and run well, are not operating their business with the intent of selling. They are focused on growth and delivering products and services to their customers. Just because someone is not currently thinking about selling does not mean that their company is not for sale. Click to continue reading on The M&A Growth Bulletin.

This article originally appeared in The M&A Growth Bulletin, Capstone’s quarterly newsletter that delivers essential guidance on growth through M&A along with tips and tactics drawn directly from successful transactions completed in the market. Subscribe today to read the current edition and receive The M&A Growth Bulletin every quarter.

Owners are usually skeptical or defensive when asked about selling their “not-for-sale” company. In fact, many will hang up or refuse to consider your offer. If you do manage to break through and get the owner to agree to a first meeting, your job is to put them at ease, dissuade fears and communicate the strategic value of an acquisition. A positive first meeting is essential to executing a successful deal.

One of the best ways to make an owner comfortable is to meet on their terms. Let the owner pick the restaurant and meeting location. This has a number of benefits: the owner will naturally be more comfortable and open to discussions in a familiar settings and you will also learn a great deal about the owner and their personality.

Prior to the meeting make sure you do your homework and have an understanding of the seller as both a business owner and as a person so that you can discuss their hobbies, family or any other topics they enjoy during the first meeting.

Most importantly, you should behave as if you were their guest by being respectful and listening. You do not want to come across as a hostile acquirer who wants to take over their business, but rather a potential partner that will bring mutual success to both companies.

Learn more about contacting owners in our webinar “The First Date”: Contacting Owners and Successful First Meetings on April 20.

After this webinar you will be able to:

  • Explain what typically motivates owners to sell
  • Describe effective contact strategies for getting and keeping owners on the phone
  • Detail how to use market and prospect research to gain credibility with an owner
  • Outline steps for a successful first face-to-face visit with an owner
  • Develop a persuasive first meeting presentation to highlight the strategic fit between your company and the prospect

“The First Date”: Contacting Owners and Successful First Meeting

Date: Thursday, April 20, 2017

Time: 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

CPE credit is available.

After signing a letter of intent, you expect the deal to close, but there are a number of reasons acquisitions fail ranging from regulatory hurdles to unexpected challenges that arise during due diligence to cultural clashes. In my last post, I discussed reasons deals fall apart even after both parties sign a LOI. Here are three ways to make sure your deal stays intact and reaches the finish line.

1. Strategy First!

Using strategy as your guiding principal is helpful in all steps of the M&A process. As you finalize your deal, continue communicating your shared vision for the newly merged company with the owner. It will be easier to reach an agreement and smooth over negotiations if both parties agree on the direction of the acquisition. Make sure both you and the seller keep the big picture in mind and are aligned on strategy.

2. Understand the Seller’s Perspective

Many owners have a strong emotional attachment to their company; it’s their baby. They’ve spent their lives building the business and they are not going to sell to just anyone. Prior to signing the LOI, you had to convince the owner that you were the right home for their company. Even after signing the LOI, it’s important to continue reaffirming the seller that you are the right buyer. Remember to keep the seller’s perspective in mind rather than just barreling forward and pushing your own agenda. Remember – a LOI is not the same as an agreement and the seller can still back out.

3. Negotiate in Parallel, Not Series

During negotiations, rather than arguing each little point, gather all the points of contention and settle them together. This way, you can determine what’s really important to you and to the seller. Bringing all the issues to the table at once will reduce frustration and prevent you from getting stuck on unimportant issues that can prevent your deal from moving forward.

Have a Plan B

Even if you follow the strategies listed above, your deal may still fall apart. It’s part of the nature of acquisitions – high risk, high reward. The best way to mitigate risk and make sure you haven’t wasted all your time and effort is to have a backup plan. Have a robust pipeline of companies to consider for acquisition. This way if one deal falls apart, you can still move forward with your other options.

Learn more in our upcoming webinar “M&A: From LOI to Close.”

Date: November 10, 2016
Time: 1:00 PM – 2:15 PM ET


Photo Credit: Brandon Hite Flickr cc

For an owner of a privately-held company, the business is their baby and using hard-nosed tactics to negotiate for the lowest price is ill-advised. The human factor cannot be overlooked when pursuing M&A and establishing trust with an owner is critical.

Buying a privately-held business is not like buying a car where you can negotiate the lowest possible price and then drive away and never see the salesperson again. In this case you end up driving off the lot with the salesperson in the car. Often, in a privately-held acquisition, the owner stays on and continues to work in the business for a number of years. Focusing on cost-cutting and financial engineering is no way to establish a successful (and profitable) working relationship.

Here are three ways to remember the human factor when speaking with owners:

  1. Communicate strategic rationale – Most owners receive numerous offers for their business so it’s up to you to stand out from the pack. Clearly communicating the strategic rationale for an acquisition and prove that you’ve done your research to differentiate you from others.
  2. Buy often, sell once – There is an asymmetry with buyers and sellers. You can buy as many businesses as you want, but the owner can only sell their business one time. It’s important to establish trust so the owner feels comfortable giving their “baby” away.
  3. They are all for sale…for the right equation – Just because a company is “not-for-sale” doesn’t mean it’s not for a sale. It simply means the owner isn’t actively trying to sell the business. It’s up to you to find the right factors – financial and nonfinancial – that will change a “no” to a “yes.”


When meeting an owner for the first time, your goal is not to instantly sign a deal. You first want to get to know them and make them feel comfortable about selling their business to you. In order to do this, there are some important questions to ask and subjects to broach, which I’ve covered elsewhere. Today, let’s focus on some of the topics that you should avoid.

Here’s what NOT to say to an owner in your first meeting:

Politics and Religion

In general, you want to stay away from anything potentially controversial. As with family thanksgiving dinners, you should avoid politics and religion. You don’t know the owner or their perspective, so don’t risk losing the deal by inadvertently offending someone. If they do start talking about one of these sensitive topics, gently guide the conversation back to safer waters.

If the owner starts speaking about politics and you’re in agreement, it may be ok to go to down that path, but it’s always safer to let them do the talking or to change the subject.

Getting Down to Business Immediately

At dinner you want to get to know the owner, so don’t be too focused on discussing the business. Far too often leaders forget about the human aspect of mergers and acquisitions. You don’t want to barrage the owner with a list of questions from a checklist. Many owners think of their company as their baby and are selling for the first time. It’s important to remember to connect on a personal level as well.

Talk about families, hobbies or their community. Inevitably some information about the business will weave its way into your conversations, but that should not be the primary focus. You’ll have plenty of time to discuss the business in the meeting the following morning.

Financials and Other Specifics

When speaking about the business, avoid pursuing too much detail, especially financial. Remember, this is an introductory meeting so there will be many unknowns that can be determined at a later stage once you have all the information.

Although you may be tempted to, don’t talk about valuation in the first meeting. The owner may be eager to discuss price and may even ask you a specific question, for example, “Will you pay $10 million for my company?” At this point in time, you haven’t seen their financials or their operations, so you can honestly say it’s too early to tell and that you need to see a lot more to determine if there is a strategic fit.

The owner may also hone in on other specifics such as if you plan to close any locations or if you plan to keep all the employees at the company. Again, it’s too early in the process to make decisions about such things.

Overall, your goal is to keep the conversation at the right depth during the first meeting. Talk about product opportunities, cultural fit, and why the combination of the two entities makes strategic sense. If the first meeting goes well, you’ll be back for more and you can work out all the details later on.

As we near the end of the fourth quarter, everyone is wondering what will happen in 2016. Will the frenzied M&A activity of 2015 continue into the new year?

There seem to be mixed reviews on what activity will look like next year. The Intralinks deal flow predictor indicates a 7% increase in global M&A in Q1 2016, but Mergers & Acquisitions Magazine has been citing a downward trend in the middle market for the past few months.

On the other hand, on a recent Deal Webcast “2016 Middle Market Outlook,” dealmakers were a bit more hopeful, expecting to see activity continue due to the high levels of dry powder and capital on the sidelines, while they did admit there may be a slight downturn.

The lending environment will be similar in 2016 to what it was in 2015 and in the middle market private equity will continue to be highly competitive, according to Michael Fanelli of RSM.

Healthcare and Technology Will Dominate

The Affordable Care Act brought about widespread changes to the healthcare industry, spurring a wave of mega-mergers by massive pharmaceutical companies. Despite this wave of mega-deals, for the most part much of the uncertainty surrounding ACA seems to have worked its way out of the middle-market companies. Tim Alexander of Harris Williams says that by and large, healthcare has become less of a due diligence item for dealmakers, especially those in the upper middle market.

On the other hand, in the lower middle market, the ACA may still raise some red flags, especially for businesses with part-time employees or ones that don’t have healthcare plans at all. While some sellers may have thought about the impacts of ACA, many are waiting to begin talks with a buyer before engaging professionals to deal with these issues, according to Fanelli.

The focus on healthcare is not only due to changes brought about from the Affordable Care Act, but is also indicative of a larger health and wellness trend we’re seeing in the U.S. Expect shakeups in the consumer and food and beverage spaces as people focus on healthier, organic specialty products.

As for technology, there’s plenty of disruption that will continue over the next one to two years, with a constant flow of innovative startups. This continuing trend will have its own impact on the middle market.

The U.S. Middle Market Remains Strong

For the most part, all three dealmakers agreed that middle market M&A is much stronger in the U.S. than it is cross-border or internationally. Most investors see the U.S. as the locale where they can expect their highest returns. This regional focus is not unique to the middle market: In the first 9 months of 2015, the U.S. accounted for 47% of global M&A transactions ($1.5 trillion).

Engaging with Sellers Remains Critical

When it comes to deal-making, building a connection with the owner and sharing your strategic vision remain the critical starting points. There are numerous reasons why an owner may decide to go with a financial buyer over a strategic buyer, even though technically strategic buyers should have an advantage from a cash perspective. In our experience, the same has been true (less money for strategic acquisition vs. financial). What it comes down to is really understanding the owner’s priorities and what he or she wants out of an acquisition. Hint: It’s not always more money.

As Marc Utay of Clarion Capital Partners said, echoing one of our key principles: “Price is important, but not the most important thing. It [the company] is like a child to them.”


Q: Who is the internal champion on the M&A team? What is their role?

A: The internal champion is an important member of your M&A team. Your acquisition team should include people from your own company such as the CEO, CFO, the internal champion, and functional leaders, and external experts such as lawyers, accountants, valuation experts, due diligence experts and M&A advisors. Each members is critical to completing a successful deal.

The internal champion ideally is the person to whom the newly acquired business will report. This person has the passion and responsibility for the specific business area and will have to live with the acquisition once the deal closes. The role of the champion is to provide overall direction to the team, keeping members informed of what is going on, pushing through roadblocks, and moving everyone forward toward a successful outcome. The champion should be the main point of contact with the seller and must have insight into the business and the seller’s motivations and concerns.

This becomes especially important during negotiations when the internal champion often leads negotiations. Understanding the seller is crucial to putting together the right equation for sale. Without understanding the other side it would be impossible to negotiate a deal and motivate an owner to sell.

This question comes from our webinar “Successful Negotiation Tactics.”Learn more about Capstone’s webinar series.


When you’re pursuing an acquisition, making meaningful connections with the right people at the right companies can be challenging.

Who is the right person to contact? How can you go about contacting them? And once you do get in contact, what do you talk about to capture their interest?

These questions are I frequently hear from company executives.

One client of ours received no response after contacting both the owner and the CEO of an acquisition target about a potential partnership. He put it this way: “We have our people talking to the same ten key contacts, but there’s little to show for all our efforts.”

While he knew the right person to speak with, he was still unable to open the door to begin a meaningful dialogue. It’s not enough to know the players; you have to understand how to approach them and how to keep them interested. Here are three common questions we hear and three answers to help you with your contact strategy.

1) Who is the right person to contact?

Typically in a privately held, not-for-sale acquisition you’ll want to contact the owner or owners of the company. You might also contact the company CEO, president or another executive. Usually this information is listed on the company’s website or some secondary source of information. But first, do some primary research with lower-level employees in sales or operations without disclosing your interest in acquisition. They can provide you with additional insights into the company so that you’re fully educated and prepared when speaking with the owner.

2) Why haven’t they called me back?

Was it something you said? Maybe. Or maybe they never received your letter or email. Unfortunately you may never know why they didn’t respond. This is why I recommend calling instead of sending a letter. It’s a lot easier to get feedback from a live dialogue and to gain deeper insights. You’ll at least know they heard your message through all the clutter.  This is also a great reason for having multiple target companies… there’s bound to be a percentage of owners who never respond to your invitations.

 3) How do you keep the target interested?

Your goal during a first call is to draw the owner of an acquisition target into a conversation. Don’t try to get them to sell their company over the phone – no one is going to do that! Instead keep them on the phone by demonstrating your knowledge of their company and business and your strategic vision for a partnership (whether that be 100 percent acquisition, joint venture, strategic alliance, or minority investment).

Our clients find that they may have trouble opening doors with the correct people, even if they are familiar with many of the players in their space. These tips should help, but speaking with owners does require a certain amount of expertise and practice. Even after 20 years of experience, we still hear the word “no” on occasion. Each contact you make with an owner is a link in the chain that could lead to a prosperous acquisition. Don’t ruin your chances for a successful acquisition by making preventable mistakes. Make sure you’re prepared.

You can learn more about contacting owners in our upcoming webinar: “The First Date”: Contacting Owners and Successful First Meetings.

Photo Credit: bachmont via Flickr cc
Time your negotiations by understanding owner psychology.

Everyone wants to talk about price in mergers and acquisitions. It’s often the number one focus of buyers and sellers…but for opposite reasons. Both are likely to say they are looking for a “good deal,” but this can have a completely different meaning depending on the perspective.

Buyers often tell me they are considering an acquisition, and if a “good deal” appears, they will buy the company. And by “good deal” they mean a cheap deal. On the other hand, sellers are usually hoping to offer their business to the highest bidder. This disconnect between buyers’ and sellers’ expectations is further emphasized when they put price as their top priority and use it to qualify a deal as good or bad. The truth is there are many nonfinancial factors to consider when you’re contemplating a purchase. The key is to understand owner psychology and what a huge part this plays in the decision to sell. Continue reading this post on AMA Playbook.

*This post was originally published on AMA Playbook. Visit David Braun’s author page to read all of his articles.

“I felt so vulnerable. I didn’t know what to do or what to talk about,” Dan told me. As the CEO of a food manufacturer who was pursuing acquisitions, he had a first meeting with an owner of a packaging facility before he engaged Capstone. When we met he expressed feelings of uncertainty and how he realized that he was out of his depth with the CEO. While his meeting didn’t end in disaster, it also wasn’t a resounding success. Dan certainly wished he had been better prepared.

This scenario is quite common, especially for first-time acquirers who are pursuing not-for-sale acquisitions. Meeting with an owner and convincing them to let you buy their company is a daunting task for anyone. Depending on the owner, it can be challenging even for me with over 20 years’ experience. Broaching the topic of acquisition can be awkward, even emotional.

Here is advice for meeting with an owner whose company you are seeking to acquire:

1. Remember the human factor

Don’t forget that the owner is a person who wants to be respected and listened to, just like you. The acquisition process is about developing a relationship, from that initial call to your first meeting and to subsequent meetings through due diligence, closing and integration. It may sound like simple advice, but common courtesy matters.

2. Put your best foot forward

In some ways, meeting the owner is like a job interview. You only have one chance to make a first impression so be fully prepared. Share why allowing you to buy their company is the best decision. Write down what you will actually say to the owner and practice this answer out loud. Role play with a member of your staff if you need to get comfortable and make your argument convincing.

3. Prepare materials

One way to make a strong impression is to prepare a first meeting presentation and takeaway materials. These should demonstrate the overall vision you have for the acquisition without appearing to be abstract or vague. Address specific areas where you see synergies between the two companies.

4. Leverage your research

At this point you likely have a wealth of information from market  and prospect research conducted during the M&A process. Use this research to your advantage to demonstrate your level of interest and to strengthen your credibility.

5. Understand your audience

Especially with not-for-sale acquisitions, it’s important to understand what motivates the owner. What will convince them to sell? Prestige? Money? Health insurance for their entire family? Community activism?

For example, we once won a for-sale auction even though we were not the highest bidder. Why did the owner sell to our client? As part of the agreement, our client planned to keep the factory open and retain the entire staff. The owner told us, “I live in this town … if they had shut down the plant, a lot people – including friends and family members – would have been hurt.”

To find out more about contacting owners, read my article in AMA Playbook “Approaching an Owner for a Possible Acquisition? Don’t Write, Call.”



How do you begin your courtship of a not-for-sale company?

Sending a letter is fairly common practice for contacting owners, but it’s not the most effective way to communicate. A letter will not attract the owner’s attention and likely will go into the trash without being read.

There’s a better way to stand out from the sea of buyers and make sure your message is heard: I suggest making a phone call. You might think calling too forward, but it is an excellent way to differentiate you from your competition and to start a positive relationship with the owner. Continue reading this post on AMA Playbook.

*This post was originally published on AMA Playbook. Visit David Braun’s author page to read all of his articles.

Successfully executing a deal can be tricky, even if you already know the acquisition prospect. In fact, your existing relationship may complicate the deal. Acquiring a company that you’ve worked with can make it difficult to objectively evaluate the opportunity.

Bonnie Ciuffo, President of South Carolina Financial Solutions (SCFS), and John Dearing, Capstone Managing Director, discussed these dynamics in the webinar “Finding the Right Equation for Successful M&A” hosted by NACUSO on June 26.

Last year Capstone guided SCFS, a credit union service organization (CUSO) that provides benefit solutions, in its acquisition of long-term business partner Innova Plan Strategies. So the webinar was informed with plenty of shared experience.

“Just because you have a great relationship with the owner doesn’t mean it’s a great acquisition,” Bonnie said.

Even when it is the right decision, many pieces of the puzzle must fit together to successfully execute the deal. It’s important to understand the owner’s motivations for selling and to facilitate open communication between parties to put together the right equation.

Bonnie and John used the SCFS-Innova acquisition in the webinar to illustrate the M&A process for CUSOs and how the deal was structured to the mutual benefit of both buyer and seller.

For more information and to view the webinar archive, please click here.

When do you let an owner of a privately-held not-for-sale company know you are interested in acquisition?

While, I’ve mentioned that an owner will not sell their company over the phone, this doesn’t mean you should hide your interest in acquisition. You should introduce acquisition at the beginning of the process. In your first call with an owner, use the word “acquisition.”

People tend to gravitate toward a softer approach out of fear. They might say, something like “We want to explore ways to work together,” when really they want to do an acquisition.

I find this approach does not work well.  It’s much easier introduce the idea of acquisition to an owner and move down to other approaches like joint venture or strategic alliances than to do the opposite. If you know you want to do an acquisition, get it on the table early in the process so you can determine the owner’s equation.

The question was asked during Capstone’s webinar “The First Date”: Contacting Owners and Successful First Meetings.

Facebook announced it will buy WhatsApp for $19 billion on February 19, 2014. There is no way that I can, in any credible means, justify or explain the purchase price because it’s absurd in my opinion. WhatsApp has no advertising revenues and charges each of its 450 million active users a yearly fee of just $1.

Putting the hefty purchase price aside, this deal demonstrates closing an acquisition is not always about spreadsheets and hard negotiation. Often it’s about two parties with a shared strategy and vision having a conversation.

While the formal deal came together very quickly, both Zuckerberg and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum had been in informal talks for the past two years. They met for the first time  in a coffee shop in 2012. I often say that meeting an owner of a privately held, not-for-sale company for the first time is like a first date; you want to put your best foot forward.  For Zuckerberg and Koum, their first date turned into many more until the deal was finalized over this Valentine’s Day weekend.

“Hello, I’d like to buy your company.” If this were the way I began my phone calls with owners, none of our deals would be successful.

Speaking with owners, particularly of privately held, not-for-sale companies, requires the right strategy and approach. After all, you only have one chance to make a first impression and your goal in the first call is to keep the owner from slamming the phone down and hanging up on you. Learn how get and keep owners on the phone in our upcoming Capstone webinar:  “The First Date”: Contacting Owners and Successful First Meetings.

This webinar will:

  • Explain what typically motivates owners to consider the sale of their business
  • Describe effective contact strategies for getting and keeping owners on the phone
  • Detail how to use your previous market and prospect research to gain credibility with an owner
  • Outline steps to take for a successful first face-to-face visit with an owner
  • Develop a persuasive first meeting presentation to highlight the strategic fit between your company and the prospect

Date: February 20, 2014

Time: 1:00 PM ET – 2:15 PM ET


CPE Credit Available


Photo Credit: Karolina Kabat via Flickr cc

I had the opportunity to speak on building a lasting legacy in the September issue of Washington DC SmartCEO Magazine. The article focuses on how business owners and entrepreneurs can build a lasting legacy for their company. As I said during my interview, Capstone is not just about me, it’s so much bigger than that. You can read the complete article here.

Photo Credit: Victor1558 via Flickr cc

As an M&A consultant, I’m often asked exactly how we persuade the owners of not-for-sale companies to sell.  My years of experience speaking with owners and facilitating acquisitions makes the process easier, but the real secret is understanding owner psychology.

In contacting an owner, you can’t lay out a detailed acquisition plan. The key is selling your vision, not your plan. The owner won’t sell the company over the phone but may be willing to listen to a credible partner with a strategic vision for the future.

This means you must give credibility to your vision, by demonstrating the depth of your knowledge. This is where exhaustive market and company research comes in. Sometimes the biggest return on your investment in research appears in the first few moments on the phone with an owner. Your understanding of the owner’s role in the company’s history, strengths, and business environment establishes a personal link that could lead to a successful acquisition.

*This post was adapted from David Braun’s Successful Acquisitions, available at

Photo Credit: swanksalot via Compfight cc

Making first contact with an owner and important step in the acquisition process. It is your opportunity to get your foot in the door and start a positive relationship that could lead to acquisition.

So, how do you go about contacting owners? In my post for the ACG National Capital Blog I outline how to initiate contact with owners to ensure you make a good first impression. If you are interested in acquisition, learning what to expect from your first contact with owners is key to successful acquisition.

Photo Credit: ‌Bahadorjn via Compfight cc

Personal connection matters, especially when it comes to the first connection with an owner of an acquisition prospect. This first connection is a decisive step.  Handled correctly, it can initiate a positive relationship that may eventually lead to union. Handled poorly, that one phone call can terminate your opportunity to buy.

When initiating contact with an owner, I highly recommend using the phone. This may seem unremarkable, but I have found the idea of contacting owners by phone is actually somewhat unusual. I estimate that 85 percent of third-party advisers, including investment bankers, first contact a prospect by letter.

While this option may be less costly in time, you get what you pay for. With a letter you have no way of knowing how the owner immediately reacted or even if the letter was actually read.

A phone call allows you to establish a personal link and make a lasting impression.  In the first few moments of a call, you can demonstrate your understanding of the company’s history, strengths, and business environments and show your appreciate for the owner’s role. This creates credibility and demonstrates the depth of your knowledge. You can also respond instantly to any questions or concerns, as well as ramp up excitement by laying out your vision tailored to that specific company.

Acquisition is relationship-driven process. Phone is a far better medium for starting a relationship than mail.

*This post was adapted from David Braun’s Successful Acquisition, available at


Photo Credit: Martin Cathrae via Compfight cc