A face-to-face meeting with a potential buyer is a significant moment in the sales process of any company.
As a rule, buyers only meet the owners of companies that really interest them. By arranging a meeting with you to speak about your company, they’re sending a signal that their interest is solid.
The chances are, you’re the only business owner they’re meeting this week or month, underlining their commitment to your company.
This is the good news.
The bad news? A good proportion of deals collapse before they even get going because of a botched first meeting between the buyer and seller.
A lack of experience on the seller’s side can discourage the buyer or simply make some of their alternative options seem more attractive.
To help sellers avoid this fate, below we at DealRoom have provided six tips which taken together, represent good practice for conducting the first meeting with a buyer.
1. Set an Agenda
It’s fine to be spontaneous, but buyers will also appreciate some form of agenda.
Talk to them in advance if there’s anything in particular that they’d like to see. Most will want to see the factory floor (if there is one), or the operational side of your business.
When they outline what they’d like to see or visit, prepare accordingly.
Send them a rough outline of an agenda, which could include a few high level bullet points to keep some structure to proceedings.
2. Take Mental Notes and Make Transcribing
As much as anything the buyer meeting should be an enlightening experience for you.
Their questions may shed light on issues you hadn’t considered before.
A stray remark here or there might point to some parts of the company operations that require attention.
Ideally would be to record a meeting and use transcribing tools later. Today it’s easier than ever if you use AI-powered audio transcription technology that makes everything more automated and faster.
Taken altogether, the questions and comments should tell you things about your company that can be used with future buyers – or to improve the situation with the present one.
3. Discuss the Meeting with Relevant Staff
Some company owners won’t want any staff to know about a potential bid for the company.
Others won’t mind if everybody in the company knows. Ultimately, this is your decision.
But if you’re telling senior staff about the deal, talk with them about the meeting and what they believe should be prepared.
There should be a unified voice for the team, so everyone should be prepared for what is being disclosed (and what won’t be).
4. Prepare Questions for the Buyer
It is considered good practice for the seller to ask questions of the buyer.
There’s every chance that they’ll already have seen your financials, some contracts, and your company’s operations. It’s therefore reasonable to expect them to talk a little about themselves and their company.
- Where do they see your company fitting in to theirs?
- What’s their ambition for the company and its staff?
- And very importantly, will you – the owner – be needed to continue at the firm?
5. Treat the Buyer Like a Friend
Company owners love their companies, as they should.
The downside of this is that buyers are sometimes treated in the same way as a protective father treats his daughter’s first girlfriend: With caution veering on suspicion, and in some cases, even hostility.
Few deals survive a first meeting with the buyer which is hostile. Treat the buyer like a friend – doing so maximizes the chances of achieving a value generating transaction for your company.
6. Set Up a Virtual Data Room
Setting up a virtual data room like FirmRoom is one of the biggest steps in ensuring that the first meeting runs smoothly.
By doing so, you can send relevant company information to the buyer in advance, thereby allowing the buyer to be more informed when the meeting occurs.
As we always say here – and experienced M&A practitioners unanimously agree – this also shows that the seller is well organized, and this is a trait that all buyers want to see.
Most the guides to the first buyer meeting we have seen focus strongly on the soft skills required to make a deal happen.
While a lack of soft skills will kill a deal in its tracks, it’s easy to overemphasize them at the expense of good preparation.
Use a professional virtual data room, plan the meeting from start to finish, and ensure your team is all on the same page. In doing so, no potential buyer will fail to be impressed.