As a proactive business buyer you sometimes must get as creative
as you can to qualify viable business acquisition candidates.
If you have your eye on a company that is of great interest to
you and it is particularly challenging to get to a specific
corporate decision maker, you may want to consider using
referral fee’s as a creative means to get that critical
Use of referral fee’s in many industries is nothing new to get
highly sought after introductions, but using them in a business
buyer qualification process is quite unique.
Responding to a business-for-sale listing is easy for a business
buyer because the business seller has made an “official”
proclamation that he intends to sell his company. For companies
that are not “for sale”, but might be, it is imperative that
the business buyer contact a senior level manager who has the
authority, knowledge and potential motivation to consider a
viable purchase offer. Being able to differentiate which
managers within a targeted organization have the status and
motivation to say “yes” to a purchase inquiry, versus most
managers within the same company who naturally have other
motives and reasons to always say “no”… is fundamental to
securing realistic initial acquisition discussions.
How Do I Get to That Guy?
Automated phone answering systems, voice mail, administrative
assistants and receptionists limit initial voice contact with
senior executives. E Mails are also often deleted, or never
read if the corporate receiver does not recognize the sender’s
name among hundreds of daily e mails they receive. Approaching
senior managers in company parking lots is forbidden and trying
to talk with them privately at a trade show is very challenging.
Effective use of a reward base referral technique from someone
who either knows or works with your targeted corporate contact
can differentiate you from all other business buyers. It may
also be the best and ONLY means you have to start a merger or
Salesman: God Bless Them!
Sales personnel, either targeted company employees, or better
yet, contracted independent sales representatives; offer you
the easiest channel to get that targeted company introduction.
It may be too much of a generalization to make, but sales
personnel more than any other function in a company offer you,
the business buyer, five traits that you can leverage to your
1) Sale types typically will talk to anyone about anything –
simply contact them, ask your questions or seek their help.
2) Sales personnel are inclined to be “independent operators”,
even within the most disciplined of organizations; they work
their own programs, when and where they want, with relatively
little concern about internal politics
3) Sales people answer their phones, listen to their voice mail,
read messages and return calls because they think you want to
4) Salesman know just about everyone within every branch of the
company and for various reasons have consistent exposure and
often well established relationships with key corporate
5) Sales types are very motivated by money! They will especially
talk to you if you can potentially do two things for them:
A) Offer them “easy money”
B) Provide another viable contact for them to potentially
land a better sales position
So… How Does the Deal Go Down?
From anywhere in the country you can call into the corporate
office and ask to speak to a local or regional sales
representative. Once you get their number, simply call them and
introduce yourself as someone who greatly admires their company
and has interest in understanding who within their senior
management can say “yes” to a business merger proposal (be sure
to say only “merger”). Sales types understand and appreciate
this inquiry process because they live it everyday. You have a
person on the other end of the phone who is naturally motivated
to help you. More often than not, all you got to do is shut up
and listen to the information that flows.
If you get any form of resistance or down right rejection,
remember you can always simply thank them for their time and go
call another sales person. If you are hearing cooperation then,
and only then, do you offer a modest referral fee arrangement.
It is critical that you tell the salesman that the referral fee
is standard practice for your firm and that it can either be
paid to them directly, in confidence, upon eventual merger or
acquisition closing, or, you’d be happy to donate the money to
their favorite charity. Most will simply help you for no fee.
To conclude, the referral fee process, be sure to document the
following relevant information gotten from the sales
representative: The spelling of the name of the senior manager,
their official title, confirmation that this manager is the
best contact within the company, a clear understanding of their
relationship with that senior manager (if weak, try another
sales person) and their OK that you can use their name to get
the senior manager to talk with you.
Remember, you really only have one shot to get to that senior
manager, so if you think you need to contact two or three
salesman to validate who really is the key manager to call
about mergers and acquisition inquiries and who of the three
salesman has the best relationship with that senior manager
than it is in your best interest to do so.
Getting to difficult-to-contact executives about acquisition
interests often has to be a premeditated, systematic, creative
process. Like in any selling situation, getting to the “right”
decision maker dramatically increases the probability of sales
success. Incorporate this technique into your company
acquisition qualification process.