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Can you hug the 800 pound gorilla? (Gorilla Part 2)

Posted: April 9th, 2012 | No Comments »

What can you do to test the waters of the deal strength?

This post is a follow-on to the discussion about a large-conglomerate offer to a smaller company.  Having gone through an almost-deadly major investor deal, I wanted to write more about how to avoid our mistakes.  One area of focus could have been making sure that an operating partnership gets struck…if they’re really interested, they will jump at the chance.  A partnership, if done correctly, can help you survive any eventual unwinding with your dignity and company in tact…and possibly better off (see third example).

1. Conduct a ‘test’. 

So, I like this one the least.  I find that tests between companies can fail on multiple levels.  1) The wrong test set-up, so it was never going to work, 2) testing the wrong attributes of the partnership so drawing bad conclusions, 3) lack of time to prove the true value since Rome wasn’t built in a day.  I have found that tests often mean “we’re not sure”, as opposed to “let’s blow the doors off this thing!”.  There was a NYC digital content company that jumped through hoops and hoops with a large portal.  They showed lift in click through from content, lift in ad effectiveness, lift in SEO.  Lift, lift, lift.  In the end, it was a positive test, but the conglomerate couldn’t see the test being actualized at scale.  It’s hard to show you’re going to drive tens of millions of dollars when you drove a few bucks in a few months.  There’s a lot between here and there, and all the doubters can poke holes in any test methodology.

2. Is there a sales channel opportunity?

This one is hard, unless you’re already on the rails.  Merging anything is a challenge, but it’s especially hard to motivate teams to commit to the hard work if there’s no actual deal in place.  Your sales team needs to hit their numbers, and were planning on doing it without this partner.  They would need to be convinced that the ‘distraction’ from their plan will be worth the effort.  If it was such a slam dunk, why wouldn’t they have been pushing *you* for it in the first place.  On the conglomerate sales team’s side, they will need some vig.  Assuming it’s a seamless add-on, they’re happy to sell more if they make more.  Some components that should align in order to make it work are: 1) if you are finding that you are already heavily overlapping in clients, 2) that you are meeting with the same people, and 3) both your money comes from similar budgets, so your company can tuck in to the larger buy quickly to prove 1+1=3.  My guess is, again per my last post, someone from their sales team would be the investment’s business ‘owner’ already…he would understand you enough to put his own job behind your numbers.  If it’s being forced on anyone…it’s time to ask yourself if the sales channel opportunity is too risky to bet the deal on.

3. Can they be a customer?

This is the best structure under which to construct a ‘test’.  Can they use your services themselves?  Then, go get money from them.  Use the contacts, momentum and support you have to construct a great vendor deal with their team, and come out the other side either being convinced it’s a great partnership, or with a nice big revenue check from them.  What did you lose if the deals fall through?  Nothing.  What did you gain?  A new customer.  Either way, winner.

Trying to ensure that your big conglomerate investment or acquisition deal goes through is no enviable task.  You rarely have the leverage to turn down the $6 bil Google offer, so how can you survive the process?  First, be glad that you’ve changed someone’s game enough to be interesting even at your level of sales.  Second, remember that’s the most valuable leverage of all.


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