by Dominic Colenso, founder of In Flow: www.inflow.global
Communication: the Key to Success
You love what you do. You're passionate about your business and the problems that you solve. You know every detail of your company, its products and its services and you’re convinced that you’re sitting on a mountain of value. You should be the perfect spokesperson for the business...but, in reality, things that are important to you might not be important to potential investors and they’re not just looking at the data when they’re looking to invest. Being able to tell your story in a compelling and engaging way is a vital component of the M&A process. Let’s explore the communication keys to success…
Your Leadership Team Is Your Brand
One of the oldest sales adages is “people buy people” and the same is true in M&A. Your chances of a successful deal can be badly damaged if you and the rest of your leadership team aren’t able to make a positive impression. If you’re pitching or presenting to potential investors, they’re not only looking at the content you cover; your performance in the room tells them all they need to know about the culture of your organisation and its leadership. How do you come across? Confident and dynamic or nervous and under-energised? Are you able to get people excited about what you do and get them to buy into your company and your team?
In an ideal world, when interacting with both internal and external stakeholders, you need a mix of communication styles in your leadership team. Some team members who can illuminate the big picture topics and others who can drill down into the detail and provide certainty. It’s really important to understand how each person fits into this mix and to play to people’s strengths whenever possible.
In any organization, if you look closely at the leadership team, you’ll understand its brand. Not the values and mission statement stenciled on the boardroom wall but the true heartbeat of the business. As you enter the M&A process, it’s important to take stock of how you come across. Does everyone have the skills necessary to communicate your true value? If not, you’ll be leaving money on the table.
Understand Your Audience
Once you’ve got the skills in place to tell your story, you need to think about the message you transmit. This is where things start to get complicated. The problem is that there isn’t just one message, there are thousands. The skill for successful M&A is to pull out the strands that are going to be most compelling to your audience. Unfortunately, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. Each conversation, presentation and demonstration must be tailored to the person or people on the receiving end.
This whole process is counter intuitive. The obvious approach is to concentrate on the features of the business that seem most impressive to you. You might focus on your turnover, your IP or your customer base. However, the thing you choose might not be the thing that is most important to the people you are talking to. You need to find out where their focus is and what makes them tick. The more you can step into their shoes and craft a message that speaks to their needs and desires the higher your chance of getting their buy-in.
Become a Detective
To do this well, you must become a detective. Find out as much background information as you can. What is their history? What deals have they done in the past? What were the key features of those deals? What is it about your business that complements their portfolio? What gap could you fill? Which area could you complement? The more detail you have at your disposal the better. Make it about them, not you!
With this information to hand, you can start to tell your story in way that resonates with your audience so that they can immediately see the benefits you bring to the negotiation table. If you want to leverage the value of your business then every communication must be crafted for the target audience in this way. It’s the difference between an off-the-peg suit from a local department store and a bespoke piece of tailoring from London’s Saville Row. It’s possible that from the outside both items look similar but only one will feel like the perfect fit.
Consistency Is Key
When communicating the value of your business, the most important thing you can do as a leadership team, is to ensure that you have a shared voice. The more aligned your messaging is, the more impact it will have. This requires the team to be transparent in their communication with each other and open to having potentially difficult conversations if the need arises. Knowing what not to say is just as important as knowing what to say.
The concept of a shared voice goes deeper than just the leadership team too. The most effective organisations have consistency throughout the business. The receptionist is just as much an ambassador for the business as the CTO. If employees at all levels can communicate the business’ story effectively it begins to create momentum and take on a life of its own.
Create a Unique Voice
Think of the brands you love and admire. They all have a unique voice. You’d never be able to mistake Apple for Dell for example; they’re chalk and cheese. This doesn’t just come across in their advertising, it comes across in the content of their communication and the energy of their people. As you go through the M&A process, it’s important to consider how you would like to come across to potential investors, then assess whether this is the message you are currently communicating. How ‘bought in’ are your staff to your vision? When someone interacts with your business at any level, how do they go away feeling? - What is their lasting impression?
A Strong Communications Culture is Vital
Creating a strong communications culture takes time and effort but it can transform your business in the eyes of your investors. Outside of the M&A process, it’s also vital for driving productivity, engagement and profit. What would happen if people across your business created more impact, had more influence and were able to inspire their audiences? As we move into the digital age, these analogue skills will become more important than ever. Communication really is the key to unlocking the value in your business. No one will hear your story unless you are able to make your voice heard.
About Dominic Colenso
A former professional actor, Dominic is the founder of In Flow a specialist, communication skills training company, working with businesses in the tech and finance sectors. In Flow’s unique Communication Skills Accelerator helps teams fast track their performance by unlocking their ability to communicate both internally and externally.
Find out more: www.inflow.global