I’ve been on both sides of this scenario. I’ve sent cold M&A emails and now as the co-founder of a deal sourcing platform, I’m frequently the recipient of these emails...some better than others.
Herein lies the problem for a dealmaker: how do you persuade a busy CEO to open, read, and respond to your emails? When it comes to cold outreach, here’s my advice for PE professionals looking to become the best of the best: always give more than you take.
Let’s take a look at what that means.
Think like a business owner.
As the first touchpoint this executive will have with your company or firm, you need to know your firm’s value proposition and communicate it quickly. Here are two major categories and the corresponding questions for each.
What does that mean for your first email? You're not talking numbers yet, but you need to answer and consider the questions a CEO may have about your firm.
From the start, you need to communicate your experience in the space. Here are some questions the business executive will have in mind:
The best dealmakers address possible objections before a CEO can raise them.
Can’t address everything you'd like to around your market experience in one email? them all into one email? That’s no problem. You should be sending a sequence of 5 touch points over 2-4 weeks to find what the pain points are for different business owners.
A general rule of thumb for email subject lines is to write 9 words or 60 characters or less. But what should those words be? Here are the M&A best practices for getting your email opened.
Lead with value.
Example: “Meeting with [a potential partner]?”
Your portfolio companies can be a valuable resource to a business owner. Catch a CEO’s eye by providing access to your network.
Gauge interest in funding.
Example: “Investor Intro”
Be direct and transparent. Don’t make a CEO guess your purpose. This will significantly increase chances of a target opening your email.
Lean on competitor-based information.
Example: “We invest in [insert competitor name here]”
This kind of subject line does not establish trust. A business owner will more likely be put off than intrigued to discuss their business’ goals and strategies with a competitor’s investor.
Rely solely on event-based personalization.
Example: “Congrats on Your Series XX Funding Round”
This kind of subject line sounds like a sales email. If your target has received funding recently, their inbox is full of “Congrats!” emails. Your’s will not stand out.
There are two routes to take when writing that first sentence.
This route takes a little research. You may find that you have one or more things in common to help kickstart the relationship. Did you attend the same school? Is there an upcoming conference you’ll both be attending?
This route will take less research. You are well-versed in your firm’s value proposition. Showcase your firm’s authority in the space through industry reports or access to your network.
Regardless of which route you start your email with, always give more than you take.
When making your ask, be prepared for all possible answers: yes, no, and not yet. Successful outbound sourcing is a long-game. Very rarely will your email coincide with somebody’s perfect time to sell, and move forward with your firm immediately.
Are you asking for an intro call? Offer something else in return. You could offer intros to a potential client, a potential hire, or a potential partner.
Decide your strongest offer and always lead with value. The best dealmakers find value in every interaction – even initial no’s– to be the potential leads that land them the next deal and the next promotion.
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