Quality research is essential to the success of any acquisition plan. Once you have identified a specific company as a prospective acquisition, it is essential that you perform primary research in addition to typical secondary (online or database) research.
Primary research involves getting on the phone and talking to people who deal with the company on a regular basis, and eventually to the target company itself. Here are some tips on how best to conduct yourself when eliciting information about a specific company.
- Be prepared with a plan – Before you dial, know what information you are trying to uncover and whom you can best get it from. Salespeople are valuable for researching a company’s reputation. In addition, when a source drops a name, make note of it, and contact that person next.
- Be informed about the prospect & the market – Through your market research and secondary prospect research, you should have obtained a baseline of information that gives you credibility when speaking to a source. Reread your market and prospect information before picking up the phone.
- Be creative – When discussing a company, you often want to start off slow before zeroing in on specific information. You can even ask questions you already know the answers to in order to get the conversation rolling, and then move on to more significant areas. You need to gain the trust of your source before extracting the gritty details of a company.
- Be persistent, but not annoying – Leaving messages is fine. If you don’t get a call back, wait a few days and then try again. There is no need to call every day or multiple times in a day. If there is no reply after the first few messages, move on to another source.
- Be realistic, and prepare for rejection –Some people are so skeptical of your motives that they simply won’t want to talk to you. Others become uncomfortable if you ask them to reveal too much information. You may hear the word ‘‘proprietary’’ over and over. Don’t let this get you down. Just move on to the next source.
For a successful market research, you must be nimble and ready to adjust your line of questioning when you encounter roadblocks. It may also make sense for you to engage a third party for primary research. A third-party can remain anonymous and has the experience that can save you time.