It’s a seller’s market and has been for a while now, which means a lot of pitching activity. So, I thought I’d expand on a prior blog post with some thoughts about post-pitch behaviors and tactics to best position your firm to win the mandate. Without further ado, and in no particular order, here are some ideas for consideration:
- Proactive Follow Up Notes. It might seem obvious to send a note after a pitch meeting, but you’d be surprised how many do not. At a minimum, it’s nice to see an email come over with some reflections on the visit and affirmations of continued interest to work with the portfolio company in question. The best investment banks also send hand-written notes to each attendee from the private equity firm and portfolio company management team. To be clear, this won’t resuscitate a group that blew it in the meeting, but it’s a classy move. Whether you win the mandate or not, the goal is to leave the private equity firm with a high esteem for you and your bank such that you’ll get the call again when another portfolio company comes up for sale.
- High Level of Responsiveness. Inevitably, there are follow up items from the pitch based on additional information and perspectives the private equity firm wants to see. How quickly and thoughtfully you assemble responses is indicative of a few things. First, it shows whether you took note of any follow-up items during the meeting and didn’t wait for us to ask about them. Second, it demonstrates how you are prioritizing the post-pitch action items which indicates where we stand amongst your other activities. Lastly, it’s potentially indicative of how close you are to the answers of the questions posed by the private equity firm. In other words, some groups are good at positioning themselves as experts but may not be as familiar with the subject matter as you were led to believe. Long lead times on follow up work may mean that it’s requiring a lot of digging to get to the answer.
- Always Be Marketing. The quality and aesthetics of any post-pitch follow up work is just as important as anything you presented during the pitch. If deliverables come over in a polished, well organized way, then we know that you weren’t just putting on airs for the formal pitch and that we should expect a consistently high standard of work product. The opposite is also true, so make sure anything that comes over reflects the quality with which you want to be associated.
- Data-Driven Evidence of Pitched vs. Actual Valuations. This is one of the more valuable sets of information you can provide after the pitch (if not during). We recognize the motivations to inflate your valuation range for the pitch, so understanding how conservative or aggressive history has proven you to be is crucial. The best banks can readily retrieve this analysis across numerous recent deals to highlight how accurately they’ve telegraphed likely valuation to sponsors.
- Senior-Level Attention. We’re realistic and expect that the laboring oar of execution in a sell-side process is going to fall on the mid- and junior-level team members, which, incidentally, is why we pay close attention to their contributions in the meeting. However, we like to see mindshare from senior bankers and firm leadership both during and after the meeting. In a few cases, the difference between winning and losing was having an investment bank’s CEO call us to reiterate their desire to help us achieve a great outcome. It always feels good to know that our portfolio company is going to be taken seriously and not get lost amidst a firm’s other assignments.
- Take Feedback in Stride. Whether it’s constructive feedback following the pitch or a conversation about why you didn’t get chosen, know that we go through an impartial and rigorous process to identify the best group for the assignment. Use any feedback to thoughtfully make your case if you think we’ve missed something – it’s ok to push back, but also remember that how you handle feedback will leave a lasting impression. Don’t disqualify yourself from future processes by responding emotionally or saying something you’ll regret later.
- Preserve Confidentiality. This should go without saying, but it seems to be the norm these days for banks to gossip about which private equity portfolio companies are going to be in market. Presumably, this information is being used as currency to win brownie points with other private equity firms or strategics insofar as interested buyers might appreciate knowing about a deal well in advance of it coming to market. However, it doesn’t feel good to us when we invite a small group of banks to pitch, and our portfolio company’s EBITDA suddenly becomes part of the public record along with the knowledge that it is for sale. This gets back to us, so please respect the confidentiality agreements.
To all our friends in the investment banking community, we hope these ideas are helpful and provide some transparency around our thought process. As always, we look forward to hearing from you and doing business together.
About ClearLight Partners
ClearLight is a private equity firm headquartered in Southern California that invests in established, profitable middle- market companies in a range of industry sectors. Investment candidates are typically generating between $4-15 million of EBITDA (or, Operating Profit) and are operating in industries with strong growth prospects. Since inception, ClearLight has raised $900 million in capital across three funds from a single limited partner. The ClearLight team has extensive operating and financial experience and a history of successfully partnering with owners and management teams to drive growth and create value. For more information, visit www.clearlightpartners.com.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and do not necessarily reflect any ClearLight opinion, position, or policy.