What is the first thing that happens when word gets out concerning a merger or acquisition? Your competitors are like sharks circling in the water and begin to steal your customers. Employees for both companies involved in the merger are concerned about how this will impact them personally, and everyone’s focus shifts inward instead of on the customer. Companies are very vulnerable to losing customers, but steps can be taken to mitigate this risk and ensure the stability of your customer base when merging companies.
1. Communicate! Don’t wait for your competitors to communicate their message to your customers. Be ready with your plan and proactively communicate that you will continue to serve your customers and meet their needs.
2. Sales/account management: You may be coming from a situation where the sales team members from the two involved companies have been competing against each other for years. Leadership must decide who is part of the new team, quickly make account assignments, and realign territories as needed.
3. CRM consolidation: Whether you are using a Customer Relationship Management tool such as Salesforce or another option, it is important to select the tool that will be used by the combined company, consolidate the data, and eliminate duplicates. This includes reviewing data such as buying history and key contact and relationship information. This is no small project, so get started quickly and assign the necessary resources to completes this effort as several other activities are depending on having a consolidated customer database.
4. Product and pricing review: In most cases, there is at least a portion of the product line that will be duplicated when merging the two companies. Review the competing products to identify the best features of each and eliminate non-essential products. For more complicated products, you will also need to reconcile the warranty policies for the products. There may also be difference in the pricing of similar products that will need to be reconciled. Discounting practices should also be reviewed and a new practice adopted to guide this important aspect of sales.
5. Customer issue tracking: Especially during a merger, you want to ensure you are on top of any customer issue or complaint. Not responding in a timely manner is just what the competitor needs to create a wedge and take away your customers. Make sure you are using your CRM tool to track all customer issues for both companies, assign follow up responsibility, and ensure you are communicating regularly with your customers.
6. Opportunity management: No company can survive a lengthy gap in closed sales. Don’t lose your focus on the normal sales process and make sure you follow up on open opportunities. As soon as a merger is announced, the sales pipeline should be consolidated and open opportunities assigned to team members to follow up with each customer.
Mergers and acquisitions can result in a stronger, more efficient organization once the dust settles, but unless the areas mentioned above are part of your M&A Playbook, you may stumble unnecessarily and lose customers and business that you worked hard to obtain.