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How to Get an M&A Deal Back on Track

Here’s a key point for anyone who wants to get into M&A deal-making: The process isn’t linear. Expect the unexpected. The plan is important, even imperative, but you can’t become a slave to it. As long as you always keep the end goal of closing a deal in your sights, you can successfully navigate the winding M&A road.

A negotiation has a rhythm, a regular flow of information, phone calls, and e-mails where messages are returned in a timely fashion. If this rhythm is broken (extended periods of time elapse with no communication from the other side or communication is stilted, clipped, and forced), you may have a negotiating partner who is getting cold feet and a deal that’s going sideways (off the rails).

“An extended period of time” is subjective; how much is too much depends on the situation. When you’re not sure, trust your gut instinct.

If you find yourself in a situation where your negotiating partner has gone silent, you have a couple options to try to get the discussions back on track.

First, you need to break the buzz — do something different from the usual deal-centric message. Constant professional communication can be stupefying. You need to do something to snap the other person out of the haze of kindly professional correspondence, which is so easy to ignore.

Send an e-mail with a link to a relevant article or op-ed column. Offer to play golf or tennis or meet for a drink, invite the other guy to a professional event, or anything other than the usual “Please call me; we need to discuss something.”

Keep your message succinct. Avoid leaving long voice mails. If someone isn’t responding to your correspondence, that person probably isn’t going to listen to a two-minute message. If all else fails, offer a mea culpa. Simply ask whether you’ve done anything wrong. Ask the person to contact you, even if they have bad news.

Bad news is better than no news. At least with bad news, you have a chance at crafting a solution, or if that fails, of moving on to the next prospect.

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