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M&A Target Calling: How to Overcome Screener Roadblocks

Getting past screeners to propose an M&A deal to someone in charge is akin to fencing. You need to master verbal thrust-and-parry in order to improve your odds of getting past a roadblock.

If you find yourself in the grasp of a roadblock, level with the person. Tell him exactly what you’re going to say to the person you’re trying to reach. If your approach is level-headed, quick, and objective, most people relent and let you pass.

Don’t get confrontational with a roadblock. Yelling and showing anger only make matters worse, so check your ego at the door. Kindness, a sense of humor, and honesty win the day.

Offers to find the right person for you

This approach never works. After the roadblock receives your carefully crafted e-mail, he realizes following through means doing work! The e-mail probably sits in his inbox for a few days or weeks before he simply deletes it.

Answer: “No, I appreciate your offer, but in my experience that never works.”

Explain one more time what you’re trying to do; you can even recite exactly what you’d say to the person you’re trying to contact. Bluntness, honesty, and patience are your best bets to get through this roadblock.

The company doesn’t do that kind of thing

Anyone who makes this comment probably doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Instead of being stopped dead in your tracks, a simple little quip more often than not takes care of the issue.

Answer: “Oh, so you’re the final decision-maker for acquisitions?”

You may think this line sounds rude, but frankly, the person informing you that the company doesn’t do that kind of thing is the rude one.

After delivering the line, shut up. The first one who speaks loses. The roadblock quickly realizes the folly of his ways and almost immediately routes you to the right person.

What is this about?

This roadblock is heard most often by screeners at companies that are under constant barrage of callers trying to buy the company. The owner, tired of talking to these wannabe Buyers, instructs his receptionist to always quiz anyone who asks for the owner.

Answer: “I have private business that I need to discuss with your boss directly.”

If the boss isn’t in the office, ask for voice mail. If the roadblock insists on taking a message, simply leave your name and number. If the roadblock presses you for a reason, reiterate your original answer. You may want to add, “I have a business opportunity I want to discuss.”

Secretary offers to forward an email to her boss

In this case, you’re speaking with the person who has direct contact with the person you want to talk to. Although sending the e-mail isn’t the best option, you’ve identified the specific person, and this solution can be an acceptable plan.

Answer: “Okay, I’ll send you something shortly.”

Craft your e-mail and send it. If you’re unable to get the contact info of your target, make sure you get the contact info of the secretary and then follow up with a call the next day. And the next day. And the next day.

Always be professional and courteous. Your persistence will pay off, and the secretary will forward the message to the boss. And in many cases, you’ll receive a direct reply from the boss.

If you’re talking with the secretary or personal assistant to the boss, take steps to ingratiate yourself. Never be rude; always thank that person.

A nervous response

The roadblock is clueless, isn’t paying attention when you speak, and therefore is a consummate time-waster.

Answer: “Thank you, I’ll talk with someone else.”

Do your homework. Redouble your efforts and check the website again. Find the right person.

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