Deal flow lives and dies by the quality of M&A leads you can generate. Brokering deals is time-consuming and costly, but you don’t need many of them to succeed.

Your job is to convince companies to let you handle business deals that could be worth tens, if not hundreds, of millions of dollars. That requires you to be able to show that you’re up to the task by building trust and credibility.

All of that starts with finding the right leads.

M&A Target Identification

Usually, M&A advisors don’t cast a wide net when hunting for clients. Posting on LinkedIn isn’t getting the job done anymore.

Generating new sell-side engagements depends on the number of qualified company owners you can contact and start a conversation with.

As you know, not all deals are created equal, and you can spend a lot of time shaking hands with the wrong people in this business. Let's talk about how you can do more deals and waste less prospecting time in the process.

Here are key variables you should consider to start culling the herd:

  • CEOs and founders - Targeting the decision-makers is an obvious choice.
  • Age of the company - 80% of businesses fail in the first 20 years. Why waste time on younger businesses? Companies with 20+ operating years are far more likely to have something investors want to buy, and the owner is closer to retirement age.
  • Company revenue - How you approach a business with <$1M in revenue is far different than that of $5M and different again from a $15M revenue company. You should be sourcing opportunities that build on your existing tombstones and leverage the in-house skills your firm provides.
  • Number of employees - More reliable than public revenue data, this again tells you a lot about the type of owner you're going to be speaking with. The person who scales a team to 10 employees is not cut from the same cloth as that of an owner with a payroll for 50 staff. Don't treat these brackets of companies as objectively equal in your deal sourcing.
  • Industry - 80% of businesses are never sold. Of the 20% who do, it's reasonable to assume they would choose a firm that demonstrates industry expertise. Your General Practitioners don't perform surgery, nor do they write legal wills despite both of these examples being directly related to one's health. The same is true in business sales. Your prospects want to talk to the specialist for the biggest transaction of their life. Don't underestimate this in your strategy.

Different advisors will likely have varying preferences that lead them to go deeper or include other parameters.

M&A deal sourcing strategies

Now that you know who you want to target, how will you find those people? While there are many strategies that you can try (SEO, trade shows, etc.), few of these give you the ability to control the tap that turns deal flow off and on.

Outbound marketing over inbound marketing

Inbound marketing relies on attracting leads to you generally through creating content. This can include articles, webinars, eBooks, podcasts, videos, and more.

While attracting inbound leads sounds great, standing out in today’s crowded content is a long game. You’ll have to consistently create a high quantity of valuable content to begin to compete for inbound leads online.

On the other hand, outbound marketing puts the power back in your hands. Instead of hoping the right prospect sees your content and contacts you, you actively reach out to them.  

Most simply don’t have the time needed to create an effective inbound marketing engine to source new deals. Outbound marketing can happen as quickly as you can buy and reach out to a list of leads.

M&A lead generation through email

Email is popular for sourcing M&A deals because it’s an active strategy that lets you reach a large number of people in a short amount of time. Done right, it can produce results very quickly.

Your success or failure with cold email lies squarely on your shoulders. You'll likely succeed if you have good data, test like a maniac, and send consistently. 

Read Our 2023 Niche Insights Report

Discover the industries our customers are targeting this year.

Cold email strategies for generating sell-side engagement

Before I started Coldlytics, I worked in M&A deal origination. To date, I’ve sent over 3 million cold emails and was responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars in pipeline value. I’ve generated $20 million deals through cold emails and built systems that helped close $200 million deals!

Copywriting specifics are beyond the scope of this article, but let me share the three most important aspects of cold email success in the world of M&A deal origination:

1. Data quality

This is the #1 factor in cold email success, and there's statistics to prove that. In over 100 years of direct mail studies, the quality of the contact list they started with was responsible for over 60% of the overall success. This is no surprise, yet many people over look it's significance and buy the abundance of cheap data sources thinking this gives them an edge.

Email is no different from direct mail. If you have outdated email addresses or email contacts for secretaries instead of CEOs, it makes sourcing deals that much harder.

Not to mention, the time you and your team are spending on bad data not only makes you look bad, but it costs you significantly more than getting the right data from a reliable provider. 5 figures for a seat a Zoomsomething database, hundreds of dollars on LinkedIn Sales Navigator and scraping softwares, then add days or weeks of data management on your 6-figure salaried employees time... puts a steep price on "casting a wide net" with data that doesn't suit your specific needs.

One of the reasons I started Coldlytics was because I know that people like you needed A+ data to source deals. I lived in that world, as do you, so we both know this isn't just fluff.

2. Testing, testing, testing

Finding out what works requires a ton of trial and error. There’s almost no way to write a home run email on your first try. Partly because each industry and specific contact on your lists are different from one another.

The first emails you write are just a pathway to developing a better version that works to get responses.

Capture attention and bring value to the discussion. You can try things like offering to share market comps with them, giving them an idea of what their company might sell for today.

There are many variables that will determine your response rate, such as the:

  • “From” line
  • Subject line
  • Preheader (the part that you see in your inbox before clicking to open the email)
  • Intro (do you use their first name or not?)
  • Body of the email
  • Sign-off
  • Images vs. straight text
  • Call to Action

Sending message after message with different tweaks is the only way to refine your outbound marketing into something that works, whether that's with email, direct mail, or cold calls.

3. Be consistent

Lastly, to be the best at cold email marketing, you have to be consistent in your sending. The same goes for all forms of outbound marketing. That’s the best way to do enough testing to find something that works. 

If you send one batch of emails out on Oct. 1 and then again on Dec. 1, the same email will get a very different response because your customers are probably swamped with the busy seasonality of the month of December.

Instead, sending out emails every week, you will see trends and patterns that give a much clearer picture as to the effectiveness of what you're doing with your prospecting efforts.

When you stop and start your campaigns you may get false negatives (or positives) simply based on factors that are beyond your control from one day to the next. Consistency, like everything in business, is key.

How to build a list of your perfect M&A leads

The M&A lead generation strategies we’ve shared today only work if you have a quality, accurate, and up to date list of leads to start with. If your original list is full of outdated contact information, you could spend a lot of time and money reaching out to the wrong people.

At Coldlytics, we don’t keep a stale database of contacts—we research and build your list the moment you request it.

Here are a few of the advanced targeting strategies that we use to help you generate M&A leads:

  • Company filters - Employee headcount, age of company, and revenue.
  • Direct Dial - Phone numbers that ring the owner directly. 
  • Direct email - You’ll get validated email addresses that send directly to the owner’s inbox.
  • Technology insights - You can target companies based on the technologies they're using.
  • Marketing intent data - Find companies that invest in digital marketing for their business. (hint: this tells you if there's additional value for you to add to that business in an acquisition or not for your portfolio.)

I’d love to give you a personalized demo to show you how our data filters can provide you with a top-notch list of targeted leads in your niche. From someone who’s sourced dozens of multi-million dollar deals with cold email, I’m positive I can help you generate more M&A leads by starting with the right list.

Quality data for cold email, phone, or direct mail. Researched on demand.

Your perfect prospects in 24 hours.

Businesses worldwide are igniting their sales pipe with Coldlytics.
Be one of them.

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I've ran successful outbound sales campaigns for countless businesses, and I want to share my knowledge with you.

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- Matt

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