Creative Strategies for Increasing Your Network & Deal Flow During the Pandemic

June 4th, 2020

On June 4th, Opus Connect Founder and CEO, Lou Sokolovskiy, hosted a webinar focused on how the lower middle market M&A community can maintain deal flow and continue to build strong business relationships during the Covid-19 pandemic. A team of M&A professionals joined Lou on this panel, representing a cross-section of the investment community, to discuss their best strategies for staying connected and relevant during this challenging time. Panelists include Britt Terrell (Founder & Managing Director at Backbone Capital), Jack Sadden (Partner & Co-Founder at Valesco Industries), Michelle Rogers (VP of Business Development at Corbel Capital Partners), and Thomas P. Nugent (Principal at Pfingsten Partners, L.L.C.). 

Lou asked the panel to weigh in on the following over the course of the hour: 

  • How the business development community is staying connected while the U.S. and much of the world are under various lockdown restrictions
  • Potential new avenues for deals that are opening up during this time, as finance professionals have new challenges to meet 

Whereas most deal professionals are accustomed to traveling weekly for in-person meetings, seminars, industry events, and networking opportunities, all industries now face certain challenges in adapting their deal models to work remotely, without face-to-face interactions. 

Tom, with his background in add-on acquisitions and portfolio company management, shared his best tips and strategies: 

  • Perform more direct reach-out to executives, especially those who have been displaced by restructuring
  • Less time spent on planes translates into more time for engagement with bankers and independent sponsors
  • Creating new relationships with buy-side firms to determine what is working for them and what isn’t working
  • Finding “carve outs” within larger corporations that need assistance with capital for smaller lines of business

Britt, having a smaller team at Backbone Capital, noted that he has implemented a new CRM system to keep his contacts organized. Refreshing old-school tactics by utilizing email blasts, mining previous event attendee lists for contacts, and focusing his one-man hustle may be a slower process for smaller shops, but the rights tools have proved invaluable. 

Jack approached Lou’s question from a more predictive angle, projecting that while the auction process is not about to disappear any time soon, other opportunities are emerging to support bankers, sponsors, and partners in other ways. Actionable tips from Jack included checking in with those in need of minority equity, debt, and shoring up balance sheets. He also noted that people seem more willing to take on partnerships (especially on the entrepreneur side) and are more likely to show interest if you are willing to be flexible. 

Michelle’s organization has a more robust CRM suite in place, and she touted the advantages of tools from Dynamo and Salesforce. By tracking analytics within email marketing, such as email opens, clicks per email, and website visits, Corbel Partners knows who is expressing interest in working with them without even picking up the phone. Top tips from Michelle also include: 

  • Adjusting marketing materials to focus on Covid-specific issues 
  • Advocating the use of brochures, case studies, and other collateral to communicate how the firm structures deals to attain maximum value
  • Getting your services out there by participating in panels like this one (thanks, Michelle!)

Michelle made a point to note the high value in referring deals that are not a fit for her firm to her peers at other companies, thus creating goodwill and a willingness to reciprocate – a great idea no matter your industry. 

Business development professionals are tackling problems stemming from Covid-19 in a hands-on fashion, and this group of thought leaders has even more best practices to share: 

  • Universities are often a good place to look, as your colleagues may hold positions as adjunct or full-time professors and can catch the next generation of entrepreneurs (Tom) 
  • A swift pivot to virtual events of all kinds is necessary, so sign up to be part of panels and forums to both stay connected and find a wider audience (Britt)
  • Recalibrate your messaging to reflect the times, ensuring clients and teams feel less isolated and uncertain (Jack)
  • Schedule team calls with the intention to discuss issues specific to business development by analyzing portfolios for a competitive edge; reach out to potential deal-makers on LinkedIn or via phone calls tailored to their specialty (Michelle) 

Thank you to all our participants for their insights as we navigate these uncharted waters together. We’d also like to thank our sponsors for this event: Avant Advisory Group, GemCap, Lawrence Financial, Sapient Investigations, USI, 4Degrees, Focus Search Partners, and Resourcive.