September 28, 2022

Armed with superior knowledge about the customer base, an investor gains confidence, lowers risk, and increases negotiating leverage for pricing and terms prior to closing. Whether investors are PEs, VCs, searchers or strategic buyers, in-depth, objective customer feedback provides superior insight compared to filtered information from sellers. 

Over the years, performing hundreds of customer due diligence efforts, in diverse industries, we find investors ask us many of the same questions before we start work. Here is a peek inside the process.

  1. Who is best to obtain customer feedback?feedback concept, business man looking at the drawn sketch with icons

Many times, investors plan to do the customer due diligence themselves before closing. That seldom works well. Here’s why. Investors get busy with many other aspects of the deal, as well as managing the investor group. When it finally becomes clear that the investors don’t have time to execute the customer due diligence themselves, the remaining time before closing is short. This limits the amount of customer feedback, providing less reliable results than if a larger customer base could give input.

Using a third-party:

    • Allows more customers to be touched, as investors are busy working on other deal challenges
    • Lessens the risk of customers thinking a change of ownership is in the offing
    • Taps the expertise of experienced market research professionals to unmask obscure but important information – we typically hear things that even surprise the seller

2When should customer feedback be sought?

The two most common times to initiate customer research are:           

    • Immediately after signing an LOI
    • Four weeks before investment closing…better late than never

We recommend immediately after LOI signing. That way investors can defer the very expensive finance, legal, and operational due diligence, until a solid customer base is confirmed. Investors who gain customer knowledge earlier can use it profitably for refining pricing, earn-outs, contingencies, etc.

3How can I overcome a seller’s reluctance to provide customer contact details (person name, phone number and email)?
Helpful tips logo with light bulb. Helpful tips badge. Quick tips, top tricks, tooltip, advice and idea for business and advertising. Vector illustration.

It is quite common during the sale process for customer accounts to be listed in the pitch book. The more luminary the list of customer names, the better the credibility.

However, listing Cisco or Exxon as customers, but never divulging contact info does not permit the investor to understand whether these accounts are satisfied. Perhaps they are thinking about switching suppliers or need x and y new offerings from the seller (i.e., buying signals for more revenue). Finding knowledgeable/decision-making contacts on your own within a large company is likely not possible before close.

Top reasons the seller should divulge contact information (assuming most of the seller’s management team will be staying):

    • Customers are told this is a customer survey so the seller can serve them better in the future – and the seller gets credit for it
    • Solidify the seller’s customer base. B2B customers like to be asked for feedback, particularly when they are listened to intently for as long as needed. Customers:
      • Appreciate that their input is being used to better serve them in the future
      • Like that their supplier listens to them and understands their concerns, as opposed to a check-the-box survey like they see after their last doctor’s visit.
    • Gain deep insight into their customers and market - on someone else’s dime
    • Gain feedback on topics they never took the opportunity to learn about before, including:
      • Is the customer going to increase or decrease their spend – and why?
      • Types of customer support needed – and are they getting it or not?
      • What factors are important when considering switching to a competitor?
      • Alignment of seller’s product development with customers’ priorities
    • Learn about dissatisfied customers and have an opportunity to turn the account around immediately after close 

4.      How do you gain such great information?

Hand writing inscription We Deliver Results with marker, conceptWith a conversational style, open-ended questions, and a flow that encourages discussion and transparency.

Over the years, Mayfield Consulting has developed approaches and interview techniques honed to generate objective insights of which even the seller may not be aware.

After close, based on this in-depth customer feedback, the new team will have better insight to manage and position the company. It is to everyone’s advantage to have useful customer feedback and all the gold nuggets of information.

In Part II, we will share some more FAQs and Mayfield Consulting’s strategies for achieving investors’ objectives. Please let us know if we can help with your customer due diligence.

Mayfield Consulting's team has hundreds of years of experience in sales and marketing, providing customer and market research, sales, marketing and PR strategy and implementation services performed by seasoned professionals on an affordable, a la carte menu to business-to-business companies. With a tagline of “Where Results Happen,” Mayfield Consulting clients have been named nine times in the last ten years to the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies, won more than 50 awards, and experienced exponential growth.

Mayfield Consulting’s team has hundreds of combined years of experience in sales and marketing, providing market research, business due diligence, sales, marketing and PR strategy and implementation. All services are performed by seasoned professionals, on an affordable, a la carte menu to business-to-business companies. Mayfield has special expertise in software, security, business services, financial services, and classic manufacturing industries. With a tagline of “Where Results Happen,” Mayfield Consulting has clients that have been named 11 times in the last eleven years to the Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest Growing Private Companies, won more than 70 awards, and experienced exponential growth.