Building a buyers list (while avoiding deal landmines)


From the seller’s motivations, to the perceived value of the product/service, to the fate of the employees, to the existence of bad debt – it’s extremely difficult for investment bankers to close any given deal given all the potential landmines. While some twists and turns may be unavoidable, the process of building a buyer’s list should be risk-free.

Over time, investment banking firms acquire a lot of information about buyers, and the clever ones transform that information into data points that are stored in the firm’s CRM software. When it comes time to craft a buyers list, those data points are invaluable. In this article, we explore three best practices for building the most reliable, strongest buyer’s lists.

Filtered Buyers
Filtering potential buyers in DealCloud

1. Get specific

While dealmaking is, in large part, a relationship-driven business, it’s also quite mechanical. These days, private equity and strategic buyers typically have outlined, identifiable “strike zones.”  When building a best-in-class buyers list, it’s absolutely necessary to be able to search for buyers based on detailed deal criteria and historical data, including:

  • Deal type: When preparing a buyer’s list, it’s important to understand what transaction types the buyer has closed recently. You’ll also want to know what other transactions they’ll open to participating in.
  • Industry: Top-line information about the industry may not be enough. Make sure you include certain sub-sectors in your searches.
  • EBITDA: While buyers tend to be opportunistic in terms of deal size in today’s competitive market, your team should be able to discern which buyers won’t be interested based on revenue and EBITDA data alone.
  • Location: Many buyers draw hard lines on the map. Make sure your teams know which geographies won’t be considered by certain buyers.

Synergies: Having data about the buyer’s strategy and group of portfolio companies should be top-of-mind when building buyer’s lists. After all, one man’s acquisition is another man’s add-on.

Having this type of information housed in your CRM system about deal strike zones is incredibly important for a number of reasons, especially when working on complex or hairy deals.

2. Measure engagement

While basic information about a buyer and what they’re interested in is valuable, it means nothing unless there’s an understanding of the overall relationship. When preparing buyer’s lists, the most effective investment bankers are constantly considering the following:

Tracking Engagement.PNG
Tracking previous deals marketed and milestone history in DealCloud is a great way to track buyer engagement. 
  • What value do we place on this contact? (This question is most effectively answered by investment banks that employ a tiering system for buyers and contacts)
  • Who was the last person at the firm to speak with each buyer? Do they have a personal connection or is it simply business as usual?
  • How long ago did conversations take place, and what was discussed?
  • What was their feedback on the last deal you presented them? Did they pass? If so, why?
  • How far down the deal funnel did they get? If they got to the LOI or management meeting stage, how were the buyers received by the seller? Were there any special synergies that could be useful to know for another deal?
  • How competitively have they bid on deals you’ve shown them in the past? Are they particularly bullish in a certain sector?
  • Have you been to the same conferences as them, and if so, what were they looking for while attending?

Measuring engagement is critical for understanding situational context as to why a buyer should be considered for a deal (or why not). With thousands of business development activities occurring in a given month, investment banks are wise to measure this engagement throughout every interaction with a buyer so as to achieve an accurate view of the relationships that exist. Without this information, bankers can easily encounter hiccups.

3. Remember: Every deal is unique

This simple truth is one that seasoned investment bankers know all too well. While it may be tempting to apply the same deal marketing strategy to every transaction, the nature of dealmaking is such that a “one size fits all” approach will never be sufficient. That’s why being able to customize the way your firm builds buyer lists is so important.

Maybe you host events throughout the year that you track relationships from, or maybe your firm finds it valuable to track the inbound queries that you receive; no matter what specific strategy your firm employs, it should be well-represented in your CRM.

Having the ability to toggle between custom fields is the first step in making the institutional knowledge of the firm accessible to those who need it. This type of functionality can also help your team members connect more dots, triangulate more relationships, and avoid more pitfalls such as conflicts of interest as they move swiftly through their business development activities.


While some private equity buyers want to see every deal regardless of its relevance to their firm, many find the delivery of irrelevant deals to be frustrating, and even annoying. By collecting and leveraging strong buyer data, you will more effectively avoid the “unknowns” in deal processes.

By keeping these specific considerations in mind at all times, investment banking firms can stand out from the crowd for running extremely sophisticated deal processes and ensuring the best outcome for both seller and buyer.

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Kari Lukovics

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