How to Protect Your Customers during a Merger or Acquisition

As a salesperson, going through a merger or acquisition is stressful enough without having to protect your customers too.

But like it or not, that’s what most of us must go through until the dust finally settles, and you know whether you have a job or not.

When a merger or acquisition occurs, many decisions are being made above your pay grade. Whether it is pricing, products, services, shipping or billing, you pretty much are out of the loop.

Sure, you can voice your objections about price increases, and sound the alarm if product quality is degraded, but really….is anyone going to care?

Is anyone really going to listen?

No.

Upper management has one goal in mind – complete the merger or acquisition as quickly and painlessly as possible so they can get back into the business of earning a profit.

And if that means cracking a few eggs along the way, well that’s the price of doing business.

Your goal? To make sure you’re not one of the eggs being cracked.

Yes, your compensation package may go up or down, and your benefits may be enhanced or reduced, but the one thing you need to always do is this – making damn sure your customers are protected.

So, how do you protect your customers?

1). Be honest – Well, be as sincere as possible without the risk of getting fired. Your customers depend on you to help them ride through the rough patch. It doesn’t matter whether you like some of your customers or not. It doesn’t matter if upper management is treating you like dirt or not. You’re a professional. You must rise above the pain, chaos, and uncertainty and help your clients.

For example, if prices will increase, let your customers know ASAP. If the new owners are planning to replace products or services, let your customers know that too.

It’s better your customers hear bad news from you than from upper management. By getting ahead of negative information, you can hopefully spin it to your advantage. At the bare minimum, you will prevent your customers from getting blindsided.

Better to be honest now with the hope that you might land on your feet somewhere else, then be dishonest and have your professional reputation destroyed.

2). Be a crisis manager – When your customers can’t get straight answers from the billing, shipping or other departments, you better be prepared to step in and resolve problems – quickly. If you do this, your customers will respect you, and hopefully, you will continue to see more orders from them in the future.

Yes, intervening in customer service problems may not be selling per se, but when the shit hits the fan (and it often does in mergers and acquisitions), you don’t have time to play “it’s not my job” games. That kind of attitude could get you fired — fast.

You need to step in quickly, resolve issues, and hope good Karma will rub off on you.

If not, you better be prepared to rub off a lot of lottery tickets to make up for the lost income you will receive walking the streets seeking a new job.

3). Be selling – don’t use the excuse of the chaos of an acquisition or merger to prevent you from doing your main job – selling. It’s easy to play the victim card and blame upper management for poor sales. But here’s the reality that you’re not going to like – you’re already a victim of an acquisition or merger. So, playing the additional victim card isn’t going to save you.

You need to stay focused. Sooner or later (and you hope sooner), things will begin to settle down, and upper management will take a hard look at who the winners and losers are. Make sure you don’t fall into the latter group.

Selling is tough. But it’s tougher when you are going through a merger and acquisition.  I know that from experience because I’ve gone through several mergers and acquisitions in my career. For example, I experienced so much anxiety during one acquisition, my hair was falling out, and I was losing sleep.

Don’t make the same mistake I made. Stay calm. Stay focused. Stay aware of what’s happening. And do whatever you can to protect your customers.

And if all else fails, leave. There are always other sales jobs. But there’s only one of you. Your health and mental state are more important than any job.

Note: If you like this post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.

How to Survive a Merger or Acquisition

It’s Monday morning.  With your Starbucks coffee in hand, you arrive to work ready to start the week off right.

But before you settle down at your desk or cubicle, you notice the worried faces of your co-workers. As you read your email, you find out why – there is a mandatory meeting in the conference room at 9:30 a.m. sharp. Everyone must attend.

Now you’re anxious too.

As you and your colleagues begin entering the conference room, you notice your owner standing next to two men in suits. You never saw them before.

The owner is smiling. The men in suits are smiling. But as they begin to speak, you’re not smiling.

Why?

sold down the riverBecause you just found out that you have been sold down the river!

That’s right – your company has been acquired. Or maybe you’re merging with another company.

Acquired or Merged, it makes no difference. Your life is now going to turn upside down.

Up until now, you had a perfect life. You have the perfect spouse, the perfect kids, the perfect neighborhood and the perfect car.

But things are not going to be perfect anymore.

While the owner is smiling because now he can afford to take that vacation to Hawaii he always wanted, you’re not happy because you’re worried if you can afford to pay your rent or mortgage next month.

How do you survive an Acquisition or Merger?

1). Don’t panic – Listen carefully to want the new owners are telling you. Maybe it’s not going to be all bad as you think. I’ve gone through acquisitions and mergers where my compensation plan and benefits improved. Sure, there were some layoffs, but most people kept their jobs.

2). Don’t be a jerk – Don’t spread rumors, but listen to rumors. There’s a difference. You don’t want to be the jerk causing panic, but on the other hand, you need to keep your ear to the ground to find out if you’re going to lose your job or not. Like it or not, trust is the first victim of an acquisition or merger. The new owners will have to earn your trust, not the other way around.

3). Ask intelligent questions – Don’t ask if you’re going to be laid off. That’s rude. But do ask “What are your short-term and long-term plans for the sales department or the company?”

Other questions may be –

“Are you planning to make any changes to our products or services?”

“Are you planning to keep our location open or close it soon?”

“Are you planning to come up with new quotas soon?”

Read between the lines. Watch the body language. Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they giving you conflicting answers?

Check out “8 Great Tricks for Reading People’s Body Language,” by Travis Bradberry

4). Update your resume – and make sure your LinkedIn profile page is also updated. For example, now would be a good time to add that photo that you keep forgetting to post on your profile.

Good advice from  “8 Steps to Improve your LinkedIn Profile in 2016,” by Lauren Batcheck

Also, check out Knock ’em Dead Resumes: How to Write a Killer Resume That Gets You Job Interviews by Martin Yate.

5). Check your Interview clothes – it doesn’t hurt to make sure your interview suits or dresses still fit. Maybe it’s time to buy some new ties, polish your dress shoes, and get some second opinions on what to wear on interviews.

6). Research the Company – does the new owner have a history of “grabbing and trashing” companies? That is, is your new employer acquiring a lot of companies and then laying off or closing those entities down? You can Google to find out. You can also check Glassdoor. You can also go on LinkedIn and see if a lot of employees “left” for new jobs. If the companies acquired by your new employer are in small towns or cities, check the business section of the local newspapers and see if they reported on significant layoffs or shutdowns.

Also, check out this site from “The Magnet” on “The Top 5 Sites for Employer Reviews & Ratings.”

7). Take Home your Performance Reviews – Make sure you print out and take home all your previous reviews and other documentation that shows you did well in your current job. (Or you could also email them to your personal email address). If layoffs come suddenly, you may not have time to access your performance records before you are denied access to your work computer.

8). Ask for a Letter of Recommendation – Now would be a good time to ask your manager for a letter of recommendation, or better yet, have him write a favorable recommendation on your LinkedIn profile page. Make sure you have your manager’s personal email and phone number in case he gets laid off before you do. Sure, you might find him on LinkedIn or Facebook, but he probably wouldn’t be in a good mood to respond to you.

9). Keep your enemies close, and your friends’ closer – that old saying will mean a lot once the announcement is made about the acquisition or merger. You will see a sudden shift in everyone’s mood.  Anxiety, fear, and mistrust will begin to take over. You will see a major upswing of brown-nosing, especially with the new bosses. Old feuds that have been simmering for a while will erupt without warning. You’ll hear nervous laughter in the lunchroom as someone shares another juicy piece of gossip. As you walk down the hallway, conversations will suddenly stop until you walk on by to your office. Old alliances will fall apart, and new ones will be created.

Bottom line – Watch your back!

10). Keep an Open Mind – as I mentioned above, not all acquisitions or mergers are bad. I’ve gone through several in my career, and I ended up with a better comp plan and benefits package. Sometimes, I would find myself with a better manager and an upgraded sales pipeline or territory.

Acquisitions and Mergers are a fact of life these days.  In the long run, the best way to survive one is always to be learning, always be networking and always be looking.  If you continue to learn, maintain your network of contacts, and keep your eyes open for new opportunities, you should be safe.

Here are some links to help you –

“Acquisition and Merger Process Through the Eyes of Employees,” by Terhi Maidell

“How to Merge Corporate Cultures,” by Tim Donnelly

Note: If you like my post, please read my book – Advice for New Salespeople: Tips to Help your Sales Career.