Mergers and acquisitions are complex transactions involving multiple steps and stakeholders from different organizations with different expectations, priorities, and goals. Firms need the right technology to organize information and communicate with all parties to ensure the deal runs smoothly.
Recently, M&A teams have adopted various tools to manage their workflows, including Virtual Data Rooms (VDRs), project management, due diligence management, financial data, and collaboration tools. However, one of the essential pillars of corporate development is your team’s relationship networks. And yet, most teams still use their email inbox and Excel spreadsheets to manage their relationships and deal pipelines.
Relying on such antiquated tools is costing firms hundreds of hours per year. From manually entering data into a spreadsheet to spending hours combing through contacts and asking team members for warm introductions, M&A practitioners wishing to remain competitive by sourcing and closing more deals should consider implementing an M&A CRM platform.
Contrary to popular belief, not all CRMs are created equal. Most well-known CRM platforms, including Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Hubspot, etc., have been designed to manage traditional customer relationships and transactional sales processes. This differs from an M&A use case where you don’t have traditional customers; instead, you want to build deep, longstanding relationships with executives, private equity investors, etc.
Enter the M&A CRM, a relationship management platform that is the foundation of your deal-making process. These platforms tailored for M&A deal practitioners serve as the single source of truth, allowing you to streamline your M&A deal process from deal sourcing to post-merger integration. All while leveraging the power of your team’s relationship networks to find warm introductions and close more deals faster.
An M&A CRM allows your team to:
- Organize and catalog all your communications and notes with each stakeholder and contacts
- Source deals faster by determining your best path into a target company via a warm introduction
- Increase efficiency and ensure no tasks fall through the cracks by keeping all stakeholders aligned
- Track and visualize your transactions across the entire deal lifecycle, from sourcing to post-merger integration.
- Streamline your transaction process by automating time-consuming tasks like data entry
Multiple vendors offer products with similar features that can help with contact and pipeline management. Still, an M&A CRM goes beyond those simple features and provides more value to make you a more efficient professional.
Navigating the crowded CRM market can be overwhelming. This article will shed light on the most popular CRMs used by corporate development teams and the questions you should ask a vendor when evaluating a CRM platform.
When considering an M&A CRM platform, you’ll want to ensure it comes with the features your team needs to streamline the processes to make you more efficient at building relations and closing deals.
These are some features you want to consider and questions you should ask when evaluating a CRM.
- How easy is it to use? What is the user experience? Most M&A teams are busy and don’t have the time to learn how to use a complicated system. So ease of use is critical. What is the point of buying an expensive CRM if your team will not adopt it?
- What is the onboarding process? Some platforms have slow onboarding processes that require complicated customization work and lots of training. Ideally, you would want to get up and running with your system in weeks or days, not months.
- What customer support do they offer? Does their customer support team understand M&A and corporate development processes and workflows? Can they make recommendations on how to best use the system?
- How easy can YOU customize the system? Ideally, your CRM should be easily customizable to fit your firm’s unique processes. But in reality, some CRMs are only customizable by professional services teams or outside consultants. This process is usually costly and takes months.
- Is information automatically captured? If your team needs to spend hours each week manually entering data and logging each interaction, not only are they losing time, but there is also the added risk of having out-of-date or wrong information in your CRM. Your team should be focusing on closing deals, not data entry.
- Can You Create Reports? Does your CRM provide insights across every stage of the deal process? Is it preloaded with industry-specific report templates to quickly generate reports in real-time and create dashboards to keep track of KPIs and metrics?
- What am I paying for? Are you paying for functionality you will not use? How does pricing work? For example, some CRMs include customer support and marketing automation modules that most M&A/Corpdev teams will never use.
- How easily does it integrate with your workflow? Most teams use other pieces of software, including VDRs, financial data systems, market intelligence, etc. Your CRM should seamlessly integrate with these systems.
- Does it offer insights into your existing data? Your CRMs should be more than just a place to store data. It should also help you find the right warm connections to the most lucrative deals allowing your team to close more deals.
- Is your data enriched? To ensure you always have the most up-to-date and accurate data, your CRM should enrich contact and deal profiles with data from third-party providers like Pitchbook and Crunchbase.
Major Players in the M&A CRM Space
Copper is a popular, easy-to-use CRM that integrates with Google Workspace. It’s designed to automatically log all your emails and contact interactions, allowing you to save time on manual data entry. Its interface is similar to Google Workspace, making it easy to navigate. Organizations using Microsoft Outlook or other email clients have no choice but to switch to Google Workspace if they wish to use Copper as their CRM.
Unfortunately, Copper is not built for deal-driven teams and does not include the workflows, terminology, and analytics to give insights into your dealmaking process. As with most CRMs, Copper also lacks relationship intelligence or the insights into your team’s relationships and interactions to help you find introductions and close deals.
Dealmaking organizations that manage complex transactions over months or years may find Copper severely lacks the automation and overall functionality to navigate these complex deals. If you are looking for a system designed for M&A transactions and investment workflows, there are better options in the market.
Copper can be an excellent choice for sales organizations looking for a CRM to manage their process, not for M&A professionals.
Common complaints from Copper users include:
- The need to manually enter data to keep profiles updated
- The reporting system is not very robust and offers minimal functionality.
- Their customer support could be better.
Investment banking, M&A, private equity, and other financial services firms rely on DealCloud to track their deal flow and manage their pipeline, among other tasks.
Compared with modern M&A CRMs with relationship intelligence, where contact and company profiles are automatically created from your inbox and calendars, DealCloud relies on manual data entry. Meaning your team must devote time to keep data clean & organized manually. This process alone can cost your team hundreds of hours per year.
Teams looking to implement and onboard quickly should think twice about selecting DealCloud since implementations usually take up to 6 months and require a lengthy training program. Once the system is up and running, the DealCloud team handles any further changes or customizations, which can take months to complete.
As a manual CRM, you must have resources dedicated to keeping data updated and organized to ensure your team members diligently enter data into the platform. If data is not updated, your DealCloud implementation will fail to deliver since data can quickly become outdated. At this point, the system is no longer serving its purpose.
Common complaints from DealCloud users include:
– The need to manually enter data
– Their outdated user interface (UI)
– A steep learning curve.
Midaxo is an end-to-end M&A deal management platform designed for M&A teams to manage the entire M&A process, from deal sourcing to post-merger integration.
The Midaxo platform includes several modules that replace separate tools used by M&A teams, including M&A pipeline management, process management, due diligence playbooks, and a virtual data room. As the “Swiss Army Knife” of M&A software, Midaxo does not have a clear focus on a specific tool. This “jack of all trades, master of none” approach is not what you want when searching for the best M&A CRM.
Midaxo will not devote most of its research and development resources to building a better CRM because it’s not a CRM company. This results in an antiquated and clunky product compared to the leaders in the M&A CRM space. Spending upwards of five figures monthly for a subpar CRM product does not make sense for most organizations.
Midaxo also offers Pipeline Plus, a product they describe as a “lightweight” CRM. However, this product lacks relationship intelligence and automation capabilities that can save your team hundreds of hours annually.
If your firm specializes in closing smaller transactions and can solely rely on Midaxo as their tech stack, it might make sense since all your use cases can be addressed by Midaxo.
If, on the other hand, your firm focuses on more complex transactions with dozens of stakeholders, you will have to look elsewhere.
Common complaints from Midaxo users include:
– Their UI has been described as not being the most user friendly
– Lack of automated data updates
– A challenging and hard-to-use analytics system, specifically when building custom reports.
Navatar is a legacy CRM built on the Salesforce platform used by financial firms globally. Their platform includes deal and pipeline management modules, business development, and project management. With over two decades in the market, the Navatar name is well-known globally.
As with other systems on this list, they are a traditional CRM, meaning they lack the automation and relationship intelligence capabilities to manage non-linear long-term relationships that are common in complex M&A deals. This means teams will spend hundreds of hours per year manually updating contact and deal records. The lack of relationship intelligence means your team will miss out on potential warm introductions that can result in more closed won deals.
Since it’s built on Salesforce, Navatar allows you to integrate with thousands of apps from the Salesforce App exchange. However, you will need additional work from a Salesforce consultant or implementation partner to ensure your CRM ecosystem works correctly and addresses your firm’s specific needs.
Salesforce is the largest and most well know CRM tool. Its ease of use and customizability have made it a favorite of organizations of every size and industry. As a one-size-fits-all CRM with thousands of integrations and apps available through their Salesforce App exchange, Salesforce has become the “go-to” CRM for many companies. But upon further scrutiny, it may not be the best option for your firm.
For various reasons, M&A firms looking for a CRM to manage deals should avoid implementing Salesforce. Firstly, Salesforce is a transactional CRM and still relies on manual data entry to manage its deal and contact management modules. When using Salesforce, M&A teams spend hours entering and updating data instead of building relationships and pursuing new opportunities.
If your team uses Salesforce as an M&A CRM, it will require extensive and expensive customization from a third-party Salesforce partner or consultant. Most customization work would need to be complemented by a personalized training program which would add extra cost and make your deployment lengthy and costly compared to other out-of-the-box solutions.
When bringing in a Salesforce consultant to customize the system, you will also need to budget for any additional enhancements or changes that need to be done once the initial implementation has been completed.
One of the only cases when choosing Salesforce over other out-of-the-box M&A CRMs makes sense is if your firm has a team dedicated to managing and customizing your Salesforce CRM.
At 4Degrees, we recognize some firms are legacy Salesforce users and would like to have their M&A team use Salesforce. For those cases, 4Degrees can integrate with Salesforce to activate your relationship network to uncover more opportunities and eliminate data entry.
Affinity is a relationship intelligence CRM platform for deal-driven teams to manage relationships and track their firm’s deal flow pipeline. Using their proprietary algorithms, Affinity provides teams with insight into their relationships network, allowing them to source new relationships and introductions.
Affinity claims to save investors hundreds of hours per year that would otherwise be spent on manual data entry. They do this by automatically plugging into Gmail and Outlook and exporting email content into contact and deal profiles. This way, every interaction is tracked, and users don’t need to spend valuable time looking for a specific piece of information about a deal or contact.
The team at Affinity has built a capable and robust product; unfortunately, their relationship intelligence capabilities are still lacking compared with other players, especially 4Degrees. For example, Affinity does not provide users with news and updates about their networks. This makes it hard for investors to stay engaged with their contacts and build deeper relationships.
It is also worth mentioning that Affinity is very liberal in sharing users’ data by not giving users complete control over how it is shared.
Common complaints from Affinity users:
– The need to purchase additional add-ons to get full access to the Affinity analytics capabilities
– An elevated price point compared to other similar products.
4Degrees is a relationship intelligence CRM platform built by ex-investors for the private markets and other relationship-focused industries.
Designed to make you more efficient, 4Degrees eliminates busy work by seamlessly integrating with your firm’s existing workflows while automating time-consuming processes, including data entry.
As a full-featured CRM, 4Degrees allows your team to visualize your deal pipeline in a list or Kanban-style view, keeping you up to date on the status of every deal.
By automatically capturing all your interactions by syncing with Microsoft Exchange and Gmail and enriching contact data, 4Degrees serves as your firm’s single source of truth. This ensures your whole team is on the same page.
The platform’s relationship intelligence capabilities analyze the strength of your team’s relationship networks to surface warm introductions and identify the best path to a company, expert, or investor in seconds. At 4Degrees, we know the importance of relationships.
To help you build stronger relationships, 4Degrees alerts you when people in your network have made investments, changed jobs, or other signals that help you stay abreast of your network. With this information, you can nurture your relationships and source new opportunities. Because at the end of the day, it’s all about who you know.
To quickly surface insights and drill into data, 4Degrees comes with a robust analytics engine built for the unique needs of M&A teams. Access to all your data under one roof will enable you to create custom reports to make more-data driven decisions and close more deals.
With hundreds of clients in the M&A space, the 4Degrees Customer Success and Support teams understand your industry’s workflows and pain points. They are always available to work with your team to get the most value and ROI from the product.
The pages below provide a more detailed comparison of 4Degrees vs. other CRMs used by private equity teams.
Which CRM Should You Choose?
Adapting your M&A process to a transactional CRM will not result in a successful implementation.
You need an out-of-the-box CRM built for investment professionals, easy to use, and accessible to your whole team. If you need to dedicate additional resources to customize a system, this detracts from the platform’s primary role at your firm: to close more deals.
The CRM you choose should not only store your contact information and track deals. Your CRM should improve your deal process and empower you to leverage your network to find and close more deals faster.