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December 8, 2022

Achieving revenue synergies should always be a transaction’s top priority. By leveraging the combined customer base of both companies, and combining the marketing and sales efforts, companies can become a much more powerful force in the marketplace. In this two-part M&A Science Podcast episode, James Harris, Principal, Corporate Development Integration at Google, discusses GTM integration planning. 

“Remember your customers. Always think about what you're doing to the customer. That is the most key thing.” - James Harris

Customer Focus Planning

According to James, the customer’s journey should always be the north star of every transaction. A positive customer experience is paramount to deal success and integration should be done within the first year post-close. Taking too long will turn customers off. 

There are tasks that can be done right off the bat. Think of ways to incentivize the sales force on both sides to work together to capture immediate opportunities.

Also, focus on the mechanics of GTM integration. Both companies must learn how to use the same customer name, language, and quote-to-cash tools. Chances are, the two parties have very different systems, tools, and processes that need to start operating as one. 

The same is also true for inbound contracts. Very often, the larger company won’t be happy with the small company’s contracts, but changing those abruptly will negatively affect customers. All of the above needs to be addressed and communicated to customers. 

Building the GTM Integration Team

Have a dedicated group of people stitching the lead-to-cash process. The team must understand the deal’s strategy, and the company’s system, in order to identify the capabilities and limitations during integration. The GTM integration team is also responsible for defining the interim execution plan during this process. 

The marketing team must also be a part of the GTM integration team. The marketing team is responsible for the lead-to-cash generation. The way the marketing team reaches out to customers is vital information for the integration. Both marketing machines need to work well together and not send mixed messages to customers. 

Tabletop Exercises

Tabletop exercises that involve functional leads and domain experts are a great way to stress test processes, core assumptions, and plans on upcoming deals. Tabletop exercises are a simulation of a potential acquisition, masked as a hypothetical situation for confidential reasons. The purpose is to use healthy skepticism and validate the go-to-market plans. Here is how to do a tabletop exercise:

  1. Create a fake scenario intended to simulate a real situation or company. The fake scenario could be anything depending on the plan that needs to be tested. Examples: identifying what happens if three deals at once were integrated into one product, or what it would take to integrate a technology capability into the system. 
  1. Listen to the cross-functional leads. They're usually the directors of the different teams. They will be able to provide good insight into how the integration will affect their respective function. 
  1. Come up with conclusions on what is possible and what is not. Everyone should be clear on the things that can be safely integrated, the risks involved, and mitigation plans.

At the end of these exercises, there should be a new practice, process, or function generated.

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