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January 3, 2022

Creating a go-to-market plan is one of the first things to do during an acquisition. When you don't have a clear GTM strategy before the deal is closed, you won't know what systems you need in place, and what people skills are required to make your combined product work. In this interview, Gwen Pope, Head of Global Product M&A at eBay, will help us understand how to make an M&A GTM successful.

"When building your GTM plan, knowing your rationale and how you think you're going to execute is only as good as knowing the endpoint." - Gwen Pope

Getting Your House In Order

A GTM plan for a new product is not the same as a GTM for an acquired product. In launching a new product, it's within the guardrails of your own organization's standards. When you acquire a product, the target company most likely does things differently. 

Whether it's infrastructure pieces, operating criteria, billing models, or legal terms, there will always be things that are different from your company's standards. Build a bridge to bring in that acquired product and make it successful in your organization. The only way to do that is if you clearly understand how your company brings products to market. Gwen believes this should be a priority before you even talk to any targets. Knowing your company's processes and gaps will help you source better deals, have a well-defined acquisition strategy, and set a clear execution path to each product you are trying to acquire. 

Pressure Test the Rationale

Before proceeding to the deal itself, you need to pressure test the rationale of buying the target company. Gwen learned a long time ago that you will never get the attention or time that you want from your deal sponsors so you need to define a core set of questions that validate the deal rationale.   

Gwen's suggested questions are:

  1. In what form would we bring this to market?
  2. Why not build it ourselves or partner up?
  3. How is this worth it? What is the value that this brings to us?
  4. What would kill the deal?
  5. Where does this sit on your list of priorities?

Working with the Acquired Company

As early as diligence, the integration lead needs to collaborate with the target leadership and validate the execution path of the GTM. No one knows the product and company better than the target’s leadership team, so you need to get their inputs on the viability of your plan and how to make the acquisition a collaborative success. 

Also, you need to communicate and set expectations early. If you are sunsetting a product, it's best to let them know as early as possible to avoid confusion and questions on day one. 

However, it is essential to note that a full-blown integration plan is not possible Pre-LOI. You need to start working on it early, be prepared to iterate it along the way, and operationalize before you close. 

Building your GTM

When building your GTM plan, you have to start with your baseline deliverables. What things need to happen for the functions to be fully integrated? 

Gather all this information from the  internal people that are not involved in the M&A deal. These are the people that will live with the product after the acquisition. You should build a checklist of the necessary items for the transition. 

The next step is to kick-off confirmatory due diligence. Whether they are dedicated resources or not, you will now have a team of cross-functional delegates. Their job is to provide you with a list of potential risks and requirements for you to achieve your integrated state, which will comprise your executable GTM plan.

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