Evidence supports the valuable role of M&A advisors in the sale process. They offer useful advice, can help with valuation, and may also suggest strategic changes that increase the value of your business. It’s not enough to just choose the first advisor who comes knocking, though. Before hiring an advisor, look for these four characteristics.

Experience
Experience is the most important characteristic of any good M&A advisor. You, of course, want someone who has closed a lot of deals, and ideally a wide variety of deals, because this means they’ve experienced and navigated a range of challenges. Though many aspects of the process are standard across industries, some are not. So it’s best to choose an advisor who has experience in several verticals.

Great Reputation
It’s shocking how many owners will rely solely on an advisors self-promotion. Seek reputation information from several different sources and angles. The best firms should be accredited by at least one body. They should also be able to provide references. Check online reviews, and then follow up with references to ask specific, detailed questions. Don’t just ask the reference if they liked the advisor. Ask for specific details about how the advisor helped them, and what they did that was helpful.

A Great Team
Most advisors lean on a team, and sometimes an entire firm. So before hiring an advisor, ask about who else will work on your case. The best advisors have a strong bench of great advisors. You want qualified experts working directly on your sale. Don’t pay for a great reputation and incredible experience only to get an intern.

Ask to meet anyone with whom you’ll be working closely. You’re going to be spending lots of time with your M&A advisor, often in a high-stress environment, so it’s important to ensure this is someone you can tolerate working with.

A Fair Fee Structure
Fairness means different things to different people, so the most critical aspect of a fair fee structure is transparency. Make sure you know exactly how much you will pay in each potential M&A scenario. About half of all deals fail. This can affect fees, especially if you’re paying a commission only. You want to ensure that the advisor is incentivized to help you get the best deal—not just any deal.

The majority of the money should come from a commission, but the fee should still be structured such that the advisory firm is paid even if a deal fails. This balances all interests and ensures that your advisory firm is motivated to work for your best interests, no matter what those interests end up being.