In good markets, fully underwritten deals are the offering of choice. In those deals, the onus of selling the shares lies with the banking syndicate. In soft markets, however, financiers may pitch best-efforts deals, in which a bank agrees to do its best to oversee, but not guarantee, the sale of a security in the primary market.

In non-guaranteed deals, the banks are telling the company "we have the goal of raising X amount of dollars and selling X amount of shares. We'll do our best to close the deal with the end goal in mind," according to Matt Kaplan, senior analyst at The Carson Group.