Talking with buyers is an important step in the sale process. While this can seem daunting, there are some things to keep in mind to ensure things move more smoothly:
Stay relaxed – Working with buyers can be stressful. They often have many requests and may demand a lot from owners. In the end, buyers are inquiring about your business because they want to learn if it is the right fit for them. They need to understand as much as possible about the business in order to buy it. Keeping conversations relaxed is useful to keep everyone on the same level and understanding.
Give space, but be persistent – It is helpful to buyers to receive a reasonable period of time to review materials after they have been given. Buyers often have busy schedules and can’t review things immediately. With that in mind, it is important to always follow up with buyers. They may be taking a while for any number of reasons. They may no longer be interested in your business and didn’t bother to let you know that is the case. Persistence goes a long way in keeping buyers on track throughout a transaction.
Don’t expect an offer – While finding a buyer is the goal of the M&A process, it is not helpful to expect offers from all buyers who review the marketing materials of your business. Only a small fraction of buyers can be expected to make an offer.
Respond to all requests – It is important for sellers to respond to all buyer inquiries in a timely manner. This will be useful to keep the process moving which is essential. It is usually recommended to call the buyer via phone first. If they do not answer, leave a brief voicemail identifying yourself and letting them know the best time to reach you. If the buyer does not call back in 24 hours, send them a brief email. This type of follow up also shows buyers that you are a astute owner that has run the business well which makes it easier for them to command control of the business. Even if you respond by denying a buyer access to certain information (for example, customer list), it is important that they know you aren’t comfortable sharing that information yet and your reasoning behind the decision.
Emphasize business strengths and opportunities – The greatest selling points you can deliver involve your business’s strengths and opportunities for growth. These are what can get buyers excited about the idea of purchasing and running your company. However, caution against making things sound too good. Most buyers realize that every small business faces challenges. The best practice is to be honest, while focusing on the positive highlights of the business and opportunities to grow it.