Your role in exit planning is critical. From initial data collection to final implementation of strategic plans, you have a lot on your plate, leading and coordinating business owners’ entire exit planning process.
Your role in a business exit simply cannot be understated. We know that business owners want to exit with financial security and independence and need your valuable guidance. Your clients aren’t short of intelligent, skilled workers: if they were, they would hire more employees. Instead, they seek your expertise because they know they’re entering unfamiliar territory. This makes your success synonymous with your client’s successful exit. Your role is to fill the knowledge gaps in their exit process and iron out problems as smoothly as possible.
So, what can you do next to become indispensable to your client’s successful exit and be their trusted advisor?
Listen and Empathize
All businesses are built and based on healthy relationships, and the key to a healthy relationship is mindful listening.
Being a good listener is essential for building rapport and good business management. Listen to what your clients tell you, whether it’s related to the business or a personal issue. Pay attention to even the smallest of concerns; your clients should be able to trust you. If you ignore their issues today, chances are they won’t share them later.
To build that rapport and trust:
- Be completely present at the moment. Avoid multitasking and manage distractions when you are with your client. Most people can detect when they don’t have your complete attention, so avoid this situation by managing your schedule and allocating adequate time when meeting with your client.
- Put yourself in their shoes, and look at things from their standpoint. Unless you understand your client’s worries and problem(s), chances are you will miss the seriousness and the depth of the issue(s) bothering them.
- Identify key points and let your client know that you are with them. Summarizing your client’s words to show comprehension is always a good idea. Your client then has the chance to correct you in case you misunderstand a critical point.
- Listen to understand, not to respond. Active listening is an immensely powerful tool. Wait for your turn to speak. Interrupting your client is not only rude, but your ill-timed interruption may cause the client to lose their train of thought. Essential details of an issue are often lost this way.
- Be curious, keep an open mind, and pursue continuous growth. Listening is the best way to uncover deeper issues and discover what you don’t know. Listening is one of the most basic yet essential skills differentiating success from failure and profit from loss.
Be Knowledgeable and Proactive
Your top three responsibilities as an advisor are:
- Educate the business owner about the entire exit planning process.
- Coordinate your activities with other exit planning advisors and the client’s internal advisory and management teams.
- Ensure the business owner’s smooth transition from the business.
To do all this, you must stay on top of everything, beginning with compiling all necessary information so that the business owner can understand. Based on that information, design some strategic steps the owner can take. In a nutshell, the more information you synthesize for the business owner, the more focused the outcome will be.
To take care of these critical activities, you need proper training and full-time, relevant experience. Training gives you hands-on experience in examining the issues related to the client’s industry, their tolerance for risk, and other critical areas of operating a business. Your industry and market insights also help the business owner decide the best time to sell their business and how to take care of a few critical post-sale aspects, such as minimizing taxes from the sale.
To provide such niche services, you should have in-depth knowledge about the client’s industry and other related areas. Being prepared is the key to success. While your client prepares for the exit, they may be plagued by numerous, unexpected issues: changes in their management team, loss of clients, loss of business, entry of a new competitor in the market, etc. To address such issues, you will have to gather evidence and design solutions. Continued training and experience improve your credentials and credibility.
As a trusted advisor, you will face problems you have never before encountered. When you encounter such novel issues, proactive action will be your key skill.
Careful consideration of your client’s problems will help you design valuable solutions for them. How you build commitment and develop consensus is equally essential. Take an interest in other areas of your client’s life to strengthen and build a relationship based on trust.
Consistency is essential for building trust and creating loyalty. Good advisors always go the extra mile to find solutions to their client’s problems. Your ability to be personable and establish meaningful connections will yield positive outcomes in the long run. A little extra effort to connect and build rapport with your clients and customize your solutions to suit their needs is necessary for your consultancy’s success.
If your client feels uncomfortable sharing details with you or doesn’t trust you, they will refrain from sharing what you need to know to do your job. Moreover, a happy client will be open to new business opportunities and be pleased to refer you to other business owners seeking to exit their companies. Become a confidant who always has their best interests in mind.
Soft Skills Matter
Exit planning is not a one-person job; there’s much to do, and several areas need different types of expertise. Your client’s successful exit from business requires integrating knowledge with actionable plans. Your client’s comfort and trust are key to acquiring that information and executing those plans. To achieve that level of rapport, you must build and maintain a healthy relationship with your client. You can easily scale your services and solutions when you genuinely understand your clients.