Have you ever had a deal blow up at the eleventh hour because your client got cold feet or found fault with the deal terms for seemingly irrational reasons? If so, you have likely witnessed the disruptive effects of unaddressed unpleasant feelings and concerns.
All change, even when it results in a huge payout, involves loss. Exiting business owners lose a key part of their identity, long-standing relationships, familiar routines, the sense of doing something well and being recognized for it, and more. They also face tough choices about what to do with the rest of their lives and concerns about how their newly liquid wealth will impact their family and other relationships.
This is a lot to deal with. One way clients cope is by trying not to think about it. Instead, they focus on the business of getting the deal done. Meanwhile, advisors often have their own reasons for focusing on getting the deal to close.
The unfortunate outcome can be that business owners’ unaddressed mixed feelings get acted out in the form of inexplicable and counter-productive behavior as closing approaches. Advisors who have not had psychological training often try to address last-minute objections with rational counter arguments. This can make things worse, especially if the client begins to feel pressured.
Most experienced advisors have observed this pattern. The question is what to do about it. My suggestion is to encourage your clients to use a professional coach to help them anticipate the feelings, concerns, and choices they will face during the exit process and to begin addressing them even as they proceed with the other steps needed to produce a successful exit.
Eventually, providing clients with this type of support may come to be seen as a “best practice.” Meanwhile, advisors who adopt the practice will likely gain a competitive advantage, see deals close more smoothly, have happier clients, and receive more referrals.