Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship. Whether it's a marriage or a business partnership, trust is the glue that holds the relationship together and protects both parties' interests.
As a business seller, you may feel wary or vulnerable at various stages of the selling process, and that would be completely normal. Building trust doesn't require you to roll over and give prospective buyers everything they want. Instead, it requires you to be more intentional and strategic about the way you relate to buyers. Here are five ways to make business relationships easier.
1. Be organized.
Organization goes a long way toward establishing trust with buyers. Organizing your financials and sale materials before you list your company helps the buyer assess and understand your business. This shows that you are being transparent and builds trust that the information you are providing them is accurate. Well-organized financial information will also make it easier for buyers to obtain financing from banks and lenders, which buyers will certainly appreciate.
2. Properly time the release of information.
It's unrealistic for buyers to assume that you will release protected financial information (e.g., tax returns) at the opening stages of the process. The release of sensitive information should be timed appropriately, as your relationship with the buyer deepens. Business brokers can help you time the release of information in a way that separates the tire kickers from serious, qualified buyers.
3. Be honest.
It's impossible to trust someone who deceives you. Blatantly lying about the state of your business is an obvious red flag. But it can be equally damaging to exaggerate your company's strengths or to gloss over its weaknesses. Be as open and honest as you possibly can about past performance and your future outlook. Being honest about shortcomings will help the buyer trust your description of your business's strengths.
4. Follow through on your promises.
Timely follow-through is a prerequisite for building trust. Whether returning phone calls or delivering on a promise to provide a requested document, your ability to follow through on the little things will gradually enable buyers to trust you on larger, more important dimensions of the sale.
5. Provide a personal tour.
For buyers, seeing really is believing. A personal tour of the business can be a great way to reinforce the messages the buyer has received through personal interactions and sales materials. At the same time, you can use the tour as an opportunity to build rapport with the buyer. Of course, this step should come later in the sales process, once confidentiality sensitivities no longer apply. A qualified business broker can help make this timing decision.
Ultimately, it's most important to make an effort to respond to all the buyer's questions and requests. No one expects you to become best friends. But your willingness to engage with the buyer communicates respect and develops the trust you will eventually need to close the deal.