Questions Sellers Should Ask Buyers

By Generational Equity


Previously we looked at some common questions that buyers typically ask business owners in their initial “meet and greet” sessions. As you may recall, we focused on two key areas: questions pertaining to business risk and also those covering your personal motivations as a seller.

As with any budding relationship, the questions you need to ask are equally important to developing a solid partnership, so that a few months down the road, you can consummate a relationship that is win-win for both you and the buyer. Because, as our clients often tell me, at the end of the day, the offer that is accepted is sometimes NOT the largest or most financially lucrative to the seller; frequently other factors come into play that become even more important to the seller than simply how much they walk away with from the transaction.

This is why it is really important for you to spend time with the buyer and his/her team, delving into their background(s) and motivations. Here are a few of our clients that have talked to us about how other issues became paramount in the end of the deal:

One of the common themes I hear from nearly every client that I meet with over the years post close is this: it was important that I could work with the buyer and it was vital that their plans for the future maintained my company’s legacy.

In order to reach that level of trust, you have to ask the right questions even in your first meetings with any buyer(s). So, here are some queries you can use to get to know your potential buyers:

  • How did you get started in your current business?
  • What do you find rewarding in your role?
  • What is the biggest challenge your company faces?
  • Why do you want to make an acquisition?
  • Have you made any acquisitions in the past? If so, can I speak with the previous owners?
  • What are your long-term goals for your business?
  • Do you have ideas for a successful integration with my company?
  • Please describe your leadership style and philosophy to me.
  • Who are the key players on your team and what are their strengths?
  • Why are you interested in my company?
  • What is your background in my industry?
  • How does this company fit with your other holdings?
  • What does your team bring in terms of skills that will be beneficial to the company?
  • Where is your investment capital coming from?
  • What would be your strategy to grow my company post-acquisition?
  • Will you be keeping my employees on board after the sale?
  • Are you planning on keeping our company name?
  • What do you see as my role and level of involvement in the business going forward?
  • Are you interested in buying my real estate or leasing the property?
  • How do you plan on structuring a deal?
  • Would there be an opportunity to keep equity in the future business?
  • The ongoing legacy of my family business is important to me. How will you ensure that it continues post acquisition?

This is just a small sample and as you can see, many of these questions overlap and that is OK, because in reality as you start to ask questions, if you listen well, you will even have more questions develop as the meeting continues. And as you go through your queries, realize that what you are really doing is having a conversation with a person and/or a team that you will potentially be working very, very closely with for several months. Ultimately, you have to be sure that your personality and the buyer’s are a good fit.

As Brad Hennrich said in the video above, it is vital that you can see yourself developing a good working relationship with your buyer, even if you are not going to be retained post sale. The amount of time you will be spending with him or her over the months before closing will be incredible. Nothing can be worse than beginning to determine that you simply cannot get along with your potential buyer a few months before close.

Spend time asking good questions and most importantly, as we mentioned a few weeks ago, determine your personal motivations as well. Be sure you are truly a committed seller even before your first meeting(s). This will go a long way towards creating a long-term, trusting relationship.

If you are interested in learning more about the work Generational Group does in helping our clients find and develop the optimal relationship with a buyer, give us a call at 972-232-1121 or visit our website, provide us with your contact information and we will be in touch.

By Carl Doerksen, Director of Corporate Development at Generational Equity.

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