Ask any advisor or business owner what makes an Exit Planning Advisor successful, and you’ll find many different answers. For advisors who aren’t yet Exit Planning Advisors, a successful Exit Planning Advisor probably has a firm that makes a lot of money from Exit Planning alone. Exceptionally successful Exit Planning Advisors likely bring clients to their core practices through Exit Planning, compounding the amount of money they make. To them, success is a function of how lucrative Exit Planning can be.
For business owners, a successful Exit Planning Advisor is someone who can help them tee up a business exit that maximizes the things they want while minimizing the cost. An exceptional Exit Planning Advisor bears the brunt of the Exit Planning process, giving owners the freedom to build business value and improve the business however they see fit. To them, success is a function of minimizing costs and maximizing value.
Given these seemingly opposed yet mostly accurate definitions of success, what does true success look like for Exit Planning Advisors? To get a better idea, I asked an Exit Planning Advisor who had managed to tap into the lucrative side of Exit Planning while minimizing costs and maximizing value for his clients.
When I spoke to this advisor, he had just finished locking down a new opportunity to complete a comprehensive Exit Plan for a new business-owning client. He was more than happy to explain to me how he had managed to do that in his first meeting with this client. There were four things that this advisor said helped him earn this business owner’s Exit Planning business.
Successful Exit Planning Advisors Ask Questions
The most important thing this advisor told me was that the entire premise of his meeting with the business owner was to ask questions. He refused to walk into the meeting with any preconceived notions of what to expect or say. His goal for the meeting—no matter what the outcome would be in terms of earning the client’s business—was to find out as much as possible about the business owner, the business owner’s goals, and the current state of the business owner’s business. With those pieces of information, he said that he could be more confident about whether he could help this business owner at all.
Successful Exit Planning Advisors Listen
A common mistake that advisors of all stripes make is putting too much stock in their own expertise. Too often, advisors will ask questions in order to push a conversation in the direction that they want, which tends to be toward ways to justify the services they provide. Successful Exit Planning Advisors resist the temptation to guide the conversation. Instead, after asking questions of the business owner, they stop to genuinely listen to the owner’s want, needs, and concerns. The advisor I spoke to put it succinctly: The business owner knew that he was an Exit Planning Advisor, so he felt no need to further sell his expertise at that time.
Listening to business owners about their business-exit wants and needs is crucial to earning their business. While Exit Planning Advisors are experts at business exits, business owners are still the experts of their own businesses. To unlock the potential that defines their expertise, Exit Planning Advisors must listen to and learn from their business-owning clients if they want to accurately determine whether they can help.
Successful Exit Planning Advisors Ask Follow-Up Questions
Asking follow-up questions does two things for both Exit Planning Advisors and owners. First, it helps owners and advisors clarify the owner’s wants and needs, which makes planning much easier. Second, it shows business owners that their advisors are both listening to them, and interested and willing to drill down into what’s important to them. Follow-up questions reinforce what should be abundantly clear: The best Exit Planning Advisors make the Exit Planning process owner-centric.
Successful Exit Planning Advisors Ask to Help
After asking, listening, and asking some more, many advisors jump into the gritty details of how they can help. This presumptive strategy can backfire if business owners aren’t ready to act. The advisor I spoke to explained his strategy in no uncertain terms. “The most an advisor should have to say at the end of a meeting is, ‘I think I can help you with that. Should we talk about what that help might look like?’” This keeps the focus on the owner’s wants and needs without pushing a hard sell. And if, at the end of the meeting, the Exit Planning Advisor realizes that he or she cannot help the business owner, he or she should help redirect the owner to an advisor who can.
Exit Planning Advisors create success by refusing to submit to assumptions and by keeping the owner at the center of focus. Asking questions of business owners, listening, asking more questions, and then asking to help are four elements that let Exit Planning Advisors create success that fulfills the requirements that both non-Exit Planning Advisors and business owners expect.