Overcoming Owner Objections to Exit Planning Conversations

Submitted by Elizabeth J Mower on Fri, 07/13/2018 - 6:00am
Two businesswomen talking to each other at a table.

When BEI talks to new and prospective Exit Planning Advisors, some tell us about a common hurdle that prevents them from having the success they want: “Owners don’t want to talk about Exit Planning with me.” Even though Exit Planning Advisors want to provide their important services and business owners know they should have a plan for their business exits, there’s still resistance to the Exit Planning conversation.

The reasons why business owners feel this way can be numerous. They may misinterpret Exit Planning as someone ripping them away from their businesses against their will. They may think that Exit Planning will take up too much of their time. While these reasons are the result of misunderstanding the point and process of Exit Planning, it doesn’t mean that advisors should disregard them out of hand. Typically, Exit Planning Advisors just need to frame the offer of talking about Exit Planning differently. One of the most effective ways to do this is for advisors to rely on their core expertise.

Keep Exit Planning Conversations in Your Wheelhouse

All successful advisors have exceptional credentials in their respective professional fields. The obstacle that falls in their way is often related to balancing their technical expertise with the relationship-building skills necessary to become a successful Exit Planning Advisor. For many business owners, the idea of an advisor coming to them to talk about leaving their businesses can be jarring. After all, it’s likely that they see their businesses as an extension of themselves. So, having someone suggest that they should plan for when it’s time for that extension to go away can be confusing and even threatening.

The way to overcome objections about Exit Planning is for advisors to talk to owners in the owners’ language using their core advisory expertise.

For example, we recently spoke with a CPA who uses both the BEI Marketing tools and the BEI Planning platform. When this advisor first started out, he would open his Exit Planning discussions, with both his current clients and his prospects, by flat-out asking, “Would you like to talk about exiting your business?” Usually, business owners would decline. He started to get frustrated, so he reached out to us to ask what he was doing wrong. We suggested that, at least initially, he focus on how his core expertise fits into Exit Planning rather than focusing on outright Exit Planning.

This meant that rather than asking his clients if they’d like to talk about Exit Planning, he would ask them questions like, “What kinds of tax-minimizing retirement planning have you done?” or “How do you think taxes might affect you and your business when you eventually sell and retire?” These kinds of questions do two things.

  1. They probe at business owners’ pain points without directly talking about their business exits. By asking questions about their futures without implying there is a problem, advisors can let business owners identify things that they consider problems. When business owners identify a problem with how they see their business exits going themselves, they’re more likely to commit to Exit Planning.
  2. They let advisors guide the conversation toward Exit Planning using their core expertise. By leading with what they know, advisors can talk about aspects of Exit Planning with full confidence and help business owners identify what might be bothering them about their business exits.

How BEI Helps Facilitate Exit Planning Conversations

One of the major benefits of BEI’s tools, strategies, and content licensing is that these aspects help advisors use their technical skills on a larger playing field. Exit Planning Advisors use their core expertise to open the conversation about Exit Planning on terms that both they and their business-owning clients understand and are comfortable with. It’s easy for advisors to overleverage their expertise without asking themselves why owners would care about what they’re telling them. BEI helps advisors balance their technical expertise with the relationship-building skills they need to establish the Exit Planning conversation properly.

From assessment tools and documented methods to show their expertise, to lists of questions to ask and access to advisors who have had proven success in breaking through resistance to Exit Planning, BEI knows how help advisors start the Exit Planning conversation successfully.


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