Frodo never would have been able to destroy the ring and save the Shire without Gandalf. Luke Skywalker would have never defeated Darth Vader without training from Yoda. In every great movie, there is a main character who finds themselves faced with a dilemma. It is often clear, or they learn through failure, that they need assistance to overcome this challenge and achieve their goals. Somewhere along the way, they meet a guide, their “Yoda”, to help them overcome their problem. This guide sets them on the right path and gives them a clear call to action to achieve their goals. It is only then that the main character can be their own hero by deciding to take the guide’s advice and discover success.
Exit Planning often follows the same series of events. A business owner realizes they have some area of the business they find challenging. They then call in an advisor to help them solve their problems. The best way that advisors can approach the planning work and engage them in additional areas of planning long term is to give the owner a path that empowers them to be the hero in their own exit story.
Often advisors think the best approach to marketing their practice is by sharing all the wonderful skills they have. The reality is the best way to have the greatest impact on the owner is understanding what they want and what their challenges are. Then you can implement a repeatable process that guides them to achieve their goals.
Understand Your Main Character
Every owner wants to exit their business one day and get what they think they deserve for the blood, sweat, and tears they put into their business. Most owners have worked many years, sometimes their entire lives, to build those businesses. They want to get what the company is worth and sell the business on their terms. On the surface that may seem simple. However, “on your terms” can have a wide range of definitions and require different planning scenarios. To really be a guide for these owners, you must ask questions to understand the other goals they have and the problems standing in their way, and then relate that back to the process you can provide them.
Asking the right questions is critical to uncovering their internal and external problems and the burdens keeping them up at night. Some examples to get the conversation started are:
- What are your expectations of us working together? What would you like to see get accomplished?
- What are your concerns in the business right now?
- Tell me why solving this problem is important to you.
- How would it feel if you didn’t solve this problem?
- If you could change anything in your business today, what would it be?
Format your questions to get meaningful responses from the owner about their biggest struggles and their feelings on how overcoming these challenges will impact the business and their lives. With this knowledge, you can show them a plan and how you can be their guide to success.
Who is the Villain?
Every great story has a villain. There comes a time in every story where the characters need to come together to fight a common enemy. The “villain” in your client’s journey is often their own misconceptions of the planning process. With Exit Planning specifically, many owners don’t understand the process or think they can sell their business tomorrow for as much as they believe it is worth. This is simply not the case. Exiting a business takes time, a healthy understanding of the process, and experts on your advisor team to help along the way. As the guide in this journey, your primary role is to help fight this villain by educating owners on the process, highlight their desired timeline, and introduce them to the right resources.
Even Yoda Wasn’t a Lone Guide
Becoming a helpful guide in this story starts with understanding your client’s exact needs. By understanding their goals, expectations, and timeline, you can establish the right path to guide them down. But remember that even the greatest guides with the clearest paths need assistance. You don’t have to be an expert in every aspect of the business or the recommendations for that business. Bring in experts to your Advisor Team when the situation warrants it. Having a stronger, more robust team will only make the journey that much more seamless.
How do you bring this all together to show the business owner you are the guide for them? Start with empathy. Show that you understand what they are feeling and that they don’t have to do it on their own. Remind your prospects and clients of the many years of experience you have and give them examples of the many owners you have assisted in the past. Tell them how previous clients have been able to go to their employees, families, and communities and be the hero that solved all the problems – but only with you as their guide.
- You will have a stronger marketing message for your practice by first truly understanding your clients and their needs.
- Ask many open-ended questions to thoroughly understand their problems and who their villain might be.
- By showing empathy for your client’s problem and emphasizing the authority you have to be able to solve these problems, you will have credibility as the guide on their journey.