It’s normal for a buyer to experience concern and apprehension as they close in on a deal to buy a business.
What buyers often don’t anticipate however is being hit with remorse from the seller.
Except in cases where the seller is highly motivated and is forced to sell, it’s almost guaranteed they will experience remorse about selling.
You can generally sense something is wrong by a change in their behavior. If they have been timely with all of their responses or in providing documentation and they suddenly slow down, it’s a telltale sign. In fact, the most common indication is a seller slowing things down overall or delaying timelines. Get ready, not only is seller’s remorse possible, it’s likely to happen.
Buyers usually make a terrible mistake in how they deal with this sudden roadblock, and how you deal with it can make the difference between losing a deal or keeping it on track.
So what should a buyer do when all of a sudden, from nowhere, the seller is having second thoughts about parting with their business? It’s typical for a buyer to push back, usually with a response similar to them having invested so much time in this deal, so how dare the seller be reconsidering. That’s the wrong approach.
Remember, sellers will almost always go through it and it’s a very normal reaction by them. They have usually invested a ton of time and sweat into running their business. They have an emotional attachment to it. Selling the company means the end of a chapter in their life; it’s a new routine for them. They have built friendships along the way. They have relationships with customers, suppliers, landlords and other local businesses. Then, after the sale, it will all be gone.
It’s certainly understandable that they can go through some mixed emotions. It’s highly unlikely that they will back out of any deal because of it, but they need their time to process and digest what’s happening. And so, if you find yourself in a similar situation, the response isn’t to push back with any abrupt positioning.
Instead, it’s the time for you to hold back any commentary. It’s best to simply tell the seller, “I appreciate what you are going through. This is a big change for you. I also know you want to exit the business, so if you want to take a step back for a few days from the process then no problem. All I ask is that if you decide not to go through with our deal, please let me know immediately so I can move on to something else.”
By taking this approach you’re allowing them to take a breather while at the same time letting them know that the deal does hang in the balance. Ultimately, they will almost always compose themselves and get back on track quickly. After all, if they truly want to sell, they don’t want to lose a qualified buyer.
If you take a logical and empathetic approach to this situation, it will in fact augment the credibility you have built up with them and they will likely appreciate it. Give them a bit of time and space and let them come to grips with the deal, so both sides can move on with getting it closed.