Keep Your Sales in Focus

Steps to Selling your Business Part 15.

When you start formally working with Stillwater to sell your company, there is something we ask you to do right away that will have significant consequences for you, particularly when you move into the Market Outreach stage.

Keep your focus on your sales.

We’re talking about making strong sales a priority while your company actively works through a divestiture process. 

Last week, we mentioned how the demands of the sale process mean that your company is not going to be making any significant strategic changes or game-changing acquisitions. That’s normal and good. You want your energy invested in a great sale. However, it is imperative that you don’t neglect your company’s sales when you’re actively engaged in the divestiture process. You should spend your mental calories on sales while, at the same time, working through the rigors of prepping your company for the market. This will work in your favor.

A wonderful French proverb applies here; it’s a favorite around the Stillwater offices, and we’ve found many situations where it works. Roughly translated:

Everything that drags gets dirty.

Isn’t that good? There are two ways we think it applies to the M&A Process:

First, as discussed previously, we shouldn’t let the sale of your company take too long. Drag out the process, and you risk giving any shortcomings in your business enough time to impact your valuation.

Secondly, and most applicable to our discussion today, don’t let any part of your business drag in the dirt through inattention. You want to keep yourself looking your best while the market turns its attention to you.

Good M&A Advisors put you through rigorous, even uncomfortable, scrutiny in the preparatory stage to get you ready for the reality of what’s coming your way in the Market Outreach stage. 

Your company will come under intense scrutiny the moment potential buyers get their eyes on it. Remember, this isn’t benevolent scrutiny that’s working for your best outcome; it is designed to lower the final price tag. This scrutiny is why we urge all clients to remember to focus on their sales.

Here’s what we want to avoid: we reach out to a list of potential buyers in the marketplace, show them all of your well-crafted, diligent prep work, and they like what they see. The buyers are provided with an honest, attractive valuation with every strength and value driver on display; everything is pointing to a great final deal. 

That’s a positive market response. But remember, you’re being watched. And -here’s the part I hate—during the time spent on the sale process, if you’ve let your sales numbers slip, suddenly the buyer will be back at the table saying, “Your valuation looked good, but what about these declining sales?” 

Explaining that you’ve been busy getting ready for the sale won’t work as an excuse. 

If the buyer sees declining sales, we could face an unfavorable pivot in negotiations simply because your eyes have been elsewhere.

Avoid that, don’t let your sales drag, even for a moment. Everything that drags gets dirty.

Stillwater recently sold a business to a much larger company where this advice came directly into play. This transaction happened last year, in the Covid era; therefore, there were already many potential volatilities at play. At one point, very late in the deal, the buyer came at us with an aggressive 11th-hour attempt to reduce the company’s valuation and sale price. Fortunately, we were ready.

First, we need to give credit to our team. We had done our homework in the preparatory phase; we had answers to their questions at hand because, at that point, no one knew this company better than we did.

Second, and even more importantly, credit to the sellers. They kept their energy on their sales throughout the process. They signed a lucrative contract with a new customer while we were in the middle of negotiations. Just for the poetry of the thing, this new customer’s first order was shipping exactly the same day the new owners were set to take over the company. Even in the fluctuating mid-pandemic markets, this new contract did wonders to demonstrate our story of the business and effectively ended any question of devaluing it at the last minute. The buyers were satisfied, and the seller closed at a great price.

If that seller neglected their sales, if they had let them drag at any point, that story would have ended very differently and in the buyer’s favor.

Even if you’re only at the beginning of the process of selling your business, get this sales focus in place right now. 

If you know that you’ll be too busy to give sales the attention they need once the ball gets rolling, then put people and systems in place that will keep them a priority for you.

Let them drag, and things will get dirty. We want to optimize conditions so that you’ll be at your brightest and best when it’s time to showcase you in the market.

If you are planning to divest your business, or have questions for one of our Advisors, please contact our team today.

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Written by: Douglas Nix