Drive the Sale of Your Business by Sharing Your Compelling Story

Man wearing a white stripped black shirt drawing with white marker on a sheet of glass.

A lot of ink gets spilled talking about creating a narrative around your brand or business, and for good reason: customers are more savvy, attuned and demanding than ever when it comes to feeling a sense of connection with the brands they spend their money on. Due to many factors – among them the consumer/product separation created by online shopping and the proliferation of brands on social media – it’s more apparent than ever that narrative drives sales success.

But what if the product is your business?

Having an exit strategy, a strong business, and hiring a website broker can go a long way towards making your exit smooth and profitable, but it isn’t just a matter of saying “I’m selling the business” and then waiting for a check in the mail. Like the phrase popularized in the 1992 film Glengarry Glen Ross: “Always Be Closing”. Even though you’re at the finish line and ready to reap the rewards of your hard work, it’s still important to stay in a seller’s mindset and create a narrative that will help you realize the absolute best value for your business. Because while the numbers don’t lie, no one can speak for your business as you can.

Every Story Has A Starting Point:

Entrepreneurs are passion-driven, full stop. So when selling your business, it’s important to think about the roots of that passion that led you to create this company in the first place. While some businesses have this ‘origin story’ baked into the very DNA of their brand, for many businesses the reasons are less clear. Before talking with prospective buyers take the time to sit down and consider those foundational reasons for starting the business. While the reasons might seem mundane to you – “I needed the money”, or “I hated the job I had” – the things that drive us to tend to be more universal than you think.

Keep It Cohesive:

Not all of us are natural-born storytellers, so it’s important to consider having a structure when it comes to your narrative. The simplest of these contain only 3 parts, with a structure so fluid it would be hard to mess up.

  • The Problem: This is why you created the business in the first place, that ‘aha moment’ when you knew there was a better product, method or service. It’s what caused you to see value.
  • The Solution: This is where you explain why you created the business the way you did. Every business solves some sort of problem in some way, and this is how you took that value opportunity you saw and acted on it.
  • The Result: This is ultimately where you have a chance to brag about your business: its past sales, its customer satisfaction or its potential for growth. You saw an opportunity for value, you acted on it, and you can prove that your instincts were right.

Own Your Errors:

All businesses have ups and downs, and while some might be due to forces out of your control – like a recession or act of god – others were undoubted because you made a mistake. Here’s the thing: everybody makes mistakes. There’s no shame or harm in contextualizing difficult periods in the history of the business and being forthright about the reasons for them. The important thing here is to realize that the owner ultimately isn’t buying you and your mistakes, he’s buying into your story and your business. If you don’t contextualize any red flags in the company’s history, a prospective buyer is going to fill in the gaps themselves, and probably not in your favor.

Share What Makes Your Business Unique:

The fact of the matter is that most prospective buyers probably didn’t hone in on your exact business and decide “this is the one I have to have”. More likely they have personal or institutional money to spend and have cast a somewhat wider net-based across a larger industry, product, and/or budget. They’re probably in the process of exploring other options, and because of that it’s important that you craft a narrative that will stand out in their minds.

Own Your Exit:

Ultimately any potential buyer is going to want to know why exactly you’re selling your business, and you’re going to need to have an answer. After all, if you’ve built a compelling narrative using some of the advice above, the prospective buyer is probably going to wonder why you’re selling a business that’s so great. Again, it’s important here to contextualize your reason(s), no matter what they are. If it really is about the money, you can say that (it’s true, after all), but ultimately that’s not a very satisfying response. So, what is it that the money means to you? A new opportunity? Financial security? Like we said before: the things that motivate us to tend to be more universal than we think, no matter how personal they may feel in the moment.

Ultimately, the most important thing when considering a narrative that will sell your business is that it is your last chance to leave your stamp on the company. For many entrepreneurs, the discussions they have with prospective buyers provide a kind of closure to their business adventure. Not only that, but like with any product a well-considered narrative conveyed with intelligence and passion can have a measurable effect on the final price a buyer is willing to pay.