Business sale stalling? Four tips to get things moving again

If a business sale begins to stall, it can start to feel like the process will drag on forever and that your hopes of a successful exit are diminishing by the day. You can get in a vicious circle and become disillusioned with the sale, potentially leading you to make decisions that cause it to drag on even longer.

It’s important not to become too downhearted though, instead, you should think methodically and logically about what steps you can take to revive your exit plans, as fresh ideas could ultimately pave the way for a successful sale.

Here are some tips to consider that might help to refresh your sale plans and help you make a successful exit.

Speak to an advisor
One of the main reasons a business sale can get bogged down is because the people involved in it get caught in an echo chamber, run out of ideas and become disheartened and unmotivated. Getting an independent, third-party perspective, therefore, can be vital.

Speaking to an advisor with experience helping to sell businesses in your industry will provide invaluable guidance on successfully marketing your business for sale. While expert insight of course comes at a price, a successful sale at a good valuation will mean that such an investment has been more than worth it.

Reconsider your valuation
You are of course likely to value your business highly, particularly if you’ve built it from the ground up over many years, and you’ll understandably want to reflect this in your asking price. However, if you find that your sale isn’t progressing, it’s worth considering whether your valuation is putting potential buyers off.

If an asking price doesn’t reflect the actual value of the business and doesn’t take into account external economic factors and the typical multiples generated by similar businesses in similar sectors, then this can be highly damaging to your sale prospects.

A drawn-out sale process, even if it does ultimately result in you achieving your valuation, can be extremely stressful and have an impact on the business itself, potentially meaning that it ends up costing you money.

Speak to an advisor about your sale price and the best way to set a valuation that is truly indicative of what the business is worth in the current climate. You might find that competing offers start to come in, potentially putting you in a position to incrementally increase the asking price as parties look to outbid each other.

Alternative sale options
When you began your sale process you perhaps had an ideal scenario in mind in which a buyer would come in and buy the business outright, paying upfront and taking over the business in a smooth and efficient transfer of power.

Unfortunately, sales don’t often occur as serenely as this and getting too caught up in holding out for the perfect buyer can mean you miss other sale opportunities and cause your sale process to drag on far too long.

Have a think about whether you’ve been too narrow in the profile of buyer you’re looking for and whether there are other options that you might not have considered. Sale options such as an employee ownership trust (EOT) or a disposal involving seller financing may not net you a huge fee upfront, but they can help to speed up your sale and, if you find the right buyer, ultimately lead to as good a pay day as selling to a buyer who can immediately pay in full.

Is this the right time?
It might be a hard thing to consider, but it could simply be the case that now isn’t the best time to sell your business. After all, there are a lot of things that need to align in order to achieve the best sale for you and it may be that this is something you need to aim for at a later date.

It could be that the economic conditions are not right for you to achieve the valuation you feel that your company deserves, or maybe the business itself is not fully prepared for a sale and you need to take more time to ensure that it reflects your valuation in the eyes of potential buyers.

Ultimately, if the conditions aren’t right for you to achieve a sale that works for you, then it might be that holding off is the best thing to do. This doesn’t mean that your sale process has failed, but that you are giving it the time it needs to ensure you achieve the best possible sale at the right time.