The Human Side of Selling a Business

Business Insights

Amanda is a key part of the Senior Management Team at EvolutionCBS. She deals with multiple roles including Client Liaison, Credit Control, Supplier & Office Management, as well as managing diaries of the Directors and Chairman. She’s worked in customer service environments for over twenty years and brings her experience in building rapport and long-term relationships with clients from a variety of industries and sectors to the team.

Selling a business is never just about the bottom line. It can be an emotional process and I’ve seen some of the toughest business people struggle with stress and indecision over it all.

“We had several meetings which started off well enough,”

reflects Peter, the owner and CEO of a construction company in Birmingham.

“A few weeks in, though, I realised that I still hadn’t really had a chance to tell them exactly about the team and our vision. That’s really important to me – not just how much we can get from the highest bid. I had the distinct impression that they didn’t understand that I don’t want to sell to just anybody.”

Sometimes, we take on clients who have left M&A agencies because they didn’t feel ‘heard’. Of course, it’s vital that a sales team has a polished skillset and lots of experience, but a high EQ is really important, too, as Peter discovered. 

That’s because the success of the sales process is dependent on trust. Over a year, you should expect a genuine closeness to develop between you and your team. During that time, your feelings might catch you by surprise.


If you’re thinking of selling your business, it’s vital that you strike up a fluid, transparent relationship with your sales team early on. The whole process will require significant investment of your time and money to give you the best possible likelihood of a successful outcome, you don’t want to waste time and money recapping things later. 

I’m one of the first members of the team to meet our business sellers. We go through a detailed questionnaire with our clients initially and spend a lot of time doing investigative legwork on the business. 

It’s a good way to encourage early checks on “Due Diligence”. This is one of the more uncomfortable tasks that is finalised towards the end of the process. In fact, some agencies dislike it so much that they leave it to you, the seller, to sort out yourself. It’s the part that involves the most legalese and potential potholes, though, so that’s where you need your experts the most.

Part of it happens in our first proper team meeting with the seller. It’s important for a seller to meet everybody involved. Ideally, you should have a team comprising:

  • an Operations Director
  • a Client Director (the person responsible for running the project)
  • a Research Director
  • a Project Manager
  • a Business Development Manager (who follows up from the research)
  • when needed, a Financial Analyst

With the right KPIs in place, you and the whole team will be able to track your progress with weekly reports. We use a ‘traffic light’ system which allows us to feedback to a seller which things need more attention and by when. 

You should be able to feedback to your team how you feel things are progressing, too. Without that, the all-important trust factor will be vulnerable. We have a ‘project ratings’ feedback tool that helps us to know how our relationship is faring and what we can do to nurture it from our side. 


If all of this makes the sales process sound a bit ‘touchy feely’ to you, it’s because it very often is. There’s always a very human, personal reason for the sale of a business. After all, the years, tears and cheers you’ve invested in yours are about to be handed over to someone else. Your ‘everyday’ is going to look very different soon. 

There will be personality clashes en route, wins and losses, family squabbles and sudden second thoughts … all of which are perfectly natural. I’ve seen many people reach the final ‘letting go’ moment and be overwhelmed by the mix of emotions it brings. 

That’s why your sales team needs to understand you and be able to empathise as well as motivate. Make sure you look for one that will be there for you till you’re over the finish line and on to the start of your next chapter.