Putting a business up for sale requires you to maintain some level of secrecy. As the business owner, you don’t want your employees to pick up and leave nor do you want the competition gobbling up your customers who may look for a new place to shop.
But there are ways to get the word out without tipping your hand. You can generate interest from prospective buyers with nonidentifying classified ads in newspapers or online, or through a business broker. If you belong to a business or trade association, you can place an ad in their newsletter. Rather than using your business phone number, use a cell phone number or create a blind email address.
Naturally, the wider your scope of advertising, the more response your ad will generate. With that in mind, you’ll need to set up screening measures to ensure that you’re dealing with legitimate potential buyers. This could include having prospective buyers provide certain information.
When writing your ad, highlight the strengths of the business and include the previous year’s gross sales figure. You’ll also want to indicate where the business is located (without being too specific), when the business started, and how many employees there are.
As is always the case when advertising, double-check that the ad ran properly. Ask for a tear sheet from a newspaper to check that the ad is correct, or look online to make sure your ad is properly posted. If you do post your business online, make sure your anonymity is maintained.
If the business is being sold along with the property, include the square footage or acreage and the value of the property. The asking price is listed by a range of numbers, such as $400,000 to $600,000. If you’re so inclined, you can also indicate that you’ll stay on to assist with this transition. This is usually attractive to buyers.
The basic idea of most classified ads is to whet a potential buyer’s appetite. Provide enough information to generate legitimate offers, but don’t back yourself into a corner by making promises or luring prospective buyers with overstated claims. Also, write your ad in layperson’s terms. Sprinkling your ad with technical terms or industry jargon may alienate some potential buyers.
Fielding responses to your ads is one reason that many buyers elect to work with business brokers, or at least a consultant. Knowing how to respond to inquiries and steadily moving a deal forward (or opting to decline) takes skill and expertise. Since most sellers have little experience in this area and want to get the best deal possible, they’ll retain the services of a business broker.
A broker can place your ads for you and provide advice on how to word the ads. He or she can field inquiries, so you can take care of day-to-day business operations. In addition, business brokers generally have access to a network of other brokers throughout the country. Remember to carefully screen a business broker before hiring one.