TRM18: How to Effectively Market a Business For Sale?

By: Nunzio Presta, Founder & CEO of BuyAndSellABusiness.com

Over the years, many have asked me how to effectively market a business for sale? Here are my thoughts.

Out the gate, the business needs to be sellable in order for it to be marketable. Like Gary Vaynerchuk says: ‘No Amount of Marketing Solves a Bad Product’, and in this case, no amount of marketing will sell a bad business.

So, to effectively market a business for sale, not only does it have to be valuable, it needs to be sellable, especially in the micro market. In larger markets, acquisitions can happen for strategic reasons, even if the business isn’t profitable; however, in the micro market, some buyers have the strategy/patience/resources to pull a business out of the gutter, but a majority of buyers are looking for an immediate return, or looking for passive income or looking to replace their job. Therefore, the marketability depends on how sellable the business is.

I’ve seen thousands of acquisitions in the micro market over the past 10 years, and in general, there has been a consistent pattern with sellable businesses. First, they have great timing and align with social/economic/tech trends. We urge our buyers to buy the business for future opportunities, not for what the business is today per se. Next, sellable businesses are self-sufficient – meaning they aren’t dependent on a particular stakeholder, and last, sellable businesses have strong and healthy financials (bonus points go to businesses with recurring models).

Now, if your business meets the above criteria, in order to effectively market the sale of your business, you’ll need to be organized and prepared. At BuyAndSellABusiness.com, our Full Serve Solution has digitized and automated the purchase and sale experience by helping buyers and sellers navigate through the offer, due diligence and closing phase, helping users stay organized, and creating a seamless and transparent deal room. Within the deal room, buyers and sellers have the ability to chat, exchange documents, and request and accept all necessary funds to get the deal done. They also have access to deal support throughout the experience, giving both parties full control from start to finish. In a nutshell, the most important documents and information (aka marketing material) that should be available in a deal room for a buyer to make an informed decision would be:

  • Ownership information
  • Organization Chart (including information about the most important stakeholders – and how dependent the business is on those stakeholders)
  • Articles of incorporation
  • The company’s strategic plan
  • Marketing & sales plan
  • Financial statements & tax returns for the past three years
  • Budgets and financial projections (as mentioned before, one thing sellers need to appreciate is that the buyer isn’t buying the business for today, they’re buying it for future opportunities – so it’s super important that sellers are crystal clear on those projections and other opportunities within their market)
  • Legal environment: are there any pressing regulations, taxes, or customer issues affecting the company?
  • If your company is dependent on third-party vendors – you should have details on who those vendors are and what kind of work they do for the company

And other detailed breakdowns such as:

  • Sales (are they diversified)
  • Expenses
  • Gross Margins
  • Accounts Receivable and Payable
  • Product Lines
  • Inventory
  • Liabilities
  • Customers
  • Markets
  • Competitors
  • Assets
  • Intellectual Property
  • Equipment Leases and Insurance Coverage

Downside:

You want to study the downside scenarios – what will happen to the business if workers and competitors find out? In most cases, it’s not as bad as people think.

Communication:

You want to overcommunicate – humans fear the unknown, so timely, transparent communication around succession plans or an exit is super important to build trust and confidence among your team.

Collaboration:

You want to collaborate with all stakeholders – if you make all your stakeholders part of the conversation sooner than later, it will reduce the amount of disruption. Sure, some employees may leave; however, more will end up staying because they’ll see themselves as a “collaborator,” having a part in the bigger picture of the business. We’ve seen it, especially during the pandemic. The business leaders who collaborated and asked for advice from all stakeholders ended up with better, more creative feedback and ideas to tackle any headwind, leading them to a better place than those leaders that were closed off and secretive.

In the end, every business is different – so it’s a sensitive conversation about how, when and where to market the sale of a business. Our goal at BuyAndSellABusiness.com is to balance confidentiality with exposure – by filtering buyers, empowering our sellers to use alias names, and by working on features and mechanisms that force serious buyers to send non-binding offers or connections before opening the communication channels. In the end, no one appreciates tire kickers or users looking to exploit confidential information, so we are driven to tackle this day in and day out in order to make Business Ownership Real and Business Exits Easy for people around the world.

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