Potential Buyers: How to Attract the Right Business Buyer
Aug 26, 2021
Selling your business can be a difficult decision, especially for small enterprises that may have served the community or been in the family for generations. You might be unsure of how to value your business and how to get buyers who are interested in purchasing your company. You may also wonder whether the future owner will honor your life’s work appropriately.
If you decide it’s time to step back from your role as a small business owner, finding the right business buyer can protect your legacy and prepare you for the next adventure ahead. If you’ve been searching the internet to learn “how to find a buyer for my business,” these steps can help you identify and attract prospects who may have an interest in buying your company.
How do you find buyers for your small business? Identifying the right prospect pool will depend on your industry. Focusing on one or more of these common markets often yields at least one appropriate business buyer:
- Industry contacts, including competitors at the local, regional, and national levels, vendors, suppliers, and clients
- Personal contacts, such as existing employees of the business, acquaintances, or family members
- Financial buyers who invest in small businesses to help them grow
- Strategic buyers who think your company can help them meet short-term or long-term business objectives
Consider potential purchasers for your business in each of these categories and eliminate those you don’t see as prospective buyers for a company like yours.
Now that you understand the supply of buyers for small businesses in your sector, consider their motivations. When looking at potential buyers, ask yourself, “Why do they want to invest in the industry? How does your company fit their needs?” According to Forbes, some of the most common motivations for making a small business purchase include expanding, scaling, pivoting, and growing an existing company. Buyers may also want to consolidate the market, get products into the marketplace faster, or react to industry disruption.
The National Federation of Independent Business reports that setting the right asking price for your business can facilitate finding buyers. If you haven’t had a valuation of the company in the past, consulting a qualified firm can inform a successful pitch. With this process, a professional will evaluate your company’s market demand, geographic location, industry trends, financial health, inventory, receivables, sales, debts, and liens to determine market position, opportunities, and threats.
Of course, your asking price is just one part of an effective small business sales pitch. You’ll need to create a comprehensive information packet that answers all your buyers’ questions. It should include:
- At least 3-4 years of tax returns and financial statements
- A complete accounting of inventory, equipment, and real estate holdings included with the business sale
- A detailed contact list for suppliers, vendors, and clients
- Real estate leases, business licenses, and other relevant legal paperwork
- Current operating procedures
- An exit strategy for the current leadership team (even if that only includes you)
Despite this long list of documents, your pitch should also include a summary that tells the story of your business. Humanize your company as you express to the buyer why the firm was started, what you do, why it matters, and what problems you solve.
Selling your small business requires a delicate balance of disclosure. You have to provide detailed financial and strategic information to entice potential buyers without risking the value of your company by exposing trade secrets. For this reason, you may choose to reach out personally to gauge the interest of your shortlist of prospects. Forbes recommends in-person networking, phone calls, email, or direct messaging through social sites as a place to begin.
If you plan to partner with a broker or investment firm, they can approach potential buyers on your behalf to maintain confidentiality. They can also cast a wider net by advertising the business for sale anonymously on public sources and among their own contacts. This process saves time by screening potential buyers for true interest before beginning negotiations.
When you connect with an interested buyer, the process must involve due diligence on both sides. Meet with serious prospects regularly to develop a trust-based relationship. Take this time to evaluate how well each prospect will uphold the mission and vision of your company. For example, you may prioritize a buyer who plans to emphasize growth, keep your employees, or maintain an original location.
At the same time, prepare to provide transparent answers to all the potential buyer’s questions. As you look for buyers, you may want to have prospects sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). These legal documents are especially important to protect sensitive information in negotiations involving competitors.
According to SCORE, the nonprofit arm of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the decision and process of purchasing a small business can take up to two years. Stick with two to three potential buyers and reach out frequently to provide information and ask for status updates.
Many small business owners take up to a year to prepare for a successful sale of the company before they even begin the process of looking for buyers. With these strategies, you can use that time wisely and build a base of potential buyers to achieve the best possible outcome. Engaging in professional partnerships with seasoned business investors can also help you find buyers for your business.