Can I Sell My Business Online?

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Selling a business online by means of  a ‘FSBO’ (or For Sale By Owner) is explored by many sellers of businesses in South Florida.  Understanding how the FSBO ultimately works in reality is critical before one ventures down this path. Ultimately, such FSBO sellers usually find themselves seeking representation by a business broker if they want their business sold for the best possible price and in a confidential manner.

Selling Your Business Online

Without the benefits of having representation by a professional business broker, the FSBO business seller faces a daunting task. If the seller wishes to pay the costs and bear the burden of dealing with every possible prospect, the following are the bare minimum of steps that must take place.

Determine the Asking Price Prior to Advertising Business Online

  • The first step in the sales process is to determine the asking price.
  • Frequently, FSBO sellers of businesses do not have an appropriate asking price.
  • Either wildly overvalued or seriously undervalued, the FSBO seller does not usually have the experience or knowledge to appropriately price a business.
  • Unlike in real estate, there often are no ‘comparable sales’ to use when determining the asking price.
  • Additionally, most buyers will want a clear description of the true owner benefit and how it was derived.
  • Without showing the true owner benefit, the proper asking price can not be determined.
  • The FSBO seller must be able to price the business properly before placing the business for sale.

Put Business for Sale Online

Several websites accept paid ‘business for sale’ advertisements including bizbuysell.com, bizquest.com, businessbroker.net, businessmart.com, and businessesforsale.com. In order to advertise on an assortment of such websites, the FSBO business seller will need to pay about $300-500/month (depending on the quality of advertisements). Typically, it takes about 6-10 months to sell a business online.  Thus, the FSBO seller could face substantial costs of several thousand dollars in advertising expenditures. Moreover, the FSBO business seller will need to place the correct verbiage and information in the online ads in order to comply with the requirements of the ‘business for sale’ websites.  The advertisements themselves should be ‘blind ads’ in the sense that they do not disclose the identity of the business being sold.

Ensure Buyers Sign Non-Disclosure Agreement

After a prospect inquires about the online advertisement, it is essential that the buyer signs a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) prior to receiving the confidential information about the business. Even if the FSBO business seller does not care about the confidentiality of the sale, the NDA will still protect the seller in a number of ways. For example, the NDA protects a seller from an unscrupulous buyer/competitor who tries to steal the seller’s employees, convinces customers not to patronize the business since it is for sale, or uses the company’s privileged information for nefarious purposes.

Qualify Buyers

Along with having the buyer sign an NDA, the FSBO seller must also qualify the buyer. This simply means ensuring that the buyer has the financial means necessary to purchase the business. In some cases, requiring external proof of funds is the only way to ensure that the buyer is financially qualified. If the sale can be funded by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the buyer is seeking SBA financing, then it is even more critical to seek a prequalification letter and evidence that the buyer is able to receive such external funding.

Prepare Listing Package for Buyers When Selling Business Online

After a buyer signs an NDA and demonstrates that they are financially qualified to purchase the business, they expect to receive a listing package. The listing package should properly identify the business, describe the business in the most comprehensive detail possible, contain suitable financials (such as tax returns or profit and loss statements) that are reconciled to reveal the true owner benefit, and justify the asking price. If the listing package is not professionally prepared or does not give the buyer sufficient information to move forward, then the vast majority of buyers will simply walk away.

Putting the Deal Together

  • Once a qualified buyer is identified and wants to move forward, the real work begins!
  • Without having a professional business broker to hold the deal together, the seller must rely on themselves to communicate with the buyer and to push the deal through to closing.
  • Negotiating the terms of the deal, for example, often includes many other important items other than the purchase price.
  • These include the non-compete agreement, the training period, assuming the lease, and having the seller potentially finance part of the purchase price.
  • Moreover, the FSBO seller must be prepared to deal with lenders if the deal is being externally financed.
  • While using an attorney may be of assistance, such counsel is costly and attorneys do not necessarily want a deal to close (remember they get paid by the hour!).
  • Anticipating issues that can derail the deal, disclosing all relevant items ahead of time so there are no surprises, and ensuring the buyer is doing everything they can to close within the prescribed time limits as set forth in the purchase agreement all must be handled by the FSBO seller or their counsel.

Professional Business Broker Only Way to Maintain Confidentiality

As one can see, selling a business online by means of FSBO is an extremely daunting task. If the business seller desires to maintain their confidentiality or is at all sensitive to how their business may be damaged by a nefarious buyer/competitor, then they should certainly not attempt to sell their business by means of FSBO. After all, in the age of Google, how can one maintain the confidentiality of their business when the seller himself or herself is the preliminary contact person in the online ads? All one has to do is google the phone number or name of the seller and the identity of the business will invariably be revealed. If this near impossible hurdle can be overcome, then the seller must still hide their identity while qualifying the buyer and having them sign an NDA. Most buyers will not engage in such ‘cloak and dagger’ activities, and much prefer a professional business broker to handle the vetting process.

Trust the Sale of Your Business to A Professional Business Broker

The professional business broker will evaluate the business properly and hence determine the best possible asking price, confidentially advertise the business while qualifying all possible prospects, and disclose and anticipate all relevant terms and issues so there are no subsequent surprises.  The wise business seller will focus on running their business and leave the sale to a trained professional.

Give Martin at Five Star Business Brokers of Palm Beach County a call today for a FREE evaluation of your business.

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