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Where to Sell a Business: 6 Options for the Best Price in 2024

Not sure where to sell a business? Whether you’re selling an online business, a physical business, or anything in between, you have a range of options to find qualified buyers for your business.

👉 In this article, we’re going to share six viable ways to find qualified buyers so you can sell your business.

Depending on your business, you might focus on just one or two strategies or you could even try all six options. For example, smaller businesses might rely on business marketplaces to find the right buyers, while larger businesses might be better off seeking help from investment bankers or business brokers.

By the end of this post, you should have some actionable ideas and insights for where to sell a business for the most money possible.

Where to sell a business: six top options

Below, we’ll dig into six of the top options for where to sell a business:

  1. List your business in relevant marketplaces
  2. Hire a business broker
  3. Get the word out to investment bankers
  4. Engage mergers and acquisitions advisors (M&A)
  5. Reach out to your professional networks
  6. Set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan

1. List your business in relevant marketplaces

If you happen to be selling a small business worth less than $2 million, there are several online marketplaces that are a great starting point for where to sell a business.

Make no mistake about it, though. We’re not talking about generic selling platforms like Craigslist. While they’re free and popular, you’ll struggle to separate serious business buyers from all the noise and traffic.

As such, you might want to focus exclusively on the online marketplaces that specialize in business selling and buying. Some of the most reputable ones include: 

  • Having facilitated more than 100,000 successful business sale deals so far, this is the biggest online marketplace for buying and selling small businesses. It currently boasts an inventory of over 50,000 businesses for sale, whose listings are viewed more than 3 million times each month by prospective business buyers. 
  • This is one of the most experienced veterans in the industry. As a seller, you get to list any type of business, connect with business brokers, perform a business valuation, and most importantly, target the right business buyer. It currently has about 1,000 businesses listed across different categories. 
  • This is yet another platform that features both businesses for sale, as well as business brokers. Buyers can sort through the listed business by industry, state, investment level, franchise, etc. 
BizBuySell is one of the top marketplaces for where to sell a business

All these online marketplaces provide a listing page, on which you should enter the business details, plus your asking price. In return, you’ll pay a fee or commission to get your business listed on their popular networks.  

If you’re primarily selling an online business or website, you can also consider more focused marketplaces such as Empire Flippers or FE International. Or, for smaller websites, Flippa can do the trick, though buyers aren’t as qualified.

2. Hire a business broker

Hiring a business broker is a lot like seeking the services of a real estate agent when you’re trying to sell a property. The broker will bring in the expertise you need to not only find the right buyer for your business, but also sell the business in the best possible manner. 

You’ll notice, for instance, that seasoned business brokers have connections to a vast network of prospective buyers. They can easily get the word out to a number of people who are on the market for your type of business. 

This should save you any negative speculations that would, otherwise, arise from all the publicity accorded by business listing marketplaces. You get to target the right buyers while keeping everything private and confidential. 

The business brokerage services don’t stop there. Once parties start declaring their interest in buying your business, your broker will proceed to pre-qualify them accordingly. Each prospect is pre-screened to confirm that they have the resources to make the purchase, plus the skills and credentials required to run the business. 

By the end of it all, you’ll have identified the right buyer for your business from all the interested prospects. Then as the purchase negotiations begin, your business broker will proceed to guide you through all the stages till the deal is finalized. 

The professional details of accredited business brokers are already available on the International Business Broker Association database. Upon accessing the site, you can find your ideal broker by name, agency, location, or industry of specialization. 

finding business brokers using the IBBA website

3. Get the word out to investment bankers

While business brokers can be relied on to find entrepreneurs who might be interested in buying your small business, investment bankers are the go-to intermediaries when you’re seeking corporate buyers. 

You see, the job of an investment banker is to advise corporations on matters concerning capital, investment ventures, and asset management. They are the guys who companies turn to for pointers on what to invest in, entities to buy, and how to raise capital. 

Therefore, by getting the word out to investment bankers, you’ll be leveraging them as intermediaries to potentially interested corporations. Established investment workers already have a wide network of well-funded corporate clients such as venture capital firms, hedge funds, investment trusts, private equities, etc. 

All these entities basically fall into the category of financial buyers. They are on the market for a highly profitable enterprise that’s worth more than $2 million. Their goal is to invest in a company and then grow it to the point of generating the highest possible returns. 

Here are some tips for choosing an investment banker:

  • Ask your network for recommendations.
  • Focus on the individual banker(s) that you’ll be working with rather than just the name of the firm.
  • Look for relevant experience in your industry.
  • Interview multiple investment bankers.
  • Don’t just go with the highest valuation (unless it legitimately seems like the most credible).

4. Engage mergers and acquisitions advisors (M&A)

M&A advisors are the professionals to consult when you’re seeking the right buyer for a possible merger and acquisition.

Now, for the sake of clarity, mergers and acquisitions is a general term that refers to the consolidation of two or more business entities to form one company. This type of ownership transaction is typically performed by large brands that are looking to strategically expand their operations – they simply buy into a smaller company and then assimilate it into their structure.  

Such brands are collectively known as strategic buyers. They seek to grow by acquiring and integrating other entities that are already operating in their line of business. 

The role of M&A advisors, on the other hand, is to administrate the transactions. They are the ones who guide parties through the intricacies of mergers and acquisitions. 

Once you engage them, they’ll first reach out to their networks to find the right strategic buyer for your business. Just like business brokers and investment bankers, most renowned M&A advisory firms have a huge repository of corporations looking to acquire growth partners. 

The professionals will also perform due diligence on interested parties to filter out all unqualified buyers. They’ll review the type of activities the companies specialize in, their business history, management structure, employees, and policies. 

In the end, they’ll find just the right buyer for your business – one that can synergistically fit into your operations. Otherwise, without this professional backing, your company would possibly join the 70-90% of M&A arrangements that ultimately fail to achieve their core strategic business objectives [1]

5. Reach out to your professional networks

For some businesses, the best option for where to sell a business could be your existing professional networks.

You could, for instance, end up selling the business to your friend or relative. We’ve also heard of businesses being sold to professional colleagues and even competitors from the same locality. 

All these are parties that you should be able to single out from your professional networks. Just get the word out through the appropriate channels and then, when the requests start coming in, you can proceed to qualify the individual prospects. 

That said, the easiest method would be word-of-mouth. You can try talking to friends, family, and other business owners regarding your intentions to sell. 

Chances are, they already know a lot about your business, its operations, and growth history. That means you won’t be doing a lot of explaining. The transition process itself is bound to be seamless, with the business being taken over by someone who understands it. 

Other channels that you could use to find the right buyer from your professional networks include local meetups, trade shows, conferences, business forums, and LinkedIn.  

💡 For a real example, you can read our use case of selling an online business for $175,000 using a private sale via his own network.

6. Set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan

When considering selling your business, don’t overlook a readily available and often enthusiastic pool of potential buyers: your employees. They’re intimately familiar with the business operations and have a vested interest in its success—key factors that can make the transition smoother and more efficient.

A study by the Harvard Business Review underscores the importance of internal focus during business transformations, revealing that a striking 78% of such efforts fail [2]. The 22% that succeed attribute their victory largely to engagement with employees who are crucial to daily operations. This data suggests that your employees may not only be qualified buyers but also key to ensuring a successful ownership transition that maintains the integrity of your business.

However, there’s a hurdle: financial limitations. Employees often lack the immediate capital for an outright purchase. But this challenge can be creatively managed. Flexible payment options such as Employee Stock Ownership Plans (ESOPs), seller financing, or leveraged buy-outs can make the sale mutually beneficial. These methods not only provide you with a steady revenue stream and potential tax benefits but also offer the possibility of accruing interest on deferred payments.

Engaging employees in the sale process and discussing financial arrangements can lead to a win-win solution. A flexible, long-term payment plan accommodates their financial constraints while securing a continued income stream for you.

How to decide where to sell a business

When considering where to sell your business, adopting a multi-faceted strategy can be highly beneficial. Combining various channels, such as leveraging personal contacts along with the resources of a business brokerage firm, can significantly elevate your chances of finding a suitable buyer.

It’s crucial to remember that “the ideal buyer” can differ depending on the nature of your business. Online enterprises often have distinct valuation multiples and selling dynamics compared to brick-and-mortar operations. Tailor your search accordingly to find a buyer who will value what makes your business unique.

Your ultimate objective should be identifying a buyer whose vision aligns well with your business’ existing framework. To narrow it down, consider creating a detailed buyer persona that outlines the key attributes and guiding principles important to your enterprise. This persona will serve as a valuable guidepost, helping you to filter prospects more effectively.

In summary, a targeted, flexible approach is your best blueprint for finding the right buyer. This strategy not only increases the likelihood of a quicker sale but also ensures that you don’t compromise the integrity and value of the business you’ve worked so hard to build. With this approach, you’re not just selling your business; you’re setting it up for continued success under new ownership.