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Where to Sell a Business: 6 Options for the Best Price in 2023

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 foolproof ways to find qualified buyers and 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 usecase of selling an online business for $175,000 using a private sale via his own network.

6. Set up an Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Speaking of selling to people who understand your business, no one is better placed than your own employees. They are the ones who truly understand the ins and outs of the entire business – almost as much as you. 

As such, it would be feasible to scout for the right buyer internally from your own employees. They probably wouldn’t need much convincing, they come with all the requisite skills, and the transition process is bound to be easy as employees are already fully integrated into the business. 

A research report by the Harvard Business Review suggests that, overall, a whopping 78% of companies fail when implementing business transformation [2]. The 22% that manage to sail through, on the other hand, have one thing in common – they all attribute their success to focusing their efforts internally on the very employees that run the business operations. 

In simple terms, therefore, your employees could be the secret to a successful ownership change. They guarantee the continuity of your company’s vision, mission, and objectives. 

There’s just one problem. Company insiders don’t usually have huge amounts of cash in hand. Rarely will you find employees with sufficient capital for a one-off payment. So, if you intend to get the right buyer, you’ll have to be flexible enough to accommodate a long-term payment plan. 

You could, for instance, enroll them into an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), proceed with a seller financing option like installment sale, or maybe make arrangements for third-party financing on a leveraged buy-out. 

Running these ideas by your employees will help you find a workable plan for everyone. A long-term arrangement would be convenient for them while, at the same time, giving you a continuous income stream along with tax benefits. What’s more, you get to make more money from the deal by charging interest. 

How to decide where to sell a business

Don’t limit yourself to just one method. To raise your chances of finding the right buyer for your business, you might want to leverage two or more approaches at once. You could, for example, alternate between your personal contacts and the network of prospects from your business brokerage firm. 

While you’re at it, keep in mind that the right buyer varies from one business to another. For example, online businesses typically sell in different ways and for different multiples than what you see with brick-and-mortar businesses.

In your case, the target should be the type of buyer who would fit naturally into the vision, structure, and processes of the business. You can go ahead and refine the threshold further by breaking down all the guiding principles into their distinctive persona attributes. 

👉 Now that should be the blueprint for targeting the right buyer for your business. At least then, you’ll be able to sell your business quickly without potentially compromising the bottom line and values it’s built on.