Top 10 ways to find buyers when selling a business


1. Make direct approaches

If there are obvious potential buyers for your business for sale then by all means approach them. However, quite understandably, many selling a business are uncomfortable contacting buyers themselves and revealing their intentions to sell their business. After all, the buyers may well be direct competitors and if word leaks into the market that your business is for sale, it could unsettle employees, customers and even suppliers. However, as an advisor, we can provide a level of protection to those selling a business when we make approaches for them as we will only reveal their identity to buyers who have signed a confidentiality agreement.

2. Consider vertical and horizontal integration

When selling a business, don’t just think of competitors (i.e. horizontal integration). Yes, they may well be interested, but there could easily be buyers lurking in your supply chain (i.e. vertical integration). They don’t necessarily have to be direct customers or suppliers of your own business for sale, they could simply be in your sector. Buying your business should offer them an opportunity to diversify their operations whilst also securing the future flow of products and services between you.

3. Think global

With sterling in a relatively weak position, UK businesses for sale currently represent even better value for money for overseas acquirers. Identifying those overseas acquirers can be a challenge, and that’s where a good advisor should be able to tap into their own international networks; we are members of MHA, an independent member of Baker Tilly International Ltd. As you might expect, there tend to be higher costs associated with a cross-border deal, and in our experience, the deal size usually needs to be in the region of £2 million to £5 million before it becomes economic for a buyer to consider seriously.

4. Circulate through professional networks

An advisor should be able to circulate details of your business for sale through their own formal and informal networks of local, regional and national professional advisors. Just like us, many of those advisors will have their own lists of acquisitive buyers, so it may be possible to make a match and introduction as a result.

5. Advertise in trade magazines

For some selling a business, we’ve advertised their businesses for sale on a no-names basis in relevant trade magazines. The success of this approach is hugely reliant on the credibility of the readership, but it can be a great way to attract buyers. It’s particularly useful for selling smaller businesses that might appeal to employees in similar businesses who are contemplating buying their own business.

6. Advertise through on-line businesses for sale websites

If you do an internet search, you’ll see there are plenty of businesses for sale websites out there for business owners to use. This approach can work, particularly when it’s difficult to identify and approach buyers. But be warned; if you monitor businesses for sale websites, you’ll find many of the businesses remain unsold for a very long time.

7. Review ‘Businesses Wanted’

Businesses for sale websites often have a section for ‘Businesses Wanted’. Again, you need to be careful, as you often find that those buyers are only really looking for bargains and their offers can be extremely low.

8. Who else has sold a business in your sector?

If someone you know and trust in your sector has sold a business over recent years, it might be worth getting in touch and to obtain their views on their sale process and potential acquirers. If they’ve sold, chances are they’ll be pretty relaxed about giving you some advice about selling a business and maybe even the sale price. As we all know, if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

9. Follow up previous approaches

If you’ve had approaches from interested parties in the past then by all means follow them up to see if they’re still interested in your business for sale. The seriousness of such interest often varies from speculative bargain hunters to highly motivated and funded acquirers. It’s important to apply judgement as to which category they fit into and get a confidentiality agreement in place before giving any sensitive information away.

10. Don’t forget management buyouts

It’s a common theme running through my preliminary discussions with people selling a business; don’t forget the management team. They might not have access to the funds needed to pay you out on day one, but there are lots of ways they can finance a management buyout (MBO) over a period of time. For more details, see my previous blog: Top 10 reasons why your management team might be able to afford your business.

If you’d like to explore the potential sale of your business, please get in touch.

Call 0330 024 0888 or email corporatetransactions@larking-gowen.co.uk

Next month: Top 10 traits of an attractive business

Author:

James Lay