Step 3: Attract Buyers

10 Steps for Creating a Successful Online Business-for-Sale Listing

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10 Steps for Creating a Successful Online Business-for-Sale Listing

10 Steps for Creating a Successful Online Business-for-Sale Listing

Once you’ve decided to sell your business, it’s important to take the time to create a listing that will be affective in selling your business online. You want it to stand out from other listings and attract serious potential buyers while weeding out the not-so-serious "tire kickers" and "looky-loos".

Your listing is likely the first impression a potential buyer will have of your business, so why not use this opportunity to show your business in the best light. Here are “Ten Commandments” to follow that will help you create a compelling online listing:

1. Include Key Financials

Serious potential buyers are looking for a solid investment opportunity and will gravitate towards ads that offer key financials. Disclosing this information in your listing will likely build confidence in potential buyers. Moreover, including numbers, such as revenue and cash flow, can substantially increase the amount of views your listing receives, as it is one of the most common ways potential buyers search for businesses.

2. Provide Maximum Geographic Information

Online business-for-sale marketplaces give you the option to either include the state and county of business or keep it confidential. Be aware that choosing to keep this information confidential is not a good option.

Your best bet is to provide as much geographic information about the location as possible without revealing the business’s exact identity. Most buyers search by county level, and by hiding this information, you eliminate your listing from their search results. So, if you want to increase the number of responses you receive from potential buyer, your best bet is to include at least the state and county level.

3. Write a Catchy Headline

Your headline is the first thing buyers will read before they decide whether or not to click open your listing and reading more. An attention-grabbing, well thought out headline will separate your listing from the pack.

With the buyer in mind, create a headline that will stimulate interest and motivate them to learn more. Use keywords they might use during their search. Consider the most appealing aspects of your business that would make people want to buy it, such as its location, size or other impressive features.

4. Be Easy to Contact

A seller can lose valuable leads from potential buyers if they are difficult to get in touch with and they don’t respond to inquiries promptly. If confidentiality is not an issue, include a phone number in your business listing to reassure buyers and maximize contacts.

Yet, if confidentiality is an issue, you can create a blind ad that does not include any of your personal contact information. Once you start receiving inquiries from potential buyers, you should respond using a separate email account with a non-business email address to disguise yourself with all buyer inquiries. Or, you should respond using a non-business phone number that is not connected to you or your business in any way.

Set up a follow-up process where you pre-screen buyers and have a confidentiality agreement ready for serious qualified buyers.

5. Use Two Categories to List Your Business

When listing a business online on BizBuySell, you have the option of listing the business under two categories – a "best matching business type" and a "next best matching business type." Even though a business might at first seem as though it would only fit within one category, it is best to use both categories to maximize exposure. In fact, passing up the opportunity to list your business under a second category is almost like passing up a free second listing.

For example, while a category such as "Hotels and Other Lodging Places" would be your first choice if you wanted to list a hotel for sale, choosing categories such as "Miscellaneous Services" can only help you by ensuring that more prospective buyers view your listing.

6. Be Descriptive

The most effective way to instill confidence in a prospective buyer and get them to respond to your listing is to offer a thorough description of your business. This is your opportunity to highlight your businesses most important features, what makes it unique, including its strengths and future potential.

Keep it professional and avoid any language that sounds anxious or desperate. Putting OBO (“Or Best Offer”) next to the selling price makes the business sound unappealing. Flashy sales pitches or headlines with all caps, such as “HOT DEAL, WON’T LAST LONG” sound like someone screaming to get attention and will likely turn off serious prospects.

Overall, your description should be informative, yet succinct and to the point. Don’t overwhelm your reader with meaningless details; tell them just enough to get them interested and inquire to learn more. Be honest and don’t embellish or exaggerate. It’s also helpful to include the reason why you’re selling; buyers appreciate honesty and this establishes a sense of trust.

7. Include Great Pictures

One of the most effective ways to differentiate your business for sale listing from the rest is to include photos. While you should probably not include a picture of the outside or any obvious interior section of your business to maintain confidentiality, there are other ways to use photos to engage potential buyers.

For example, taking a photo of one of the rooms of your business – making sure to capture its best features – can give potential buyers a good look at what you have to offer without sacrificing too much confidentiality.

Using stock photos is another great way to make your listing stand out from the crowd without revealing its identity. However, be careful not to select images of any part of any specific business that is not yours. Instead, find generic images. For example, an image showing a mouthwatering slice of pizza is a great way to represent a pizzeria business.

Whether you choose to shoot your own images or use stock photos, make sure that your images are clear, uncluttered, non-pixilated and professional looking. For more information on taking great photos, read “How to Select Great Photos For Your Business for Sale Listing”.

8. Work Around Confidentiality

Listing your business for sale and keeping it confidential can be tricky. You want to keep your business running smoothly throughout the selling process without any disruptions from word leaking out to customers, employees, competitors or suppliers. A safe bet is to avoid mentioning any details in your listing that may reveal the identity of your business. Just the same, you don’t want to leave out so much information that nobody will be interested.

Be creative by using non-specific language to describe your business’s strengths, such as “one of the leaders in its industry” or “established online presence”. Instead of disclosing the exact address, just list the state and county, adding attractive identifiers such as “located in popular shopping mall along major interstate”. And, instead of showing actual photos of your business, use attractive stock images that represent its products or services.

9. Upgrade (if Necessary)

You may be listing your business for sale in a very competitive market; it may be a high value business, or you may be looking for a fast sell. In this case, you can benefit from powerful listing upgrades that receive additional exposure and generate more leads.

BizBuySell’s “Showcase” ad listings appear higher in search results above “Basic” ad listings, giving them an extra boost of exposure. Plus, it’s sent via email to potential buyers seeking businesses like yours, and you receive a list of prospects for you to contact.

10. Proof Read Everything Before Publishing

Take the time to proofread your entire listing before posting it online. Check for spelling and grammar errors, as well as any missing words or numbers. Your listing should communicate clearly and present your business in a professional manner. Any small errors could easily change the language and be misinterpreted, thus detracting valuable buyers from responding.

A good practice is to draft your listing in a Word document, or other similar application and use the spelling and grammar check. Next, proofread it several times to ensure its error free. Lastly, read through these 10 commandments one more time and make sure you’ve included all the information necessary to best market your business for sale.

To learn more about creating a successful online business-for-sale listing, read our blog article, “5 Reasons Why Your Business for Sale Ad Isn’t Getting Any Responses”.

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Luba Kagan heads Business Development and Strategic Partnerships for BizBuySell. 

In her current role she does a variety of education and speaking engagements on topics such as Buying, Selling and Valuing a Small Business.  Luba is a contributing author to the book ‘Small Business Hacks: 100 Shortcuts to Success’.

Prior to joining BizBuySell, Luba was investing in, turning around and growing small and medium sized companies.  Luba has over 15+ years of experience in investing and helping grow family/founder owned and operated businesses. She loves helping apply best business practices to small businesses. Luba holds an MBA in Finance from the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania and a B.S. in Operations Research Industrial Engineering from Columbia University.

When Luba is not hacking away at solving small business problems, she chases after her very inquisitive daughter and that proves to be a lot harder than training and running a marathon or two.