How to Sell a Business Quickly in 7 Steps

Selling a business can be a complex and time-consuming process, but sometimes, selling quickly is the best (or your only) option.

Whether you’re facing health issues, want to retire, or simply want cash to pursue new opportunities, a quick sale might be the right move.

However, rushing the process without preparing properly can leave a lot of money on the table and cause other issues.

In this article, we’ll explore the pros and cons of selling a business quickly, and provide a clear step-by-step process for making a quick sale while securing the best deal.

The pros and cons of selling a business quickly

While taking your time to sell a business is generally the recommended option, that’s not to say there isn’t a good side to a swift sale.

Pros

  • Allows you to exit the business quickly and move on to other opportunities
  • Can provide quick access to a lump sum of cash post-sale
  • Avoids further losses or decline in the business
  • Reduces the time and effort invested into the selling process

As expected, there are some cons:

Cons

  • You might not sell the business for a fair valuation
  • There is less time to market the business to potential buyers properly
  • The business operations might not be optimized for the sale
  • Employees and customers might feel rushed and not be ready for change
  • You have less leverage to negotiate the most favorable terms

The main issue with selling quickly is the sale price. In general, you’re not going to get the maximum value for the business.

While a quick sale will provide cash sooner, it will likely be at a lower valuation, unless you’re fortunate to find a buyer who sees significant value in the business.

If you don’t urgently need the cash and have time to sell but are simply feeling impatient, consider taking more time to sell the business.

Being patient will likely be less stressful, and although it will take longer, you’ll likely exit the business with more capital.

How to sell a business quickly

1. Prepare your business for sale

Preparing your business for sale is an important first step that can significantly affect the perceived value of the business and the appeal to potential buyers.

The first step is to gather and organize financial records, including tax returns, profit and loss statements, balance sheets, and any other financial documents over the last 36 months.

If you’re a business owner, then you probably have an accountant who can do this for you. Ensure that the records are accurate, up-to-date, and presented in an easy-to-understand format.

Additionally, it’s worth reviewing and updating your business plan, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and any other key business documents that can help highlight the strengths and competitive advantages of your business.

Also, ensure that any legal or compliance issues are addressed and presented transparently to show that your business is compliant.

While this first step is not as fun as negotiating and getting paid, it’s a necessary step that will help ensure you present the most persuasive value proposition for your business.

2. Determine the business’s value

Accurately valuing your business is important for setting the right asking price and attracting serious buyers.

Consider hiring a business broker or contracting a business valuation service to determine a fair value, with consideration for the timeframe you want to sell within.

You can also work with your accountant to figure out an industry-standard valuation using methods such as a discounted cash flow analysis method or an earnings multiplier.

The discounted cash flow (DCF) method estimates a company’s value based on projected future cash flows, discounted to present value based on assumptions like the specific industry, growth rate, and other factors.

The market multiple approach values a business based on metrics like revenue or EBITDA multiples of similar companies.

These are both widely accepted valuation methods that provide an accurate value estimate.

You can also use other valuation methods such as traffic and asset value, depending on the business.

The fact that you’re trying to sell your business quickly means the valuation might need to be lower, but don’t undervalue the business too much. A very low valuation might be counterproductive.

3. Market your business strategically

You can either DIY this by posting on social media, and reaching out to your network, or you can opt to work with a business broker or post on a business marketplace that usually requires exclusivity for a certain period.

Whether you try to market your business yourself, or you work with a third party, make sure you highlight the unique selling points of the business, like revenue diversity, growth potential, competitive advantages, strong financials, etc.

While a broker or marketplace might take a percentage of the sale, it’s often worthwhile, unless you are confident that you can find buyers yourself.

Business brokers/marketplaces have access to hundreds, and in some cases, thousands of pre-qualified buyers with millions/billions in liquidity who are actively looking for buying opportunities.

These professional brokers/marketplaces also take privacy seriously and keep your business details discreet until a buyer has shown serious interest/paid to access sensitive data about your business.

For a quick exit, you’re best off working with a broker or marketplace.

4. Pre-quality potential buyers

Pre-qualifying buyers is an important part of the selling process. Pre-qualifying will help ensure you are not wasting your time with “window shoppers” and those who don’t have the funds to buy your business.

Request proof of funds or pre-approval for financing from interested buyers to verify they are financially capable of completing the purchase.

Proofs could include bank statements, pre-qualification letters from business loan lenders, or other financial records.

Parties should also sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before confidential information is shared about the business. Never disclose confidential information without an NDA.

An NDA will protect sensitive information and prevent it from being used for competing purposes.

Many marketplaces where people buy and sell businesses have NDA agreements and proof of capital requirements built into their sign-up process so that only pre-qualified buyers can access the listing details.

The main point is that even if a buyer appears friendly, you should not trust them and share sensitive details—particularly when trying to sell a business quickly.

5. Negotiate and accept an offer

Now the fun starts! After you’ve pre-qualified buyers, it’s time to negotiate the sale.

Negotiating the sale includes figuring out the purchase price, the payment structure (lump sum or installments), and any other contingencies specific to your business sale.

While you are trying to sell fast, now is not the time to rush.

It’s important to work closely with your lawyer and financial advisor/accountant to ensure that the offer is fair and aligns with your expectations.

If you’re not good at the legal side of things, don’t look over the fine print yourself; you might miss essential details that could be detrimental.

Legal and financial experts will provide you with guidance on factors like tax implications and other legal considerations, and help simplify the finer print. 

Once you have reviewed and negotiated the terms and have reached an agreement that satisfies both parties, it’s time to accept.

Once an offer is accepted, the next stage is due diligence—often the most grueling and stressful part of a business sale as a seller.

6. Facilitate due diligence 

Due diligence is a critical phase in the sale process of a business.

This process involves the buyer and their team carefully examining the finer details of your business, like the financials, operations, legal standing, and other factors.

The point of due diligence is to verify that what you sold them on paper is reality, and to double-check that there aren’t any nasty surprises that weren’t disclosed.

During due diligence, it’s important to communicate promptly and cooperate fully, within reason, with a buyer’s requests to see specific documents and information.

No matter what, don’t proceed with due diligence, sharing data like customer details, without first pre-qualifying buyers and signing NDAs, etc.

If you don’t cooperate with buyers during due diligence, this will raise red flags and likely jeopardize the sale.

By providing them with a good customer experience, you increase the probability of the sale successfully closing. It shows you are completely serious about selling the business.

7. Close the deal

The last step is, of course, the most rewarding.

After due diligence is completed with both you and the buyer satisfied, it’s time to proceed with closing the sale.

Closing the sale will again require closely working with your legal and financial advisors to ensure documents are properly prepared and reviewed, including the purchase agreement, non-compete agreements, and any other agreed-upon terms.

Carefully review and ensure you understand the terms before signing.

On the final closing date, transfer ownership of the assets, such as the website, product stock, remaining funds, intellectual property, and any other applicable assets/contracts that require transfer.

Once everything is finalized, you can celebrate! 🎉

Go live on the beach for a month, start a new business, retire, and become a monk! Whatever it is you wanted out of a sale, enjoy… 

But, make sure that you stick to terms like non-compete clauses to avoid potential future legal headaches.

Alternatively, if this entire process sounds more complicated than you hoped for, consider selling via marketplaces that provide end-to-end solutions for selling businesses.

Sell quickly for the highest price with a marketplace like Empire Flippers

If you’re looking to sell your online business quickly, consider listing it on Empire Flippers—a leading curated marketplace for buying and selling online businesses.

There’s no guarantee that your business will get listed, as they are selective, but if you do, you’ll enjoy a hassle-free process and access to a huge pool of buyers with billions in combined liquidity.

Empire Flippers’ team of experts handles everything from vetting and marketing your business on their marketplace to pre-qualifying buyers and facilitating certain aspects of due diligence.

While selling the business isn’t guaranteed, you can be confident in attracting serious offers and interest if they approve your listing. 

In fact, on Empire Flippers, an average of 83% of businesses sell for their listing price. With $500m + in transaction volume, Empire Flippers has a solid track record of closing deals.

The bottom line

Selling a business quickly can be a strategic move that pays off, but still requires careful planning to execute correctly.

The seven steps in this article will help streamline the process, attract qualified buyers, and sell for the highest possible price.

However, it’s crucial to strike a balance between speed and diligence, as rushing through the sale can lead to costly mistakes.

If you’re a first-time, or even if you’ve had multiple exits, I’d still recommend getting professional help from a business broker or selling via a marketplace that manages the process.

All the best with your sale!

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