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Making Online Enquiries on a Business for Sale

How to establish if the business is right for you and how to convince the seller that you’re right for the business.

Have you decided to buy a business, chosen your sector and narrowed the choice down to one or a few businesses for sale that interest you?

Through you can submit online enquiries to the existing owners expressing your interest. 

But once you’ve decided to buy a business and you’ve found one or a few for sale that interest you, you can submit enquiries to the existing owners for further information.

You can do this free of charge by clicking on the yellow ‘contact seller’ button on the business listing. However, as a premium (paying) buyer you’ll get additional benefits like access to locked businesses, priority customer support and getting your enquiriesprioritised in the seller’s inbox.

The aim of online enquiries

You should make enquiries with two goals in mind. One is to find out more about the business to decide if you want to take your interest further. And if the seller is to agree to formal negotiations, then you also need to convince them that your interest is sincere and credible.

Many sellers have an emotional investment in the business and will care about its fortunes after selling up. Therefore evidence of your suitability – in terms of skills, experience and attitude – may convince the buyer to open negotiations with you over other interested parties.

Don’t be a tyre kicker

Sellers often deal with enquirers who show initial interest only to back off after several email exchanges or phone calls. Frustrated at the time wasted, they’ll be vigilant for telltale signs that you’re a ‘tyre kicker’.

Show them that you understand and have researched the sector and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Show them that you’re a determined and committed buyer so you’re not overlooked among the mass of enquiries they may receive.

Firming up or cooling your interest

Don’t expect sellers to provide detailed or confidential information until they’re convinced that you’re a serious buyer. And even then, you probably won’t see any financial documents until you’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement.

You might seek to find out more about information in the advert that either piques your interest or causes you concern. Or you might seek information that isn’t mentioned at all. Here are some questions you might pose:

  • What’s the history of the business?
  • How long have you been running the business?
  • Why are you selling the business now?
  • Can you tell me more about the business model?
  • What were the annual gross revenues or net profits for the past 2-3 years?
  • How did you value the business? Was it valued by an independent, suitably qualified expert?
  • How flexible are you on the asking price?
  • What is the business’s goodwill value?
  • What assets and liabilities (debts) are included in the asking price?
  • How would you like to structure the sale?
  • Is seller financing available, and if so, how much and under what terms? Seller financing, which suggests the seller has faith in both the business and the buyer, usually covers about 10-25% of the price
  • Are you willing to wait while I find external financing?

Show them the money

The seller will want to see that you have a realistic idea about how you might pay for the business, most likely through a bank loan and with enough personal funds for a down payment. But they’ll also want to see that you have a sincere interest in the business and a passion for the sector.

The seller has probably put a lot of hard work into the business over the years and they’ll want reassurance that the business will be in capable hands when they hand over the reins.

There may be clues in the ad as to what they want in a buyer – for instance, the business might be described as suiting “someone with extensive experience” in the trade.

Failing that, imagine what you’d want from a buyer if you were the seller. Sellers who care deeply about their legacy will appreciate signs that you fit their criteria.

If online enquiries proceed successfully, you’ll then move on to face-to-face negotiations, possibly through intermediaries like business brokers, and – if you haven’t already – raising finance to pay for the business.  

Faye Ferris

About the author

APAC Sales & Marketing Director for, the world’s most popular website for buying and selling businesses globally and attracting over 1.5 Million visitors each month. To contact Faye please email [email protected]


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