Selling a business online is slightly different than selling a traditional brick-and-mortar company. It is a lot simpler in some ways, and in others, it is more complex.
In this guide, we will uncover the nine major steps in the selling process, from preparing your website to go up for sale to transitioning your business to a new owner.
Get your website ready for a sale
To make a sale, you will want to present your website as something worth selling. To do so, it is important to start by putting yourself in the shoes of the buyer. Ensure that your site doesn’t have any navigation issues, obvious typos, or a poor customer experience. The buyer may view these factors as potential red flags that will add to their workload once they make the purchase.
These same principles are also common to a home sale. If the house is clean and staged nicely, the new owner will have fewer obstacles preventing them from making a purchase.
Outsource for additional help when needed
Your business might have experienced at least some level of success so far. After all, there is a reason your business is worth something. Although you are likely a smart entrepreneur that knows how to wear many hats, the help of an expert can ensure you don’t miss any details in the transition period.
One expert you may choose to engage with is an accountant or bookkeeper. Depending on the size of your business, handing off the financials may be a lengthy, multi-step process. Perhaps, the majority of your sales have been done manually on a spreadsheet or in a notebook, so professional documentation is minimal. With so many sets of eyes on a business during a sale, it is imperative that your numbers are easy to locate and up to date. A seasoned professional can help you gather and prepare your last few tax returns, income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements. Although additional statements might be requested, having the basics will show your sellers that you aren’t hiding anything about your company’s history.
Another source of help that may be worth leveraging is a website escrow service. Escrow service providers can help manage the transfer of money and legal documents between two parties that don’t know each other. They do this by acting as a trusted middleman, holding funds until a buyer and seller agree on the terms of their transaction. This only caveat is that ecrow services will typically charge a small fee in proportion to the total sale of the good or service.
Customer list clean up
Second, only to your financials is your customer list. After purchasing a new eCommerce store, attentive buyers will be ready to hit the ground running and start marketing campaigns and promotions right away. While you might have a customer relationship management (CRM) system, these contacts will require updating from time to time to ensure duplicate contacts don’t exist and you have segmented your contacts to the best of your ability.
Conduct a valuation
The next question you will be required to answer is how much is your eCommerce website worth? Many owners think they have a good basis, but a third-party appraiser can help you determine a fair price for your website that isn’t too high or too low.
When conducting a valuation, some of the key contributing factors include:
- The age of the business
- Customer service reputation
- Strategic partnerships and supplier relationships
- Patents and IP
As an added benefit, providing a detailed report can add credibility to your listing and open your offering to new buyers.
Review qualified buyers
Once you’ve determined the price of your website, it will be time to list your company and wait for buyers. Depending on the size of your business, you might hire an eCommerce broker or other dedicated sales teams to put you in front of prospects. Alternatively, you might reach out to some of your contacts that you have already established a relationship.
Regardless of your method, it is not uncommon for sellers to receive multiple offers. The concern will become finding the right one. Factors worth considering might include if the buyer has been pre-qualified to make the purchase or has another guarantee of having the funds.
Continue to monitor sales and traffic
Many business owners fail to continue to monitor their sales and traffic until a deal has closed. While you are the owner of your business, only you stand to benefit from its success. If you happen to make extra sales during the selling process or boost your numbers and make them more appealing, you might be eligible for some extra dough.
Therefore, although your priorities have shifted, continue monitoring your products and making minor adjustments to your content and strategy when necessary.
Manage the transition process
Your job might not end at the sale of your business. Some contracts might add responsibility to the seller to assist the new owner as a part of the transition process. In addition to a legal obligation, ensuring the smooth transition to a new owner is also important for your reputation. If you decide to go through the process again, having a real customer to vouch for you will solidify that you are a reasonable person to do business with.
The transition might include a brief onboarding session to show how you’ve managed inventory and some unique features about the website platform.