One of the most intimidating parts of selling my last business was facing the barrage of questions during the various management presentations I did for companies interested in buying it. Each meeting had a different vibe, with each potential acquirer keen to dig into various aspects of the business.
Based on my experience in the hot seat, I've prepared a summary of some of the questions you're likely to get when you're ready to sell your business.
1. Why do you want to sell your business?
It's a slippery question because if your business does truly have a bright future-and you want the buyer to believe it does-the obvious question is, "Well, then why would you want to sell it?"
2. What is your cost per new customer acquired?
The potential acquirer wants to find out if you have a predictable, scalable formula for finding new customers.
3. What is your market penetration rate?
The acquirer is trying to understand how big the potential market is for what you sell and what part of the field remains to be harvested.
4. Who are the critical members of your team?
The acquirer wants to understand the depth of your team and to determine specifically which members need to be motivated and retained post-purchase.
5. Who buys what you sell?
Strategic buyers will be searching for any possible synergies between what you sell and what they sell. The more you know about your customer demographics, the better the buyer will be able to assess the strategic fit. If your customers are other businesses, a buyer will want to know what functional role (e.g., training manager, VP of sales and marketing) buys your product or service. If you sell to consumers, a buyer will want to know your customer's demographics like gender, age, income level etc.
6. How do you make what you sell?
This question is asked in an effort to size up the uniqueness of your formula for creating your product or service. Potential buyers want to know if you have any proprietary systems that would be hard for a competitor to replicate. They will also want to understand if the creation of your product or service is dependent on any one person.
7. What makes your product truly unique?
A buyer is trying to understand how big the moat is around your business and what kind of protection it offers from competitors who may decide to compete with you in the future.
8. Can you describe your back-office setup?
Most buyers will try to understand how easily they can integrate your back office into their operation. They'll want to know what bookkeeping and billing software you use, how customers pay and how you pay suppliers.
This is not an exhaustive list and will certainly benefit from your contributions. Please use the comments section to share other questions you have been asked by potential investors/acquirers.
Special to The Globe and Mail
John Warrillow is the author of Built To Sell: Turn Your Business Into One You Can Sell . Throughout his career as an entrepreneur, Mr. Warrillow has started and exited four companies. Most recently he transformed Warrillow & Co. from a boutique consultancy into a recurring revenue model subscription business, which he sold to The Corporate Executive Board in 2008. He is the author of Drilling for Gold and in 2008 was recognized by BtoB Magazine's "Who's Who" list as one of America's most influential business-to-business marketers.