The short answer to that question is, you don’t – someone else does it for you. You need someone to qualify possible buyers before reaching out to them, then they keep you anonymous until serious interest is established and non-disclosures and confidentiality agreements are in place.
We hear it from every client, “It will damage my business if word gets out that I’m trying to sell it.” Here are the things we do to protect anonymity.
- Keep it off of electronic billboards unless there is a very good reason to post it. We’ve learned that things like medical and dental practices are served well by postings on their respective association classified pages, but most businesses have such product, service or regional distinctiveness, the veil of anonymity is quickly pierced by search engines.
- Create a list of best possible buyers and have your agent make personal contact at the highest level possible to gauge the interest of a buyer. We often open the dialogue with direct questions to determine if they are in the acquisition mode. Each positive response allows us to determine if they are specifically interested in a company exactly like our client’s, and if so, what is a realistic formula for determining a set of value parameters.
- Signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) doesn’t mean we reveal the name yet. We often provide a valuation summary or pitchbook that redacts obvious identifying information. Buying candidates often have to provide further feedback on their desire and capacity to buy before we reveal a name.
- The commutative principal when using NDAs allows us to have a potential buyer first sign an agreement with our company, then anything we share in the future about the client’s company is covered without having to show the client’s name. Our client’s confidentiality is protected by the NDA we sign with them.
- If you don’t trust a competitor to act in good faith under confidentiality, then experience dictates they will make for a disappointing buyer. We avoid expanding contact with potential buyers who don’t pass the sniff test that we establish with our clients prior making any contacts.