19 Things I’ve Learned About Selling Websites

19 Things I've Learned About Buying Websites

When I started Quiet Light Brokerage in October of 2006, I had no idea that almost 8 years later I’d be looking back on over 500 deals closed and nearly $100 million in total transactions. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of success over the years, but that success has come with a lot of lessons learned along the way.

I often get asked what advice I would give someone who is looking to sell their website.  Below are 19 (somewhat random) lessons that I’ve learned about selling websites:

1. Own the Ugly Parts of Your Business

Own the ugly parts

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If you are hoping to sell your website, it’s easy to shy away from the ugly parts of your business: the weaknesses, the threats, the disadvantages. Every business has its rough parts. Don’t be afraid to present them to buyers – in fact, you need to own them. Being upfront about your website’s weak points will build trust AND make those ugly parts less scary for buyers.

Lesson: Don’t be afraid of the weaknesses and threats to your business. Present them as they are and trust buyers make their own conclusion.

2. Nothing is More Important Than Trust

trust

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There may be no lesson more important than this: deals are closed on trust. A buyer may be attracted by your website’s potential, its history, its metrics. But no one will hand you a check if they don’t trust you or your business. Be ready to prove your website’s metrics (financials and all), and always look for areas where you can help your buyer trust you more.

Lesson: Find ways you can build trust with the buyer and take advantage of them. You’ll be glad you did.

3. Keep the Big Goal in Mind: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

speedbump

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I find both buyers and sellers can get wrapped up in the heat of negotiations and lose focus on the bigger goal. It can sometimes feel as if you are giving in on every point of negotiation and that you just need a “win” somewhere. Never negotiate for the sake of negotiating. Negotiate with a purpose.

Lesson: Distinguish between things that are important and not important in your deal. Be willing to bend on the less important things and hold your leverage for what really matters. 

4. Always Have a Deadline

Have a deadline

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There is nothing more frustrating than feeling as if your buyer is constantly moving the goalposts and expectations of the deal. Setting deadlines works to set expectations with both the buyer and the seller. It is always OK to renegotiate a deadline if you have good reason to do so. But never go into an offer without an agreed upon deadline.

Lesson: Set mutually agreeable expectations early. Deadlines can be renegotiated if need be, but it is hard to set a deadline once the clock is running.

5. Never Buy (or Sell) a Website When You Are Vacationing

Seem obvious? Not to everyone. It’s surprising how many people have vacations planned, house moves, weddings, etc. right around the same time as a planned close. Being available during the 1-2 months of due diligence and the transition period is crucial. Transitioning a business is a sensitive, and often time-consuming time – you need to be available to react should any hiccups arise.

Lesson: Keep your schedule open when transitioning business ownership.

6. Bidding Wars are Rare (and Often Pointless)

Bidding wars are often pointless

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The idea of getting buyers into a bidding war for your website may seem exciting, and you might think you would stand to benefit (and sometimes you do). The truth is, bidding wars need to be carefully managed. Poorly managed bidding wars often result in broken offers and a price lower than you would have received if the business was properly priced. Also, buyers who experience a stressful bidding war often go into due diligence with a level of frustration.

Lesson: Don’t count on a bidding war to maximize your price. Price properly from the beginning.

7. Never Lie to Induce a Buyer to Make an Offer

Don't be a Pinocchio

photo credit: Express Monorail via photopin cc

It can be tempting to tell a little white lie in order to gain leverage in a negotiation (eg. “I have another buyer who is really close to putting in an offer”). It may seem like a good tactic, and it may even work from time to time. But the potential damage this does far outweighs the good. And as I already stated, nothing is more important than trust.

Mark Daoust
Mark Daoust discusses issues relating to the valuation and sale of established and profitable websites. He is the founder of Quiet Light Brokerage, a leading website brokerage firm helping people sell their established and profitable websites since 2007. Connect with Quiet Light on Twitter and Google+ for more info!
Mark Daoust

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6 thoughts on “19 Things I’ve Learned About Selling Websites

    1. Good suggestion. On that, if you are using an attorney (and despite lesson 13, I do think it is a good idea to have an attorney review things for any significant purchase), that attorney can act as escrow. It is typically less expensive than escrow.com and a little more straightforward.

  1. Never sell or buy while on vacation – I once had a terrible experience when I made this mistake. I listed the site on Flippa well before the vacation but when the listing was about to close in 3 days, I went on a vacation – Stupid me! I suffered a lot unable to answer last minute questions and approve bids :)

    Thanks for the nice advice Mark!

  2. An important aspect of keeping the big goal in mind #3, is to also understand who to say NO to. If you say yes to all types of website projects while starting out, you don’t get to specialize in anything, thus, hamper longevity in business. To build a brand means to build trust which in turn means credibility. If you are starting out, to aim for credibility in multiple domains would be the crown of mediocrity. So, for the first couple of years, being known as the “Go To” guy for a domain is the ideal outcome. Once you have the credibility and the traffic, you can cross sell into anything. Google and Amazon started out as a search engine and online book seller respectively and have cross selled their way to massive expansion.

  3. I Sold my completely SEO optimized website to a reputed online technical support firm in $14000, it was a great experience to me and i am building more to sell.

  4. Completely agree with you on not lie to induce a buyer to make an offer, as nothing is more important than trust. Thanks for this wonderful tips :)