There's an old saying in the real estate business, "Listers are Lasters." Working with business buyers is great, but only by working with business sellers can a broker or agent survive year after year. Finding new businesses for sale is never fun, though occasionally it can be, but it takes discipline and determination. You don't have to spend a fortune to find new business listings, but whatever you do, you need to be consistent.
"Mail, mail, mail." Doing mass mailers can be an effective way of finding new potential businesses for sale. The positive side of doing a large mailer is that it allows you to reach many small business owners at the same time. It's important to target the audience who you are trying to reach, and so you need to get in contact with a mailing company and purchase a list of the businesses within a 30-40 mile radius of where you do business. The list that you buy should be specific, for instance, all the liquor stores or min-marts, or maybe all the mail box stores in your area. The great thing about mailers is that it allows you to bypass the "gatekeepers" (assistant managers, etc.) at the business, and it lands right in the owner's hands. The downside of doing mailers is that it can be quite expensive, but it can pay for itself once you get business coming through it.
Dialing for dollars. I've had success calling business owners over the phone, but I sometimes find them hesitant because they don't know who I am. The best way to prospect over the phone is to tell them who you are, what company you work for, and why you are calling. Sometimes I knew I was talking with the owner, but they didn't want to acknowledge it. Phone prospecting calls often produce good leads. If you ask the owner if they are selling and they weaver a little, then it could be a possible lead for you to mail a piece of marketing material or go down the business and introduce yourself. You may not secure an appointment over the phone, but it can be effective in finding people who may require additional follow-up. Per the federal trade commission website on "do not call list" - "Most phone calls to a business made with the intent to solicit sales from that business are exempt from the Do Not Call provisions".
"It’s time to hit the streets." Door knocking, canvasing, whatever you want to call it may seem "old school" or archaic, but it can often be the most effective way of finding new business. There is nothing more effective than face to face marketing. Gas is cheap right now so there is no excuse to get out there and find new clients. The best thing about street canvasing is that it gets you into businesses you might not normally find on a marketing list. It's important to acknowledge the owner's busy times, so don't go prospecting during peak times like lunch, when they are unable to talk with you. When you do go out make sure to bring some marketing material and listing contracts, because some people will sign up with you on the spot – it happens! Canvasing can be discouraging at times, but remember, "what else have you got to do?" and you are not going to find any new business sitting around the office.
Another great way to find new business is by advertising your current inventory on sites like BizBen. Many sellers will look for what is currently available and what the market is like for their business. I've received many calls from prospective sellers on business for sale ad/posting calls.
My suggestion is to do a little of everything. Mail 10 postcards a day, call 25 people, canvass a boulevard for an hour, and soon enough you'll be getting those listings you have worked so diligently for.