Brokers Not Returning My Calls/Emails: How Do I Get Them To Get Back To Me?

There can be many reasons why Brokers take awhile to get back to potential Buyer & to other Brokers and Agents if they are cooperating on the listing. Broker's reasons include: unprofessionalism, too busy, the listing is no longer available, the buyer doesn't sound viable, etc. We discuss them all.

Comments & Feedback From Pro Intermediaries & Pro Advisors On BizBen:

Was chatting today with a business buyer in the BizBen ProBuy Program - and he posed this comment/question to me regarding brokers and agents not returning calls and emails regarding their listings/businesses for sale:

"It seems as though brokers and agents have a tough time returning phone calls, why do they make it so difficult to get information and return a call? What should I be doing so that they return my calls? What info should I be leaving in the phone message to spark their interest and want to call me back? Is it in my approach or are brokers too busy or to successful to return a call?"

My response to this was along the lines of:

That is a legitimate and often heard complaint. The majority of business intermediaries who don't make themselves readily available to good clients are poorly organized or just not very competent. By the way, that's a reality of working with people in most every profession. You're on the right track in trying to make sure that you are the kind of buyer that brokers and agents will call back.

A couple of tips: When first making contact with an intermediary, by phone, email, message service or in person, notice whether he or she simply answers your questions bout a business advertised, or wants to know more about you and your capabilities-both financially and in terms of your background and ability.

The person who only answers your questions is unlikely to be a good resource. The professionals who want to know more about you probably are going to put you in their "active buyer" databases and are most likely to be responsive. Cooperate with those who seem interested in what you want, by supplying as much information as they request. And if you have the opportunity, try to learn about the person, length of time in the business, any specialties and ask the best way to get a hold of him or her.

Attempt to build rapport so that the professional will want to stay in touch with you. Some clients ask these question: If I leave a message regarding something I might be interested in,or just to get an update on what's available, how long can I expect to wait until I hear back from you? If I don't get a response within a couple of days, does that mean you don't think the business is a good match for me, or that you are too busy to work with me? In most cases, an organized and competent professional will respect you and attempt to be responsive.

A criticism posted on the website or Facebook or Linked-in page of an unresponsive intermediary might get their attention. In that situation, the broker or agent may immediately take down, or refuse to post your comments and is not likely to want to work with you. But it just might be the way to let them know you're a serious buyer and he or she might be more responsive in the future.

Would like to hear from ProIntermediaries On BizBen and what their response might have been. Thanks.

A good question and a few simple suggestions. - So often we receive phone messages that we just can't understand.

When leaving a message you should:

1. Speak slowly and distinctly. When giving a name or number, write it as you speak it. Your listener can't write it down if you are speaking faster than you can write it.

2. Describe the listing you are calling about both the listing number and the title.Repeat it.

3. State your name, then spell it. Slowly and distinctly.

4. Give your area code and phone number. Slowly and distinctly. Repeat it.

5. State the best time(s) to reach you.

6. Provide your email address. - Again, say it slowly and distinctly. Repeat it.

7. Share something about yourself to show your seriousness, such as past experience, funds available, level of interest, or time frame.

8. Please, don't demand information that is only going to be disclosed after a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is signed. Such a demand sets the wrong atmosphere, and the broker cannot violate his fiduciary obligation to the seller.

9. And, if you don't hear back within 48 hours at the most, call again and again. Even in the best offices, a call can go astray. Remember, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

In my firm, we try to return every call within hours, no more than one business day at the longest. But, there are so many messages that we just can't return because they are so unclear.

There are many people "looking" for business opportunities but not many people "buying" in my opinion. So it's sometimes a #'s game for the Brokers, who have to sift through a vast number of "Pretenders" looking to purchase before closing any one particular deal. Some firms are better than others in terms of a CRM system to keep track of leads as well.

I know that eventually I got to the point where I did not enjoy sifting through hundreds of Buyer inquiries a month in order to secure the 3 or 4 that will actually close a deal some day and close a deal to purchase a Company, so I have a full time virtual assistant that is awesome and focused solely at just replying quickly to Buyer inquiries. A single independent shop may not have the bandwidth to outsource this function, so the conclusion that they are too busy will likely be the correct assumption if a firm repeatedly does not reply back after you contact them.

To maximize the chance that you get your call returned, send an email with a PDF statement that includes (your account info. obviously redacted/blacked out) your Proof of Funds. A quick email that gets to the point that, "Hey, I'm a ready, willing, and able Buyer and here's where I'm drawing the down payment from so you know I'm not wasting your time" will ALWAYS grab my attention in the mountain of email we process daily. I think this email will do wonders for your efforts to get a prompt reply much faster than a series of voicemails.

Contributor: Business Broker - Lliquor Stores, Markets, Hotels, N CA
Yes this is problem exists, because if a broker is getting 5-10 calls a day then there is no reason why broker should not call back; however If a Broker is receiving 30 to 60 calls a day and if each conversation takes minimum of 15 minutes, it's impossible to return every call. The best way for a Buyer to get the information that he/she needs regarding a business of interest, Buyer should ask the following questions by email and a possible reminder via text message. Questions should be precise, for instance: My name is _______, my email is _______, my phone # is _______, my investment will be approximately $_____, I am looking for a business in city or county or can move if business produces $______ annual income. I am interested in taking a look at business ___X___ , please email whatever information that you have regarding business X. With regards to text messaging refer to your email and ask for a response. It's hard to say what one Broker will do verses another, but for me it's lot easier to reply back to an email with attachments than take phone calls and I have a complete record of the interested party. If there is further interest then Broker and Buyer can get together and discuss the next item.

Contributor: Business Broker - Preschool Specialist
I appreciate your frustration, and I must plead a level of culpability in your complaint. It is difficult to respond to every inquiry to a business opportunity listing, really, it is almost impossible. The problem is this; there are many, many more buyers than sellers. The good businesses that go on the market do not stay there very long, and full-service brokers necessarily find themselves busy with setting up escrow, preparing documents, and negotiations. And the rest of their time tends to be spent in preparing their upcoming listings. And believe it or not, somewhere in the process they talk to buyers. And so, it many times happens that you, the potential buyer, feel quite ignored. Should business brokers do a better job, should we be more organized, should we respond quickly to every phone call and email? Of course. But the reality of the situation is what it is, and your question really contains the key point, the right attitude; What can I do as a potential buyer to get a response from these brokers?

I think there are a few things that will put you at the top of the list in a broker's mind, and I don't want to sound arrogant or anything like that. I think business brokers work very hard in what they do, so to help them, or to help yourself in getting their attention you need to make yourself as cooperative and attractive as possible to a broker. I think brokers tend to respond to inquiries that show a high degree of interest and/or enthusiasm. First of all, know what you are looking for, be certain of your experience and financial qualifications that make you capable to take on the type of business you are shopping for, and be confident in letting brokers know those qualifications, whether that is in your first email contact, voice-mail, or text. If you are going into the process needing a education about how to run the business you are wanting to purchase, it is going to be difficult to get the attention of a broker that has a great opportunity for sale. You should have a good understanding of the potential in a given location, and if you have some of the basic facts about the business you are looking at, you should develop the ability to determine what the net of the business could or should be even before you see the financials. You should be knowledgeable about every aspect; from regulatory, to staffing, to cash-flow attributes of this type of business, to how you would like to set up a lease on the property from a landlord, or an installment sale agreement on the business from the seller of the business. I am not saying you should buy a pig in a poke, without seeing it, but decisiveness wins the day in acquiring a great business.

I will give you what must be a famous anecdote. I heard this in an interview with Warren Buffett. He loves to find great cash-flowing businesses that are well-run and buy them outright. He was explaining how he evaluates a business, and he told the story of a letter he received from a business owner in Israel. The business made certain kinds of machine parts, maybe it was bearings, the owner had written a two page letter explaining his business, in essence offering it for sale. Buffett said he could tell from this very simple, yet very succinct and descriptive letter that the business was just the kind of operation he wanted to buy. He contacted the man to come in to talk, and wrote him a check for hundreds of millions of dollars on the spot. He didn't need to see three years of tax returns, the year to date profit and loss, the payroll reports for the last three quarters, just that letter. Amazing, isn't it? I can hear you saying, "I am not Warren Buffett." But you can imitate his style, which is not superficial, but based on supreme confidence in what he is looking for. {This is not to suggest that you don't need to look at the records of the business you want to buy. But to strive to be balanced in your approach so that you don't overburden yourself with doubts.}

Back to your question, the first step in the process actually is rather elementary. Monitor the listings as they come up on places like BizBen.com, get yourself on their email notification lists. First responders are going to be the winners if a business is really attractive. The next step, in your first communication to a broker, would be to show a high degree of interest. Communicate your ability to purchase, your experience, your confidence, your knowledge. Get the basic facts, sign any non-disclosure agreement that the broker requires, be willing to give proof of your ability to purchase, then if you can get an address, drive by. If it looks good, I have heard buyers say, " We are most likely going to make an offer on this business by Monday. We are very interested. We would like to see a few items regarding the financials of the business, but if it is as you say it is, we will be making an offer." You will have the right to further inspect the records in a typical contract arrangement, so you won't obligating yourself to purchase something that has hidden problems. You can find out about those things by asking the right questions later.

So in a nutshell, to review; In an initial contact, I wouldn't just ask a broker to see the financials of a business. I would first offer to the broker facts about myself; my experience and information about my track record, my financial qualifications, my strong interest in the business the broker is offering for sale and my confidence. Ask for the non-disclosure to sign, be willing to present your financial credentials, then ask when it would be possible to see the records of the business. Be as agreeable as you can without being becoming a pushover and I think you will stand a better chance of succeeding in finding the right business to buy.

We prefer phone calls at our office as I believe it shows a little more sincerity from the buyer, but a lot of brokers prefer an email. Follow up with an email request if your phone call is unanswered. In either case let the broker know how much liquidity you have to invest in a business and if you have experience in that specific industry tell them that too.

Whenever I have a buyer on the phone or in email correspondence I always want to know how much liquidity they have available today to purchase a business. The buyer that tells me not to worry about "I have plenty" or "I have investors" immediately turns me off. We hear that all day long and 99% of the time it's BS. A real buyer is knows what his has to work with today, and isn't afraid to prove it.

We get lots of inquiries, but not a lot of "real" buyers. Show us your real upfront and the broker should respond quickly.

I know it must be frustrating to many Buyers of businesses trying to connect with Business Brokers. The truth is that many Business Brokers are not organized enough to juggle all the challenges they face as a professional in this niche industry. In my office alone, we receive approximately 4-5 thousand inquiries per year from Buyers/Prospects while we sell approximately 150 - 200 business per year. Although we have over 20 agents in our office, the volume of Buyers can be difficult to manage.

Business Brokers tend to apply a grading scale to Buyers. This helps them decide who gets immediate attention, and who receives lower priority. Buyers get high marks for the following attributes: Recently Sold a Business, Not Currently Working, Open About Funds Available, and Willingness to Sign NDA. Buyers receive lower marks for the following: Currently Working Looking for Second Income, First Time Buyer, Unwilling to Expose Funds Available, Too Many Random Inquiries, Dealing with Multiple Agents within a Single Brokerage not Showing Loyalty.

My advice to Buyers would be to stick with an agent you like within a business brokerage office. If you don't feel comfortable with the first agent you speak to, then contact the manager and ask for an agent referral. While there is nothing preventing a Buyer from dealing with multiple offices, he/she would benefit from dealing with just a single agent within a brokerage firm. Usually, agents within a brokerage work together and share listings, so you have access to all the brokerage listings regardless who is the listing agent. You can save time not having to complete numerous NDA forms and losing loyalty points in the process. Finally, be open about your experience, goals, and how much money you have to invest. Brokers merely want to confirm you are looking within correct limits, because some Buyers assume they can buy businesses with 10-20% down which is virtually impossible.

Buying a business is not an easy process, and it takes lots of time, energy and patience. Be willing to go visit brokers at their office, and be prepared to visit businesses. You will not be able to buy a business sitting behind your computer. Many great businesses get sold before they even reach the marketplace, so it is important to work closely with an agent in an office that gets many new listings each week.

Good luck, and happy business hunting!

Contributor: CPA, Due Diligence Services
Successful real estate agents all have assistance to help them take phone calls and show property to buyers. Business brokers as a group work alone, without an assistant. Beside myself there is one broker in Northern California who has divided up the work with assistants. If a business broker has more than ten listings he can't possibly handle the traffic by himself, and that is the primary reason that buyers do not get returned phone calls. Also, if a broker is in the middle of hot negotiations on one deal and signing up a new listing, at the same time, he may have no time to also return phone calls.

This is one of the reasons that many brokers want offers before they spend the time to provide financial information. It is a poor approach in my opinion. If they collected all the financial information needed up front when the listing was signed, they would be able to rapidly give buyers all the information to make an informed decision without going back and forth with buyers and sellers regarding information needed.

There is an old saying, "There is never enough time to do it right but always enough time to do it over." I was a broker for 21 years and I learned how to handle 50 prospective buyers for one great listing. It required being able to receive an NDA and then quickly send out information. Then the broker should follow through with one e-mail to all the prospects.

Now that we understand the problems a broker is having, lets talk about solutions for the buyer prospect.

1. Send in an NDA, located on the businesses for sale website. This saves the listing broker the first step. Ask for three years, plus the current years P&L statements upfront to save everyone's time. If you do get it, walk away.

2. Send an e-mail instead of a phone call. I usually get responses to e-mails because they can return 10 e-mails in the time it takes to make one phone call. Tell them in the e-mail exactly what you are looking for and how much cash you have for a down payment. That saves them another step.

3. If you really are interested in a business and the broker will still not respond, call the receptionist and ask for another agent in the same office. If the deal happens there will be two agents instead of one. You will then have two people who do not call you back. (Joke). In truth this will get the communication you desire happening.

Thank you for the question. I hear it often and it is frustrating.

First, get your message across quickly.

I am ___, I am a qualified buyer for the ______ business you have listed. Please return my call at your earliest convenience. I will email additional information about what I am looking for. My phone number is __________.

Speaking for myself, I do try to return every call from new callers within 72 hours, or sooner. That may seem like a long time but I have priorities that start with problems on active projects, active clients currently looking at projects and then new callers. However, if I am available when a call comes in I will answer it.

My clients know that they should follow this guideline, First, Text me for most urgent response. If it is an important issue, contains sensitive information or has attachments send send it to my email. If it is urgent, text me to let me know it is there so I will get to it quickly. If you call and I do not answer, your voice mail may not be heard for up to 2 days. E mail is checked hourly. If you leave a detailed voice mail I recommend you also text or email me to let me know. With the advances of the day the phone is used less proportionately for voice messaging than for other written forms. It is just more productive.

Contributor: Business Broker, SF Bay Area
Not knowing your specific situation makes it difficult to figure out exactly what is happening. Most brokers I know have business details put together in the form of a business profile. They would also identify the key requirements that would make a Buyer suitable for that business. Most brokers prefer an email contact first where they can send you the NDA and Buyer Profile forms to be completed.

Once you have complete the forms and sent them back, broker will review them to make sure that you fit the criteria for that type of business. They will then send you the business profile that contains answers to most questions a buyer would have.

After reviewing this information if the Buyer has further questions or wants to proceed further then a phone call would be appropriate. But many buyers want to short circuit this process by wanting to have a conversation with the broker before completing any forms. Also many times buyers who have no experience with a specific type of business will call the broker wanting to be educated about what is involved in that type of business.

The probability of a buyer buying a business that he/she has no prior knowledge or experience in is very low. This can end up wasting a lot of time for both the Buyer and Broker.

I hope this gives you some perspective on the process and how you can work within this process.

BizBen Blog Contributer Buying a Business

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