No idea why I haven’t written this yet, but here’s how to find a small business to buy:

There’s 3 main strategies:

  • On Market
  • Referrals
  • Proprietary Search

1) On-Market should be everyone’s starting point and baseline.

This just means you’re keeping your eyes open find a business for sale as they hit various marketplaces. These can be brokered deals or FSBO.

Plenty of phenomenal opportunities go to market every day!

For sale!

Start with familiarizing yourself with the major listing websites:

These are the kings of digital/website deals!

There’s many other good, smaller marketplaces like DealBuilder, BuyAndSellABusiness, etc.

Find the marketplaces you like, register as a buyer, and setup notifications with them. Visit them often. Find a rhythm. Now go find some great brokers!

Go to and search for business brokers in your geography, preferably with the CBI certification, go visit their sites, look at their deals, and get on their early notification lists.

My brokerage ( for example sends out our “Probably a Good Deal!” newsletter to Buyers we have relationships with 1-2 weeks before we list them elsewhere. Many have this practice.

We help you sell and find a business!

An absolute cheat code for on-market deals is a site called Kumo.

find a business in Kumo!

Kumo daily scrapes over 50 marketplaces and compiles virtually all on-market listings for you and dumps them in a customizable dashboard you can sort and filter by your criteria. Saves tons of time. My affiliate link gets you an extended free trial to try it out HERE!

This on-market strategy is all many will need to find a small business, and should be where everyone starts. This next strategy is to build a robust ground game for direct referrals of deals..


2) Referrals is just what it sounds like, maximizing the odds someone directly connects you to an opportunity to buy a business because of your relationship. Here’s a small sampling of the types of people who will refer deals to you, and tips about how to get referrals from them.

– Business Owners. It’s funny to say this out loud, but business owners know business owners. First thing you should do is go to everyone you know that owns any business and ask them if they know of any other biz owner that might be wanting to sell in the next few years. Most will have a referral, and some will even say, “me!” Go to ones you know first then go to Chamber of Commerce mixers, CEO groups, anywhere where biz owners congregate, and meet more of them.

– Business Brokers. Any time you talk to one in person or on the phone, be sure and ask “what else do you have coming down the pipe soon?” as I guarantee you they have more deals than are listed on their site. They often will start talking to you about a deal early they’re working on. These things take time for us to win and get to market and the pipeline behind the listed pipeline can be a goldmine. Also ask them for referrals to other business brokers they respect and then talk to them too!

– CPAs are the most trusted advisor of most small biz owners and usually the first to know when the owner is thinking of selling. They’re also hard to get referrals from and tight-lipped. Favorite strategy here is to let them know you’re going into business soon, and want to take them to lunch as you’re getting to know CPAs (so they’ll see you as a potential client, which you are!). Learn about their practice. Tell them your story. And politely ask if they know any owners that might be wanting to sell. They’re much more likely to refer if they like/trust you and feel like you’ll keep the accounting with them or move it to them if it’s elsewhere.

– Attorneys, business and estate ones especially. Same strategy as CPAs above. They often try to “play broker” for their friends and clients and know about all kinds of estate, divorce, or distressed situations where owners are looking for an exit. Build trust and they can hook you up with things nobody else can.

– Bankers. Easy to get lunch with. Lots of connections. Loose lips. Talk to their loan officers, business development types that are out schmoozing with biz owner clients all day. Community Business/Commercial Bankers, Credit Union Officers, and SBA specialists can all be good. Anyone that serves biz owners in a sales capacity.

– Commercial Real Estate. You have to be careful as sometimes they try to use you to bail out a tenant in distress with a failing business as their referrals, but sometimes they get some real great opportunities. Their main motive is to sell buildings or leases and sometimes they know of businesses unrepresented that need a Buyer and they’re happy to refer as it helps them get the RE part of the deal done. Get to know CRE people around you and be their first call.

– Wealth Managers. Tremendously aligned interest. Any of their clients selling their biz means a windfall of assets to manage for them. And they like to add value to their clients’ lives, so be valuable and show you’re legit. Earn their trust and they can be a great source. Also usually highly trusted, so a referral from them is strong.

– Insurance Agents. The most underrated referral source. They know tons of business owners, and know which ones are doing well by the amount of stuff they insure for them. They are also social but don’t get asked to lunch often enough by businesspeople and prospects. Easy to become their go-to Buyer referral for tons of owners.

A serious business buyer should be having lunches, coffees, and zoom calls with several of the above referral sources each week.

One more strategy, cold outreach campaigns, otherwise known in the SMB World as:


3) Proprietary Search.

This is where you build a large list of off-market business owners, that likely fit your search criteria, and systematically pursue them. Find a business!

find a business!
Usually today’s proprietary outreach is automated e-mail heavy, but it can also be done by mail, drop letters, door knocking, cold calling, social media DMs, etc. The best campaigns hit the owners multiple times, multiple communication channels, and make them feel like you’re a real human trying to connect with them, not being spammed by a large entity.

Bottom line here is I can’t do this robust topic proper justice on this post, BUT most people if they’re good with on-market and a good referral network game won’t need to do Proprietary Outreach to find a deal. Proprietary is the most advanced, difficult, and time consuming strategy, but it can be very fruitful if done well.

However, if you are full-time trying to find a business to buy and have the time to commit, or are in a niche where an on-market deal or referral are about as likely as being struck by lightning, or are buying multiple businesses systematically over time, then Proprietary Search is for you.

It all comes down to these steps:

– Design your multi-step process / customize your campaign

– Build a list or buy a list

– Work the list with as much automation as possible for the repetitive stuff, then use your time to do relationship-building with owners that respond

The best free playbook I’ve seen for those of you that want to DIY this was written by @J_M_Vogt.

For those of you that want a done-for-you solution on this, please shoot me a DM with the message “Search Program Interest” and I’ll connect you to either my team or other practitioners that can help you setup a customized proprietary search tailored to your needs, for a fee (ours and some others are usually a monthly retainer + a success fee when your deal sourced from the program closes).


And there you have it. Those are the 3 main ways I know to find a business to buy!

I hope this was helpful. Please share the post if it was. I want more people to be able to benefit from this free teaching as these take a lot of time to write!


Feel free to ask questions below and I’ll be happy to help if I can!



CEO of Bison Business


Related Articles:

Why The “Silver Tsunami” Hasn’t Happened In SMB?!

I came into business brokerage 10 years ago with a promise of a "Silver Tsunami", a demogr...

Read More

No idea why I haven't written this yet, but here's how to find a small business to buy: ...

Read More
Your small business needs a “Cares Fund”

It will help your employees, save you a ton of stress, and solve a common dilemma. Her...

Read More