For-sale listings are a critical part of the business transaction as a whole. However, with all the time it takes to prepare a business to be placed on the market, creating the actual listing tends to fall to the bottom of a last-minute to-do list.

The current market is competitive; in fact, the number of businesses listed for sale grew more than 5% in Q2 compared to last year. With all this activity, sellers must think strategically and creatively to attract the best buyers while also weeding out those who are not serious. The following tips for creating a listing can help attract stronger offers from more serious buyers while maximizing exposure.

  1. Provide quality photos. If you choose to include photos, make sure they are high quality and showcase the most attractive parts of your business. The images should not be heavily edited or angled as to be dishonest about the state of the business.                                                                                                                                                             If for some reason high-quality photos are difficult to obtain or the business itself must remain confidential, owners can use stock photos that convey the business's purpose and location. Websites such as Pexels are great resources for free stock photos. Be sure to carefully label these images to avoid misrepresenting them as actual photos of the business.
  2. Be descriptive. To enhance the value of your business, be generous with your descriptions and highlight its unique features. If you provide only limited details, prospective buyers might lose interest or assume you have something to hide. Instead, inspire confidence with honest, detailed descriptions of the current state of the business and the reasons you have decided to sell. Paint a clear picture of where the business is, where it's going and what the buyer can expect upon purchasing.
  3. Get creative with your headline. Creativity is especially critical when  developing a headline for your listing; in a sea of options, you want your business to stand out. Writing something punchy, eye-catching and informative can help propel your business to the top of prospects' lists. Put yourself in the buyer's shoes and think about the qualities that would make you want to invest. Focus on and clearly call out the best features of your business.
  4. Include key financials. One of the best ways to attract viewers is by disclosing key financials, including information like balance sheets and cash flow and income statements. Many potential buyers search for businesses based on these key metrics. Again, by excluding this critical information, buyers might assume you are trying to hide unsavory details and quickly pivot from your listing.  
  5. Proofread. Small grammar and spelling errors might not seem like major mistakes, but they can easily deter buyers from looking further into a listing. Buyers want to feel a sense of confidence that the previous owner is competent, professional and meticulous -- and the professionalism of your listing should reflect these traits. Ask a trusted editor to proofread your listing, or, if that's not an option, print the listing out and perform your own grammar and spelling check -- multiple times.

The tips above will help strengthen your listing, but don't overlook the obvious. Be sure to include a geographic location and clear contact information. Also, try to list on multiple media formats, including local newspapers,online marketplaces and social media.

If your business must remain confidential, you can create a blind ad. Your listing can include a catchy headline and alluring description without revealing any identifiable details. In addition to stock photos, business owners can also limit location information (expose at least your country and city is ideal) and set up a specific inquiry email and phone number. Many listing websites also provide identity protection features for confidentiality.

There are many moving parts when it comes to selling a business, and owners often prepare years in advance. But make sure you don't overlook the small but critical parts of the sale amid larger tasks -- you could lose out on top-notch buyers in the process.