If there's one thing that prospective buyers have to realize is that part of the process is to make offers, make offers, make offers. Obviously, one should not be reckless or ridiculous about them, but you have to get over the fear of putting pen to paper and presenting offers to sellers.
Sellers and often brokers can take the stance that they will only release certain confidential information once an accepted offer is in place. Personally, I find this practice to be completely absurd, but it does happen. As such, an offer is the only way to keep the ball rolling.
In this example however, one should always use a non-binding Letter of Intent (LOI) and not a full blown offer, simply to avoid spending a lot of money on an attorney at this stage until more data is available.
In addition, an offer is the only mechanism at times to “take a seller's temperature” – meaning, to find out what they're really thinking.
Don't worry about insulting them – it's part of the game.
The other point about offers is that it becomes an easier practice once you've made a few of them.
The entire process of buying a business can vary with each deal. Buyers have to realize they are dealing with personalities – lots of them; sellers, brokers, accountants, attorneys and family members. It can be an emotional time for everyone.
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