If you're a business owner who's been approached with an unsolicited acquisition offer, you might be feeling a mix of emotions—relief and excitement that your hard work has finally paid off, disappointment at the low asking price, or even fantasies about retirement to a tropical island.

Regardless of how good the offer seems, there are still questions to ask and procedures to follow before you sign on the dotted line. Follow the tips below in order to make the negotiation process as straightforward and advantageous as possible.

Know Your Conditions

Even before the bid arrives in your mailbox, you should already have some idea of what kind of offer you would seriously entertain. Do you run a family business that you have no intention of ever selling? Or, are you looking at other opportunities and willing to consider a lower offer just to get the business off your plate? Also, be aware of any other factors that may affect your answer, such as a non-compete or nondisclosure agreement.

No matter what your personal situation is, you shouldn't make any hasty decisions or start spreading the news immediately. Take the time to consider how selling your business will impact your professional and personal life and to draft a thoughtful, well-planned response to the buyer.

Seek Advice

Once you've decided to at least consider the offer, you also need to decide who you'll consult throughout the process. Family, friends and trusted employees can serve as excellent sounding boards on the personal side of things. Professionally, you'll likely want to contact legal and financial experts, such as attorneys and accountants specializing in mergers and acquisitions.

In the end, however, it's your business that you're looking to sell, and you are the only one responsible for making the final decision about the transaction. As such, it's your responsibility to fully educate yourself on the terms of the offer and its implications for yourself and your employees.

Consider Your Situation

Once you've identified a solid group of people to provide advice during the process, consult with them about your current situation and whether it makes sense to sell now. Are the short-term and long-term prospects for your company and industry strong, or are customers beginning to dry up?

In addition, ask an expert about which financial options are best for your tax situation. For instance, does it make more sense to receive the payment all at once or in installments? Should you structure the sale by transferring your assets or your stocks to the buyer? These are things you need to know.

Evaluate the Buyer

Even if you're prepared to accept the buyer's offer straight away, you still need to do your due diligence in making sure that everything is on the level. For one, don't get tunnel vision and assume that the offer currently on the table is the best offer you could receive. Many buyers send low offers to multiple companies, putting little effort into each and hoping for one acceptance. Unless you've already made an exclusive commitment to the buyer, feel free to approach other potential buyers with an offer of your own, using the initial buyer's offer as leverage.

In addition, inform yourself about the buying party so you have the highest confidence that the acquisition will go smoothly. Research the buyer's background, industry reputation, financial health and history of any other acquisitions. If your business has sentimental value or personal meaning for you, be sure that the buyer is willing to preserve your company values and legacy once he takes it over.

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