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Business Broker Fees When Selling a Business: The Ultimate Guide

Erik Sullivan

Sellers Seller FAQ

Wondering how much business brokers charge? Like many things when it comes to selling a business - there's no simple answer. Nearly every business and every situation is unique.

But if you're in the planning stages of selling your business, you need a general idea of what it's going to cost. 

That's exactly what this article will give you. Let’s jump in!


How do Business Brokers get Paid?

There are two main types of charges when selling your business:

  • Success Fees
  • Retainers

A “success fee” is a fancy word for a commission.

A commission is a percentage fee on the sale price of your business. This fee is negotiated before you list with a broker and it's paid at closing.

"Retainers" are flat-fees M&A firms charge either as one upfront payment or as a monthly charge. 


If your business is under $25 million in revenue, beware of firms charging large up-front fees for valuations or consultations.

Interested in calculating an example success fee?

Download our Success Fee Calculator below!

Now that you’ve got the basics, let’s discuss how the size of your business influences the price you’ll pay.

The Size of Your Business Matters

While there are no strict definitions, most businesses fall into one of three size categories.

  • Main Street Business - $0.00 – $1M in revenue
  • Lower Middle Market - $1M – $25M in revenue
  • Middle Market M&A - $25M+ in revenue

Each category has a different typical pricing model. Again, since everything is negotiable your results may vary.

Main Street Business Brokers

Mainstreet business broker pricing example

"Main Street" brokers usually handle businesses with revenues of $1,000,000 or less.

They often charge 10% on the value of the business and 6% on any associated real estate.

Most do not charge retainers, but they may have a minimum commission fee of $10,000 – $20,000.

The most well-known business brokerages in this space are Sunbelt, VR, Murphy, and Transworld.


Main street deals are less complex than other transactions. Middle market and lower middle market deals may involve earnouts or minority buyouts that can complicate the commission structure.

Lower Middle Market Broker/Advisers

Lower middle market business broker pricing example

“Lower Middle Market” brokers usually handle businesses with revenues of $1M – $25M.

Most use the Double Lehman Scale for pricing, or a variation thereof (reverse Lehman, Standard Lehman Plus, etc.).

Double Lehman pricing charges 10% on the first million, 8% on the second million, 6% on the third million, 4% of the fourth million, and 2% on any remainder.

Firms at this level may also charge a flat commission of 4-6% on the entire sale price. If you do the math, there’s no difference between a 6% commission on a $5M sale price, and the Double Lehman pricing.

Some firms at this level charge retainers, but the majority do not. Lower middle market advisors often have a minimum commission fee of $35,000 - $50,000.

Middle Market Mergers and Acquisitions

Middle market M&A advisor pricing example

“Middle Market” advisors usually handle businesses with revenues of $25M+.

At this level, most success fees drop to a simple percentage, ranging from 1-4%. Some even drop below 1%. Firms may also use variations of Lehman pricing (scaled percentages) for middle-market businesses.

Retainers are commonly charged by middle-market firms, ranging from $5,000 all the way up to $50,000 or higher, depending on the size of the deal. Remember, these can be billed either upfront or monthly. 

The Easiest Answer to Broker Pricing

If you’re still not sure which category your business is in, we recommend using the Double-Lehman Scale: 10% on the first million, 8% on the second million, 6% on the third million, 4% on the fourth million, and 2% on any remainder.

Wondering what the sale price of your business will be? Check out our guide on SDE and EBITDA to get started on pricing your business.

You can also reach out for a free business valuation or give us a call and ask for help. We’d be more than happy to give some free advice or guidance.

How Long Will It Take to Sell?

We've compiled the data from more than 35,000 transactions to see how long it will take to sell your business.


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