How to Sell Common Stock

By: Victoria Duff

Your broker can help you decide the best way to sell your stock.

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Selling common stock is a simple process, particularly if you hold your stock in a brokerage account. If you hold it in certificate form, the certificates must be delivered along with a stock power indicating you give permission to deposit the stock to your brokerage account. Don't hesitate to call your branch broker or the customer service line of your online broker to ask questions if you are an inexperienced investor. A poorly stated order can result in delays or errors.

Step 1

Open a brokerage account online or at a local brokerage or bank branch. You will need to provide your Social Security number, address and employment information. There may be other requirements, depending on the policies of the firm. If you use an online broker, then you must print, sign and send in the account forms. Be prepared to wait a few days while your account application is delivered and goes through processing. A branch brokerage office usually can take in your stock and sell it the same day you open your account.

Step 2

Send in or deliver your stock to your broker if you hold the stock in certificate form. Download a stock power from your online broker or get one at your broker's local branch. Sign the stock power and deliver it with your certificates. You might have to get a signature verification, so ask your broker about the firm's policies on signatures.

Step 3

Check the trading symbol of your stock. If you fill out the trade ticket for your online account, you might need to use the stock symbol rather than the name of the stock. Some companies have different classes of stock and each carries a different stock symbol. The stock symbol is composed of one to several capital letters.

Step 4

Check the number of shares of the stock you own. Go to your online portfolio list if you do business with an online broker or check your latest account statement from your brick and mortar broker. To be safe, ask your branch broker to verify the number of shares when you call to place the sell order.

Step 5

Place the order to sell. Do this either by calling your broker and stating that you want to sell your desired number of shares of a company either at the market price or, if you want to sell at a specific price, state the price and indicate the price you want. When you specify a price, tell the broker if it is a day order or a good-til-canceled (GTC) order. If you are using an online brokerage firm, go to your portfolio listings and click on the stock position you want to sell and specify whether it is a market or limit order. You can accomplish the same thing by filling out the sell order ticket, but be careful to indicate your order is to sell rather than buy the stock.


  • Once your stock is sold, it normally takes three days for the transaction to clear. If you need the money immediately, your broker might be able to settle the transaction the same day it is sold. A market order to sell is typically transacted the same day. But if you want to sell at a specific price, the stock must reach that price before the order is executed.


  • When you place an order, you are legally committed to stand behind it even if you make a mistake and place the order to buy when you wanted to sell the stock. You are also committed to deliver the exact number of shares in your order. It is easy to make a mistake, so check your trade confirmation as soon as possible to catch any errors before the market moves too far against you.


About the Author

Victoria Duff specializes in entrepreneurial subjects, drawing on her experience as an acclaimed start-up facilitator, venture catalyst and investor relations manager. Since 1995 she has written many articles for e-zines and was a regular columnist for "Digital Coast Reporter" and "Developments Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in public administration from the University of California at Berkeley.

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