Domainers: You’re Doing It Wrong

I am not a domainer. But I spend a fair bit of time haggling with domainers.

I’m what most domainers would call an ‘end user’. Or as an old boss might say: ‘a schmuck who spends too much money on over-priced domain names’.

In short, I want to buy premium domains for my websites. Often, I approach owners of parked domains or mothballed sites out of the blue.

Alas, many domain sellers try their luck with the same old Jurassic negotiation tactics. If you’re a domainer and guilty of these, I believe you are harming your business.

  1. Saying you’ll only sell for a “life-changing sum of money”. Sedo listing reads “Price: $600”.
  2. Pretend you’ll be “running your offer past the company board”. Two minutes on LinkedIn tells me you’re a one man band.
  3. Inventing a 3rd party owner. The bluff is usually a) obvious and b) unconvincing.
  4. Refusing to name a price…
  5. …then refusing to name a price range.
  6. Requesting blind incremental bids against a mythical “last minute bidder”.
  7. Aggresively slurring every approach as “lowballing”, “timewasting” or ‘tirekicking’…
  8. …before a price has even been discussed.
  9. Dismissing an offer without making a counteroffer.
  10. Not maintaining WHOIS details on a domain with the same dollar value as my home.
  11. No company website when I’m trying to contact a domain owner.
  12. Refusing to give a company name, phone number or even first name in email correspondence.
  13. Installing a jazzy WordPress blog on a $100,000 domain… with no contact form and no content. Unless you count the default WordPress about page…
  14. This is an example of a WordPress page, you could edit this to put information about yourself or your site so readers know where you are coming from. You can create as many pages like this one or sub-pages as you like and manage all of your content inside of WordPress.

  15. Pricing domains at 100x the going rate for comparable TLDs, keywords, sectors etc.
  16. Insisting your .INFO domain commands a $20,000 price tag. Not like the junk .INFO domains every regular schmuck has, you understand…
  17. Confusing ‘passive aggressive’ with ‘expert negotiator’.
  18. Patronising buyers. That means “talking down” to people.
  19. Claiming to have had ‘a much higher offer years ago’ for a 3 month old dropcatch domain.
  20. BSing about traffic/earnings: “I’ll make that from the parking revenue alone” [read: “…over the next 80-100 years, provided Go Daddy slash reg fees to $1/year”].
  21. Insisting that ‘serious buyers’ don’t ask about existing traffic/earnings.
  22. Pretending that you plan to develop the domain… when 30 seconds on Google shows you’ve been hawking it on Sedo, BuyDomains, DNForum, NamePros etc since 2005.
  23. Lying about selling links. Especially via Text-Link-Ads.com
  24. Denying the Google ban or pagerank penalty is anthing to do with the above.
  25. Claiming your .COM is worth “so much” that you haven’t *needed* to register the .NET & .ORG (funny – neither has anyone else).
  26. N00b domainers seeing how many of the above they can tick off in one email.

What Domain Buyers Really Think…

Individuals, companies and domain names have been redacted to spare blushes, but every single example above is real.

I understand that the big bucks for most domainers is in selling to end users. Now, while I’m not buying $100,000 domains – or anything close to – I do regularly buy and bid on aftermarket domains.

For most domainers, I imagine these kind of sales – low $XXXX sales to people like me – are the bread-and-butter of their business.

Domainers, if you want to sell your domains for money – the kind you can spend on rent, groceries, mortgage payments – then the ‘arrogant geeks’ act needs to be retired.

To recap: It’s only a business if your domains earn money. Otherwise… it’s an expensive hobby.

5 Ways To Sell More Domains

Rather than just calling people out on bad practices, it’s only fair if I explain what I’d do differently:

  1. Be Honest. Nobody wants to buy anything from somebody they know – or even suspect – is lying.
  2. Gain Insight. Don’t assume a buyer’s motivations are identical to your own. I am no more interested in your parking revenue CPM rate than your shoe size or favorite ice-cream flavor.
  3. Be Polite. Do I seriously have to explain this one?
  4. Learn To Sell. Some domainers live in the dark ages of the internet. I’ve heard has-been jargon (‘gets plenty of hits’) quoted like an elderly relative name dropping the Rolling Stones.

    Your potential buyers care about things like traffic, earnings, branding etc.

  5. Think Global. Outside the US, countries like the UK and Germany are big aftermarket domain markets. And people do business differently.

    I’m not suggesting anybody start quoting Fawlty Towers. Or learn how to conjugate German verbs. But a little effort goes a long way.

 

Comments

  1. says

    Couldn’t agree more, the amount of crap I’ve had to deal with in e-mails from idiotic replies. Sedo should shoot some of the folk on there.

    Lowballing is annoying if you are a seller but then why not up your minimum offer amount to what you are looking for?

    Good article.

  2. Richard Kershaw says

    I agree that Sedo are part of the problem, but that’s a post in itself.

    To take the first example I can think of, Sedo’s offer/count-eroffer process is bad for buyers and sellers alike. It encourages a lot of this behaviour.

    Exhibit A: Making an offer with a qualifying statement, but the seller doesn’t see the statement because it’s yet to be moderated. Offer gets rejected w/o the seller ever seeing the offer in context.

  3. says

    The one that always annoys me is when someone posts a price on Sedo, so you send an offer for the asking price for them to come back with a counter offer somewhere between 10 and 25 times the price they have listed it….it seems to be an increasing trend too.

    If you then ask why the price hike, the standard reply is “it’s cheap at that price” but totally unable to justify why….although it is amazing how many of them will tell you that they are earning £30 000 per month so do not need to sell it as a justification.

    It has got so frustrating that I have given up using them and have got much better results just approaching people directly. Sedo seems to need a “buy it now” style model, whereby if you bid the asking price they have to sell it, or just do auctions.

  4. Richard Kershaw says

    Again, I’ve had very similar experiences on Sedo. It goes a little like this:

    Minimum offer: £500. I make an offer of £500. Seller’s asking price: £500,000.

    Again, Sedo leting sellers list with ‘Make Offer’ doesn’t help. It’s tough to make a credible opening offer when you’ve no idea what the sellers expectations are to the nearest zero.

  5. says

    Richard I get your RSS in my GGReader hoping you’ll post again one of these, always a pleasure to read your rants :)
    Yeah i currently stopped purchasing domains at sedo because of the same guys who think they hold a gem

    cheers

  6. Turkish Bob says

    “#10 Not maintaining WHOIS details on a domain with the same dollar value as my home.”

    Bought a domain recently after a protracted negotiation. It turns our their WHOIS wasn’t up-to-date – within a day or two of acquiring the domain, I get offers from people who weren’t able to contact the previous seller.

    If you’re not using a domain, make it as easy as possible for people to buy it.

  7. says

    Do people who make mistakes like that actually make any money? If they do, selling domains must be an amazing industry to be in!

  8. says

    Thank you for you article. Recently we were looking for a name with some pizzaz for our new website and we started looking in the after market and found the same frustrating things you describe. We figured if this was the regular experience out there then there must be a niched for a premimum domainer that operates with integrity in the dealings. Out of that came a new site for us… “Domain Blitz”:http://www.domainblitz.com . We purchased about 600 brandable domain names and we are now in the process of developing logos for all of them and placing them for sale on our site. The site is active but still under construction. Currently we have about 60 domain names with unique logos for each. Thanks again for your blog!

  9. Lisa Fontana says

    Richard, surely you’re aware that owners of premium domain names get a LOT of unsolicited inquiries about domain names. They range from rude to absurd. I’ve been threatened and called names just because I had the foresight to register a name before the other party realized they wanted it.

    If I haven’t listed a name for sale anywhere, I expect a prospective buyer to say something that will get my attention – and that includes an initial offer. Ultimately, domain names are worth what someone is willing to pay for them – so I expect YOU to tell ME what you’re willing to pay for it. If it’s interesting and you prove you’re a serious buyer, then it’s worth spending more of my time on.

    I have a standard response to inquiries because I got tired of wasting my time on people who thought they could get a premium dot-com name for $50, especially if they told me they’re a poor student working on a project (while using their company e-mail address and real name – like you, I know how to search LinkedIn and find that the “poor student” is actually CEO of a large company with a business related to the generic name they want to buy). More than 95% of the time, I don’t hear back from people after I send the standard response, which is intended to prove the actual identity of the person and how serious they are. I’ve had people tell me they “aren’t comfortable” providing this information to someone they don’t know – yet they’re expecting me to discuss sale of a property with johndoe@gmail.com!

    Add e-mails from people requesting link exchanges with my PR2 to PR5 sites. You have to have some criteria for sorting through the chaff.

    I would, for once, like to receive a purchase inquiry from someone who appears to have done his/her homework; i.e. “I’m Richard Kershaw, with Quality Nonsense, Ltd. and I’m interested in your domain name keywordkeyword.com. In researching this potential purchase, I’ve found that similar names have sold in the range of $XXX. I would like to discuss with you an offer in that range.”

  10. Richard Kershaw says

    @Lisa – Thanks for your comments.

    If I haven’t listed a name for sale anywhere, I expect a prospective buyer to say something that will get my attention

    I find that a peculiar attitude to take if your business is selling domains (vs developing them), regardless of whether they are advertised for sale.

    I can’t imagine going to a car showroom to find a salesman with his arms crossed saying “Come on then – impress me, or I’m not interested in selling to you.”.

    It simply would not happen in any other industry – especially not when trying to sell:

    a) an expensive asset
    b) that’s often poorly understood
    c) to buyers who may be unfamiliar with the market.

    and that includes an initial offer.

    Again – there is no other sales-based industry where someone with money in their pocket to spend would be ignored unless he guessed what price the owner *might* want to sell at…

    domain names are worth what someone is willing to pay for them

    Expecting non-domainer buyers to be able to price accurately is hopelessly optimistic. Paid appraisals by experts vary wildly. Expecting your non-expert buyers to do the same? Never going to happen.

    I paid for an appraisal of a great dictionary domain last September at DomainAppraisal.org. The appraisal came back “XXXXXXX.NET is worth $36,400 – £65,000”.

    Now, my first thought is – if an expert is quoting me a price where the margin of error is 100%, I do not trust this. Period.

    you prove you’re a serious buyer, then it’s worth spending more of my time on.

    I fully appreciate that filtering time-wasters can be a full-time job in itself. Here’s an idea: setup an autoresponder for the unprompted offers, explaining exactly what information you require to respond to an enquiry.

    Send them to a simple contact form that validates they’ve entered all the required fields – easy to do with WordPress and cForms plugin. 10 minutes work generates more qualified leads & fewer time wasters.

    especially if they told me they’re a poor student working on a project (while using their company e-mail address and real name

    I know there’s a whole post waiting to be written about the bad things that buyers do, too. If you fancy writing it as a guest post, drop me a line.

    I would, for once, like to receive a purchase inquiry from someone who appears to have done his/her homework; i.e. “I’m Richard Kershaw, with Quality Nonsense, Ltd. and I’m interested in your domain name keywordkeyword.com. In researching this potential purchase, I’ve found that similar names have sold in the range of $XXX. I would like to discuss with you an offer in that range.”

    …which is broadly the approach I take – price-naming aside – so delighted to hear it seconded. Like your suggestion of naming a price range as a qualifying statement.

  11. Lisa Fontana says

    The comparison to a car salesman isn’t accurate because clearly the car dealership exists for the purpose of selling those cars.

    My business isn’t selling domain names. If it was, I’d list them for sale somewhere. My business is OWNING domain names that generate revenue through a variety of streams and/or have speculative value that makes it worth paying the renewal fees.

    Continuing with the car analogy, I have a couple of classic cars and frequently get asked if I’d consider selling them. Some people stop me in parking lots, others knock on my door. Under those circumstances, I expect that person to tell me what the car is worth to THEM – and then I’ll decide if it’s interesting enough to keep talking. Otherwise, I’m generally just pissed that I interrupted what I was doing and answered the door to talk to some yo-yo who thinks I should sell my Corvette for less than I paid the last time I had it serviced.

  12. says

    @Lisa great post. I think the important thing here is not all domain owners have any desire to sell .

    @Richard some good points and I did get a laugh or 2.
    I also found the argument that a buyer shouldn’t be expected to be educated on domain values to be off base. Anyone who is buying a domain or anything else should buy based on the idea of “what is this worth to me” . An appraiser can never understand your business and what a domain could mean to your bottom line. Only you can.

    The inquirers who feign ignorance and say “I don’t know what domains are worth” always figure out the value to their usea as soon as you tell them the domain price. Suddenly they can figure out that the price I quote is too high or just right. The buyer should always be aware of the value to them or don’t go buying . . .that applies to anything you buy I’d think.

    @Richard if Lisa doesn’t want to I’ll take you up sometime on that guest post from the other side.

  13. Richard Kershaw says

    @Adam – Agree 100% that buyers should value on what a domain is worth to them.

    I’m not suggesting that domainers should have to educate anyone, but I think it’s fair to say that if a) you do sell domains and b) you are a pro domainer, you are likely to have a very different idea of what a domain is worth to Joe Public.

    You’re far more likely to sell something if expectations are set out.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply