How to Negotiate Buying a Domain Name, Part II

[This is Part 2 of 3 in an ongoing series addressing how startups can negotiate buying a domain name. You can read the previous article here]

In the last article we covered the research phase that comes before contacting a domain owner. This time we’re exploring outreach tips as well as tactics to use when attempting to make contact with the seller. I’ve also included email examples.

  1. Tracking Extension – Domainers have written about their use of email tracking extensions like Sidekick or Streak. These extensions let you know if an email is opened. I recommend you use these, or an equivalent gmail extension, to gauge the success of your outreach attempts. However, this has its limitations as it only works if the person who opens the email has their settings enabled to display images; these tracking methods are primarily based on image inclusion.
  2. Record Contact Attempts – Keep track of which addresses you’ve sent emails to and when you sent them. This could become useful later if you notice a pattern in their response time.
  3. Outreach Etiquette – Be sure to reach out to domain owners via their preferred contact method, if they have one. If they don’t have one, begin by emailing them two times over a period of two weeks, and then follow up with phone calls. See below for example emails.
    • Phone Call – If they prefer to engage in negotiations over the phone, then agree and set a time. Carl Icahn, one of the best investors in the world, used to schedule negotiations at the end of his opponents work day in their respective time zone. Studies show that people suffer from decision fatigue later in the day and their willpower is compromised. He just made sure to take a nap or sleep longer before hand. Whether you should use a similar tactic is up for debate, but it’s effective.
  4. Contact Multiple Sellers – As I stated in the previous article, don’t put all of your eggs in one basket with a name, especially if you have a deadline. Open up your options and be honest with the seller that you’re considering alternatives. However, it’s ok to express that you’d prefer to own their domain.
  5. Inquiring Price – If possible, you should try to get a price from your seller at the onset of negotiations, and before presenting your offer. Be careful though, as the first number mentioned in negotiations is the benchmark for all subsequent offers. With this in mind, your initial message should be tailored toward the specific type of domain owner you’re approaching:
    • Domainers, Some Inventories, and Large Companies – This group won’t respond to emails without an offer. They usually won’t respond to emails with an offer in the wrong ballpark. Avoid hitting your ceiling straight out of the gate, but don’t insult them with something they’ll clearly refuse. Make sure the offer’s currency is clearly stated and understood by both parties. It’s fairly common for international deals to fail because each party accepted an amount they thought was in a different currency. Without an agreed price and meeting of the minds, no contract is formed.
    • Website Owners, Brokers, and Domains without Forwarding – Send a simple inquiry to this group of owners to measure their level of interest. It’s not necessary to present an offer to them, but instead it is appropriate to request a price first. It’s possible you could get the domain for far lower than your first offer if their price is low.
    • Domains at Auction – If the auction doesn’t have a “Buy-it-Now” price listed, send a private message to the seller on the auction platform asking them if they have one in mind. If they don’t respond shortly, use their email address. Your next move will depend on how they respond, and we’ll address the appropriate responses in the next article on negotiation and interaction. The goal is to get the owner to coordinate posting a BIN that is acceptable to you so you can win the auction.
  6. Legality – Offers presented over email or phone are binding when accepted. Make sure you can actually pay whatever number you submit. You should state the following in your offer:
    • That there is a specific amount of time the offer remains valid. This is so you won’t be held to an offer you made ages ago that went unanswered.
    • That the offer is pending based on fulfilment of any other deal terms.
  7. Spam – Make sure your email is not blacklisted as spam. Help prevent your offer from being flagged as a promotion or spam by refraining from inserting any links in the email body. Add a space between the domain mentioned and it’s TLD.
  8. Email Templates – Use the following examples as a start:
    • First Contact with Price
      Hello [Name],I would like to buy [domain] [TLD] for [amount] USD. Please let me know if you’re interested.I’m currently operating on a deadline to purchase it before [date]. I’m in contact with other domain owners, but I’m most interested in yours so I would like to make a deal.

      My offer is valid for [duration] days and is good pending our deal terms and due diligence.


    • First Contact without Price
      Hello [Name],How much is [domain] [TLD]? Are you interested in selling it?I’m currently operating on a deadline to purchase it before [date]. I’m in contact with other domain owners, but I’m most interested in yours so I would like to make a deal. Feel free to send me an email or give me a call.


    • Follow-up
      Hello [Name],I sent you an email regarding [domain] [TLD] last [date]. Are you interested in selling it?Again, I need to purchase it purchase it before [date] as I’m in contact with other sellers. I’d like to make a deal with you. You can reach me by phone or email.
  9. No Response – If they never respond to you, try including your offer, increasing your offer by order of magnitude, or contracting a broker. It’s entirely possible they’re not taking you or your offer seriously.

Don’t get discouraged when doing outreach. It’s common for people to take a long time to respond. It’s possible that they were busy during that time or on vacation. However, if you don’t hear from them after trying several times over email and phone for two months, it’s a sign that they’re not interested, or that you need to hire a professional broker.

If you have any stories or tips you’d like to share, please leave a comment!

Checkout part III next week where I’ll address the interaction and negotiation portion of the process.

Edward Zeiden

Edward Zeiden

Domain enthusiast and entrepreneur, Edward Zeiden, has been in the tech industry for several years. After co-founding the startup, NameLayer (subsequently acquired by Techstars) he pursued a career in