What Worked And What Didn’t In 2011 – Part 2: Domain Sales


Last year I made some major breakthrough when it came to selling domains. I have always been completely honest when I say that I suck at selling domains. I am not a domain broker nor do I spent a lot of time actively selling domains. At the end of 2010 I had realized that part of my problem selling domains was that I had a portfolio dominated by .NET, .ORG, .INFO, etc. and a small number of .COMs.

After talking with a few of my mentors and friends in the industry they kept reiterating the same thing, “you have to start putting more focus on .COM Morgan!” This was only part of the puzzle but I learned a lot last year and sold over 30 domains last year with an average selling price of around 2.5K. I put more time in than I had in previous years, but I also learned how to spend my time more effectively. Which brings us to what worked and what didn’t work in 2011!

Domain Sales – What Worked In 2011

  • Buying aged, two and three-word .COMs. Almost every single domain I purchased in 2012 was a .COM. The advice I got from my friends who have been selling domains for 10+ years was to focus on two and three word .COMs, so I did. My average price-per-domain went up and I did buy less domains each month than in 2010.
  • Calling End-Users On The Phone. I made a lot of phone calls last year and they translated into real sales much better than I had expected. I didn’t call a million people for each name but instead really tried to identify the 2-3 top people that would be the best fit for the name.
  • Sending Different Sales Emails To Different Potential Buyers. Rather than sending the same sales letter I had customized letters for each domain that really brought-out what made it unique and what the opportunity was. I also shortened all of my emails which before were several paragraphs and are now less than five sentences long. Keeping it short and sweet is important and I think that not making it look like a sales letter plays to your benefit.
  • Listing My Domains On Marketplaces Like Afternic, Sedo, and Snapnames. I made sure that every single domain I bought went-into all of the marketplaces. This year I decided to go with “Make Offer” rather than fixed-price despite data showing that fixed-price names sell better. I’m okay being patient and waiting for the right buyer, I really want to sell to end-users rather than Domainers through these platforms and listing as “Make Offer” will get most Domainers to ignore you. I’m not concerned with selling names quickly, I’m much more interested in selling names to a Buyer who really wants the name and sees the value.
  • I am no longer a motivated seller. Thinking this way changed things a lot for me! Special thanks to Rick Schwartz who really hammered this home in his Domain Sherpa Interview along with Adam Dicker who also made some phenomenal points in his interview. Both Rick and Adam talked about having no issues sending a prospective Buyer away and telling them to find another domain. I took this approach this year and in my sales letters and phone calls emphasized that I was looking for the right buyer, not a quick sale.
  • Buying Domains That Exactly Matched The Keywords In An Advertisers Ad. If someone is already advertising for the exact keywords in your domain then you know they see value in it. If they are paying $5/click you know that they really care about those keywords. If you have the exact-match .COM you might have an interested buyer.
  • Pushing For The End-User To Make An Offer. One of my top mentors (I’ll add him in after the fact if I get his approval) told me that in a domain sales negotiation, the person who throws out the first number loses. They gave me a ton of examples, and they are absolutely right. It took me a while to get comfortable with this and it wasn’t until about mid-2011 that I was 100% on the “Offers Only” train.
  • Using Escrow.com. Using an escrow service is absolutely critical when selling domains to protect you and the buyer. Escrow.com came through and exceeded expectations this year. Not only was the service lightning fast but Buyers felt very comfortable using Escrow.com and really trusted the brand. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Escrow.com rocks!

Domain Sales – What Didn’t Work In 2011

  • Selling Other TLDs To End-Users. While I’m sure there are end-users out there interested in other TLDs everyone I talked to wanted the .COM. When I tried to sell .NETs and .ORGs the deals often went nowhere either because I got no response, or the buyer indicated they loved the name, but wanted it in a .COM. Also selling the .COM owner the .NET or .ORG of their name didn’t produce much either. It really was two and three-word .COMs that got people’s interest.
  • Long Sales Letters. I tried about ten different sales letters this year and found, the longer they got, the less responses I would get. Same was true on the phone, short and sweet always won.
  • Giving A Price Range To An End-User. I sold a domain last year for $5,500 after I told the buyer my range was between $5K-$10K. Once I had said that range I was screwed. I countered his 5.5K and kept trying to bring it up but he wouldn’t budge. I don’t blame him, he got a range, and put in an offer that he was sticking to in that range. Later when I found-out who the buyer was I realized I could have thrown out $25K-$30K and probably sold it for $25.5K. Valuable lesson and like I said in the “what worked” section above, pushing end-users to make an offer was important, and I had to learn from some mistakes to get that.
  • Selling .US Domains. I ended 2011 without selling a single .US domain. As I’ve said before this is a great TLD for development with but I can tell you that end-users haven’t even heard of .US and typically aren’t interested. My sales letters for .US names always received absolutely no response, not one, all year.
  • Asking Buyers If I Could Publish The Sale On My Blog. The answer to this was almost always a very resounding, “No,” but in some cases I got the green-light. In general though this made people really nervous and might have prevented people from buying more names from me in the future. One guy got so nervous he wanted me to sign a separate NDA, all for a four-figure sale…either way, asking this question didn’t go over well or work to build trust. My plan in the future is to include this as a clause in my sales contracts rather than just asking it on its own out of the blue. (Anyone else with experience here feel free to share what you do in these situations!)
  • Selling Domains With Four Or More Words. It really was the two and three-word .COMs I bought that sold this year. Four words or more and they looked pretty darn ugly as the subject of an email, and even worse when you’re saying them over the phone. I bought some great four-word .COMs with great search volume and CPC but didn’t see nearly the level of interest that I saw with my two and three word .COMs.

As always, feel free to share what worked and what didn’t work for you in 2011! Or feel free to let me know anything above that you also encountered last year and share your own experience. Either way, comment and let your voice be heard!

(Photo Credit: betta design on Flickr)

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton