Craiglist.org is probably the best free site to sell your unwanted items. It’s the internet version of garage sale. The next distant best site is kijiji.com which has been bought out by EBAY as http://www.ebayclassifieds.com/. Throughout Christmas & Valentine’s day, I have been posting some of my extra unwanted items for sale. It takes several postings & transactions to actually learn the art of selling on craiglist.
Here are some precious lessons that I have learned from my experiences of over 10 successful transactions:
1. Privacy issues: most people would post their emails and/or contact phone number within the posting. If you care about your own privacy, don’t do that. Potential buyers can always email your registered craiglist email by clicking on your post. Once you post your email and phone numbers, they get copied to so many other craiglist copycat sites. Your posts will expire after 45 days on craiglist, but on other copycat sites, it could be forever. This way it reduce the chance of getting phone & email spams too. If you really have to post a phone number, use a Google Voice phone number.
2. Do your market research: For every item that you sell, you should always think as the potential buyer, and search briefly on Amazon, craiglist, ebay, Walmart/Target, etc. for the same item. That is the only way to determine your best pricing. A good price will always sell itself. You obviously want to undercut others a little. And you should post a couple of your search result in your own ad too to convince the buyer that indeed they are getting a better price from you.
3. Pricing: if the absolute price of your item is high, it will really take a bigger effort to sell (unless it’s highly popular like ipad, Wii, etc). You have to know that people who browse & buy from craiglist probably don’t have much spare money to begin with. If they have money, most of them are extreme price bargainers. I didn’t understand this initially, but after awhile, I realize that ALL people who actually buy from craiglist always expect a price cut from your original posting price, even if the posted price is dirt cheap already. To optimize on between getting more interests versus finishing off the transaction, my advice is to post a low enough price to stir interests, and then reserve a 5% to 10% discount for price negotiation. The room should not be more than 10%, or else you may not even get any replies to your post. And give the buyer your final 5% to 10% discount to sweeten the deal or fatten up your profit margin, depending on how things go.
4. Taking a firm stand on your pricing: If you ever want to be successful in any negotiation, the first thing that you need to understand is that you need to position yourself to walk away from the deal anytime mentally. So unless you simply want to throw away your item for sale, then you need to have an attitude of not being able to sell your item when the price is not right. Why is this even important? Because there are so many craiglist trolls who would low-ball your price extremely to almost insult your common sense. If you get those low-ball offers, just ignore them. And if anybody asks for your lowest price, don’t give away all of your padded 5% to 10% room all at once.
5. Price negotiation techniques: Because Craiglist is like a silent invisible auction, there is no way for the buyer to know how many people are bidding and at what price. In a way, it’s like selling/buying a home with a given listed price. Therefore, what you need to do is to guess the buyer’s willingness and create the image of invisible bidding frenzy if possible. So if you have only one offer, you may still want to state to that only buyer that you cannot give more discount to this only buyer because “the other buyer” has given you this price already. You could risk losing out this only buyer, but it would preserve your little amount of price margins.
6. Art of advertisement: Photos are a must. Always emphasize the good points, and disclose any necessary defects that the buyer should know in the ad. Your advertisement must be honest (so that you don’t waste your time & buyers’ time besides all the legal issues). And during the entire sale process, never tell your buyers anything that could discourage the sale. I was selling a big CRT TV with HD-input at a cheap price. Because of the low price & the HD confusion with the LCD, I got more than 10 inquiries. I was over-confident and told all of the buyers as my disclosure that if they get hurt in moving the 150+ pounds of CRT, I cannot be responsible. Well, that did it, and scared away ALL buyers. I actually needed to repost my ad to sell the TV. At the end, I was still able to sell my 30+ inch CRT for about $30.
7. Prompt response: especially if your item is hard to sell. The buyer sometimes has a sudden compulsive urge. And if you don’t continue this purchasing process promptly along with him or her, the deal will simply not go through once the buying urge is gone. So in the email exchanges, not only you should be prompt, but also you would recreate buyer’s urge repeatedly by how much you cherish this item of yours but only selling it because of …(some “unfortunate” or inconvenient reasons).
8. A Big handshake to finish off: In whatever business negotiations, you should learn that only by making your customers happy, then it’s a good business. I had repeat business on Craiglist from a customer because I made him “happy” in terms of quality and pricing. I didn’t need to negotiate much at all for the second & third time because he knows that I had already “given” him the best possible price. Well, of course, I was still making a tiny amount of money (even though he still thinks that he is getting the best possible deal from me).
9. Post at the optimal time: Based on my personal experiences, I think posting on Friday and Sunday/Monday night or Saturday and Monday/Tuesday early morning should be the best. Monday & Tuesday internet traffics are always the heaviest for almost all sites. However, since it’s an internet garage sale, I usually prefer posting for the weekend on Friday. Quite often, the sale is all done before Monday, if you have priced your item correctly.
10. Don’t post too often too fast: this is just a special “feature” on craiglist. If you post too frequently (like more than 2 posts in an hour), your account can be suspended, and/or your posts will never appear. Stick to craiglist rules carefully, and don’t re-post the same item. Otherwise, you may need to find a new IP address and create a new account to continue selling. I actually found that it was quite easy to trip on craiglist’s watch for spammers.
11. Xmas season helps A LOT: one third or more of the total retail sales happens from Thanksgiving to New Year. Be part of it and go with the flow. Your asking prices can also be higher during this time (simply due to more buyers).
I learned so much from selling on craiglist that I sort of went from being a total nerd to a semi-savvy salesman. The lessons were worth so much more than any amount of money that I was making on craiglist. When my kids grow bigger, I also want them to learn these invaluable lessons firsthand by selling on craiglist. It really takes practices to be a good negotiator, and selling on craiglist is the best prep for that.
So what did I sell on craiglist? I sold PSP, Nintendo DS, baby crib, Legos, TV, several baby & kid’s toys such as tricycles. If the items were new, I made 3% to 15%. If the items were used, I recovered 40% to 100% of the original price that I paid (except the TV of course). I would say that it was a pretty darn good record.