3 tips for startup founders negotiating their own domain name deals


Today I was talking to a startup founder who was trying to figure out the best way to negotiate a deal for a domain name she wanted to buy. She was in a situation that I think many founders find themselves in, they know they want a specific domain, but don’t know the best way to reach-out and start the process of making a deal happen.

There’s a real fear that exists at this point. What if you make the wrong move and screw up the deal and have to go back to the drawing board to pick a new name? Well, to be perfectly honest, this is a healthy fear and yes, you can screw up a deal.

Below are three pieces of advice I give founders that ask me about best-practices for negotiating a domain name deal on their own.

  1. Reach-out to the owner directly (use a WHOIS lookup to find their email) and start with an offer. If you just reach-out and say, “I want to buy this domain, how much do you want for it?” Don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer. Also when making an offer, you don’t have to start at the top of your range but don’t make it so low that it doesn’t make any sense. I usually recommend for two and three word .COMs starting with an offer in the $1,500 – $3,500 range.
  2. Don’t play the, “I need this domain for a student project” card. Seriously, people can see through this and starting a business deal with a lie is never a great move. Also leading your email with, “I’m a startup with a small budget” also won’t get you very far. Instead keep it short and sweet, let them know you want to but the domain and make a reasonable offer.
  3. Be prepared for a counter-offer. I’ve seen deals fall apart too many times when someone makes an offer, then the domain owner gets back to them with a counter-offer, and then they say something like, “sorry, my offer was the most I would pay.” Don’t make that mistake, know that if you make an offer, you could get a counter-offer and yes, you might have to pay more for the domain name.

If you’re trying to understand what prices domain names sell for, because let’s face it, you might not be keeping up with domain sales these days, I recommend looking at DNJournal and NameBio. Both of these sites keep updated lists of domains that sell so you can have a better idea for what a realistic price is for the domain you’re looking for.

Last but not least, whatever you do don’t insult the domain owner, call them a squatter, or claim that they’re “not doing anything with the domain” because if you do that you’ll either lose the deal or the price will get a whole lot higher. Hope this helps, now go get that domain!

{ 9 comments… add one }

  • Michael April 27, 2017, 7:46 pm

    Good advise Morgan! So many people wanting to buy a domain think they should be $10 I am like what is so wrong with spending a few thousand for a good tool for your businesses!

  • Scott Bender April 27, 2017, 8:06 pm

    Good advise as always.
    Two weeks ago, someone found one of my domains through a whois lookup.

    It was the web developer of the person who wanted the domain. I replied and gave them a range of what I wanted for the domain.

    Then I got a much smaller offer from the actual person wanting the domain.

    After a few emails back and forth, we came to where the buyer paid 10 times what his original offer was and we did a 3 payment plan. He and his team are so excited.

    After getting the final payment, I will transfer the domain to his account.

    Kind of fun after all these years.

    OH, and I posted on a unique (barter / trade) bulletin about another domain for sale. They offered me $1,000 less than asking price. I countered to split the difference and made two sales last week.

    After all these years watching your posts, it is still nice to see them.


    Scott Bender (Orlando, FL)

  • sagar April 28, 2017, 1:31 am


  • Eric Lyon April 28, 2017, 1:59 pm

    Excellent write-up on negotiating. It’s way too common for sellers to shoot themselves in the foot in the middle of negotiations for the reasons you outlined in your article.

  • Eric Lyon April 28, 2017, 2:00 pm

    (Above post) Sellers = Buyers – Both shoot themselves in the foot, however, i meant buyers in my previous comment :p lol

  • Domainora April 29, 2017, 12:49 pm

    Someone who has no experience buying domains really shouldn’t try the diy approach, just as someone who is not a dentist shouldn’t extract teeth.

    Sure it’s possible, but when thing go wrong, they are really tough to work around and I’ve seen people get it wrong so many times it’s not even funny.

    If you’re serious about buying a domain name and have a decent budget, it makes sens to have a professional evaluate a plausible price range and negotiate on your behalf.

    • Adam April 30, 2017, 2:06 pm

      There are many so-called “professionals” in the domain name business who claim experience and expertise . They make similar mistakes, waste similar amounts of time and are just as liable to blow a deal as someone doing DIY. To use the analogy above, imagine if dentistry weren’t regulated. We’d have a lot of people claiming to be “dentists” , experimenting on your dime and at your risk.

      • Domainora May 5, 2017, 6:56 pm

        Agree that there are a lot of posers in this business, but you seriously can’t be suggesting a business owner DIY a domain purchase given that is what Evergreen does!

        As in all other business, buyer beware, make sure you use the right intermediary for your requirements.

        Most buyers don’t even understand the difference between a registry and a registrar, let alone how to go about negotiating a domain purchase and do tend to blow it.

  • Bill Sweetman May 3, 2017, 5:33 pm

    Just because you can try to do an important task by yourself doesn’t mean you’re the most qualified person to actually do that task. Sure, I’d love to try flying a plane but since I have no training and experience the results will likely be disasterous. People like Adam (above) and I have decades of experience acquiring domain names for clients and we can save clients a lot of time, money, and pain.


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