The Secret to Selling on Craigslist

December 29, 2013

General, How-to

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You seem like someone I can trust, so I’ll take it, she said.  A surprising number of people have said the same thing. After talking with me for a few minutes on the phone, I estimate at least 90% of callers end up making a purchase. So what is it that closed the deal?  I earned their trust.

Why is trust so important?

Trust is important because people want to purchase things from a person or business that they trust. They don’t know if you are hiding information about the item they are interested in. They are asking themselves why this person is selling this item. Has it been mistreated? Has a cat urinated on it? Is it broken? People are asking these questions and more.

People are also trying to decide if they will be safe carrying out a transaction with you. They need to trust that you aren’t going to harm them. Unfortunately, many people have a negative view of Craigslist because each time someone is robbed or harmed during a Craigslist transaction, it gets featured on the local and national news outlets. Never mind that one is more likely to be run over by a golf cart (I have no proof other than my thousands of pleasant transactions), people are still afraid. So it’s our job to calm those fears, and earn people’s trust.

How to earn someone’s trust on Craigslist

1. Let your pictures show that you have nothing to hide.

People that are trying to hide dents or blemishes in items often exclude the damaged part of the item from the image. Take pictures with the full item in view and take some pictures zoomed in.

2. Use your description to remove common fears that a person might have.

This communicates that you are thinking of them which in and of itself will build up trust. If there are any significant flaws with the item, mention them. One person might be turned away, but another could care less about a scratch, and in the end they will appreciate your honesty.

I always tell people they can see the appliances working before they purchase. Most people don’t take me up on that offer, but the offer alone communicates that I’m confident that the machine works well enough to demo it. The same goes for all sorts of other items. Tell them they can see the item work or function before they purchase it.

3. Be helpful.

Your job is not to sell them the item, it’s to help them solve a problem. Those are two different approaches. People trust the person that is genuinely trying to help them, and naturally distrust those that are just trying to sell them something. I have passed up business a number of times because the person that called could have their problem solved without buying an appliance from me. Remember, if you are in business, you are in the problem solving business. More than once I tried to persuade a person into a more cost effective course of action, only to be overruled by them when they insisted on purchasing appliances from us. Their trust had been earned and they weren’t concerned about saving a few dollars. Take care of people and it will go well with you.

4. Be confident.

People will ask all sorts of questions. Be confident in your responses. There is no reason to be ashamed because you buy and sell items, work from home or any other topic. Confidence comes through your tone of voice and will either reassure someone that you are worth doing business with, or if you should avoided. You can’t blame someone for not being confident about purchasing from you if you are not confident in your product.

5. Be nakedly transparent.

Don’t try to dodge any questions or steer the conversation away from certain topics. People will naturally assume the worst, and their imaginations will often be far more harsh than reality. If you are trying to avoid a topic or hide something, people will sense it. People are incredibly good at smelling dishonesty.

When you earn a persons trust, you tend to earn the trust of that person’s friends and family. Keep it up and you will have more business than you will be able to handle!

I hope you all had a great Christmas!

-Ryan

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12 Responses to “The Secret to Selling on Craigslist”

  1. Gregory Says:

    You helped answer some questions I’ve had lately in this post. I sell washers and dryers in the Orlando area, and a lot of people here will immediately ask you if you’re a reseller when selling a washer/dryer, and then run away when you say yes. Seems like most people here are looking for a washer or dryer that’s only a couple years old that was bought new and being used in the house. So I guess what I have to do is have confidence and build trust with the people.

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I get that question all the time. I tell people this is our business and that we sell a lot of washers and dryers. I then go on and tell them about how we go through and thoroughly inspect them, repair any broken parts and clean the machines inside and out. You should be confident, and even taking pride in these facts because you know that your machines are in great condition. If you are, you will communicate that to the caller.

      I’ve been on both sides. When I first started out I had almost no confidence in the machines I was selling as I barely even knew how to repair them. This came across in the conversations I would have with people and I ended up losing a lot of sales.

      Hope this helps and keep at it. The longer you are in this business, the more your knowledge of the machines will and increase and the better you will get at talking to people and building up trust.

      Reply

  2. James Says:

    Very good advise Ryan!
    Thanks for sharing :-)

    Reply

  3. Aleks Says:

    Great post! As always, I learn something new, in this case when you mentioned “if you are in business, you are in the problem solving business.” I never really thought about it that way, but it’s true. Although I sell a few different things, primarily my sales are bikes, so when people ask me questions that pertain to the bike in their possession in the future, I give them advice either from my own personal experience or from what I’ve learned. I’ve noticed the moment that trust is established because they will become a lot more at ease and ready to buy the bike. All the other bullets you covered (clear pictures showing all angles, confidence when speaking) are aspects that assist that buildup of trust, and it’s really cool to be able to notice that instant when it all comes together!

    Reply

  4. Ash Says:

    I’ve just discovered your website and it’s a really good read. I’m trying to set up a similar business where I live in South Africa but it’s not quite so easy as it is in the USA or UK.

    Anyway – thanks for the tips :)

    Reply

  5. Kurt Frankenberg Says:

    Hiya Ryan!

    I think that you’ve made your whole business structure around these five principles… with a particularly good example being principle #3: BE HELPFUL.

    After all, both on the buy side and on the sell side you are helping someone to solve a problem. The sellers (or in some cases, donors) of appliances need this space-eating monstrosity out of their house! You solve the problem for them by coming to pick it up.

    On the sell side, you are solving the problem of a family that needs a washer or dryer… but not the expense of a brand new one.

    By genuinely trying to be helpful and provide solutions, you put yourself in the place of one that deserves to be rewarded with trust.

    The other principles… confidence, transparency, removing fear and showing that you have nothing to hide… spring naturally from this third principle of yours: genuinely trying to be helpful.

    Thanks for this post, Ryan! Specific action steps like using pictures and clear descriptions are certainly key to accomplishing the “helpful” piece.

    Keep Stepping,

    Kurt

    Reply

  6. Mills Says:

    Hi Ryan!

    Been browsing through your site for the last couple of days..you have some very helpful articles! I was wondering if you ever encounter an issue on CL with people becoming angry if you resell their item. For example, I would like to go pick up this free antique chair I saw, but plan on maybe painting it a different color (or maybe not!) and then reselling, probably on CL. Do you ever have a person notice you are simply reselling their item, and confront you about it? (you’re getting their item for free and then making a profit) It probably sounds silly that I would even be concerned about this, but since I will be using the same outlet to sell the products I was wondering if this was an issue for you at any point!

    Thanks!

    Reply

    • Ryan Says:

      I’ve never had someone contact me about reselling an item they had originally sold to me. Most people could care less, especially when you are adding value to the item in one way or another. A lot of people have this fear, myself included, but over time I have found it to be not an issue at all. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  7. Beth Says:

    Thanks so much for your perspective on sales! I have always hated trying to sell anything to anyone, even if i really think they need it. But i LOVE helping people! :)

    Reply

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