“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Albert Einstein
Over the course of my life I have come upon many a problem that I was not able to conquer because I kept doing the same thing over and over again hoping for different results. Today I want to share with you a number of tips that hopefully will help you overcome problems and in the end make you more money.
10. Research the going rate for your item
Millions of dollars are lost each year because of a lack of research by sellers before they list their items. How much are other people selling the item for? What about different Craigslist markets? How much is the item selling for on ebay? Amazon? Pawn shops? How much do dealers sell the item for? The more research that you do, the more money you will end up making when you finally sell your item. Knowledge will help you price your item more accurately and instill the confidence you need to stick to your price.
9. Stick to your price
When you list your item for sale, don’t drop the price for a few days or even a week. If someone calls and is interested in the item but makes a lower offer, tell them that you will consider their offer if you still have it at the end of the day, week or any other set time that you’ve decided. Almost always the person will still purchase the item. A lot of money is lost by sellers that simply don’t put any confidence in their original price.
Not sure what to price your item at? Overprice it on purpose and see if anyone responds. If not, then drop the price when it comes time to relist it. Patience pays.
8. Use slow times to prepare for busy times
For the longest time when I would have a really slow day of sales and I would almost bash my head against the keyboard trying to figure out more ways to sell just one more item. I’ve learned that this often is a mistake. Some days you will get more sales than others and you really can’t completely control that. I’ve found that slower days are great for preparing for busy ones. Spend that down time increasing inventory or repairing your existing inventory. Sit down today and make a list of things that need to be done related to your business. Maybe it’s paperwork, cleaning the shop, the garage or the office. When there is downtime, use it productively and start knocking off the items on your list. There should always be something to do. If there isn’t, go take your kids and wife to a park for the day.
7. Find other sources for product
Craigslist is obviously a great place to find product to buy, but if you really want to set yourself apart from your competition you need to outwork them. Find other sources for buying product. Put wanted ads up in supermarket bulletin boards, apartment complex communication boards etc. Befriend local scrap guys that will buy your yard equipment, appliances, wood stoves, exercise equipment as well as many other types of items. Garage and moving sales are great places to find product to sell.
6. Find other places to sell your product
Do you feel like you’ve been trying unsuccessfully to increase your profits? There is only so much money one person can make in a given category on Craigslist. Part of this is due to the amount of competition and the fixed number of buyers on a given day. It might be time to try to find another outlet for your items. Try something completely different as Einstein’s quote above suggests.
5. Understand why one item sells before another
If you are selling items in a saturated niche, like certain electronic items or certain basic appliances, you need to increase your inventory. Let me explain. If there are 100 iPad’s for sale and they are all comparably priced, what will cause one to sell before another? Whoever lists their iPad last will have the best chance of landing a buyer. It’s like fishing in a lake with 100 fisherman standing side by side trying to catch the same fish. Sure there is a chance that anyone with a line in the water will catch a fish, but the guy that casts his line in more times throughout the day will catch more fish. So the person that has five iPads listed is going to have a better chance than a person that is selling one.
As a side note, I often hear people complaining about how long it’s taking to sell their item. Sometimes it’s just a very common item and it’s buried under 50 other listings of the very same item. It will probably just take being relisted, or figuring out a way to set itself apart. This can be done by better pictures, price, possibly delivery, drawing attention to it’s condition, grouping it with another item etc.
It’s unbelievable how many appliance sellers won’t touch up little blemishes on the appliances they are selling. A few minutes and a little appliance epoxy can greatly increase the value of an appliance. Maybe it’s a stain on a piece of furniture that you need to scrub out. Maybe you need to spend a few minutes cleaning the item and making it look really nice. Often times the difference between someone being willing to pay top dollar for an item or not rests in the little details.
3. Get people to come to you
We are starting to experiment with encouraging more and more people to bring their old appliances to us in exchange for a discount in the price. It saves us a lot of time and gas and also makes us much more productive as we can be working and preparing more machines for sale while we wait for customers to arrive. If you are confident in the condition of the item after talking to the seller, it might be worth asking them to deliver it for a slightly higher price. This is especially appealing for really low priced items where there is almost no risk. Just ask yourself how much your time is worth plus your gas. It’s worth at least trying out.
2. Seek to purchase multiple items at a time
This past week Peter and I purchased 8 very nice washers and dryers in one pickup. The average pickup is 2 appliances and takes about an hour to hour and a half. We saved ourselves the three pickups. That’s a lot of time and gas. For appliances you can search out people that are remodelling and selling all their appliances. The same goes for other categories as well. Search for other listings by that seller by copying and pasting their phone number into the search field on the main Craigslist page for your area. This is very good way to increase your profit per hour worked.
1. Figure out a way to get free trade-ins
Selling something and making money is great. Selling something and getting the same item back that needs to be repaired is even better. If you sell a lawnmower, offer a discount if they bring their old one. If you are delivering an appliance, offer to do it for free in exchange for their old one. This one simple tip could revolutionize your business. It makes your time twice as productive as it greatly reduces how many separate pickups you need to do.
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Great blog. I’ve been applying your process for the last month and have been profiting ~$500 dollars a week after my regular 9-5. It’s hectic working in the small time slot after work, dealing with traffic, and hustling on weekends with a full social calendar but I’m making it happen.
I will probably ask you more questions as time passes, but the one that looms over me the most is how to deal with the over-the-phone question of “How old is the dryer/washer?”. I’ve found a website that actually states the exact age once you put in the model and serial, but it seems like anything older than 3 or 4 years from the manufacturer turns people off and they quickly end the conversation. Coming from a sales background I follow with how new the item looks cosmetically and that everything has been tested for a least an hour before listed. I offer free deliver and hookup in my ads, and over the phone I let them know that I do a test run at their house so they can be sure everything works. Literally ever item I sold had a least one person call and ask about age and then hang up. I hope you might have some advice on this.
I also run into the occasional “So this isn’t your dryer?” after they ask how long I’ve owned it, etc. After telling them fixing appliances is a weekend hobby or side-job, they usually end the conversation. A few have taken great interest, especially older men. But by and large, it seems there is an immediate shut down after stating this item isn’t my personal appliance, regardless of price or added value. They simply refuse to buy from someone obviously making money. Of course, other callers don’t care and are happy that your provide the service. Have you run into this?
Thanks and forgive the long comment. A couple of weeks in the making.
I give people an estimate of how old I think it is. Age often times irrelevant once a machine has been serviced/repaired. The biggest thing you want to do when people are calling is communicate that you are trustworthy. Don’t try to hide the fact that you resell machines. Tell them about how you take them apart, clean them out and make sure they are working excellent etc. If they get in a huff, let them buy it from an “owner” and they will get a filthy dirty machine that will probably need maintenance very soon. People just have no idea what they are doing when it comes to purchasing washers/dryers. Try to educate them the best you can while on the phone and it’s no worries if they choose not to buy.
When they ask if this is your dryer, tell them you liquidate people’s appliances, clean them up, make sure they are working excellent and then resell them individually. Say it with the confidence that comes from knowing that you made the dryer a much better and safer machine. They are going to be far better off purchasing your serviced machine.
I don’t get very many people that hang up without purchasing, maybe 4-5 out of a hundred. I’ve gotten pretty good at talking on the phone in the course of thousands of sales 🙂
Hope that helps!
Do you ever put up “Wanted to buy” ads up on Craigslist.
I haven’t done it a lot personally, but I know that they work and bring in a decent amount of machines. I will probably be experimenting with it more soon.
Excellent answer Ryan! One other thing that you could do CWayne, is to offer some sort of guarantee. This is a very typical sales technique that will certainly help. TO offset the guarantee, just raise the price by $50.
Hey Ryan, I saw you said you list delivery in the ad and then ask for the free exchange, my question is how do you list that without seeming too pushy? I saw your post about “How To Make Your Posting Standout” but I was wondering if you could post a picture or format of your ad with those two things incorporated, thanks.
99% of the time the people want to get rid of their old machine and it’s a great service for them. There are few people that want to hold onto their old machine to try and repair it, or sell it on Craigslist. Most of the time they regret it as it ends up in the garage for 6 months and then they get rid of it anyway. So basically, people don’t think it’s pushy.
As far as what I say, it’s basically looks like this. Price, free delivery in exchange for your old Whirlpool, Kenmore……washer, dryer or whatever you are selling. For all other brands delivery and setup is $20.
Basically communicates that you value their old machine and that you are willing to trade your time and gas via delivery and setup for it. Works great.
I’m hesitant to provide a ‘warranty’ as it handcuffs you on weekends and holidays etc. I guess there are ways around this that I’m not privy to but I see it as a potential nightmare, not necessarily because machines breakdown but because many will make frivolous requests that take up your time. I do something somewhat similar though, I just casually let them know if anything happens in the first two weeks to give me a call and I will take care of it- but I only say this if they ask about a warranty.
I’d be curious to know what Ryan thinks about offering a warranty on used appliances.
Just because you warranty a machine for 30 days doesn’t mean you are obligated to repair or swap it out the moment they call. People are reasonable and almost no other business operates or even answers their phone at all times. They know there will usually be a day or two before you can get to it. That said, I would try to fix them as soon as possible to be good to the customer. Or swap it out, which might be the quickest solution.
A way to prevent getting unwanted calls is to get a google voice number and simply turn off the call forwarding to your cell phone when you are done working. The calls will go straight to voicemail.
I offer a 30 day warranty. At the prices I sell the machines at I’m not going to offer a 6 month warranty. Eventually we might give that option for extra $. We haven’t decided yet.
Great tips Ryan! Awesome as usual!
Two quick questions, is there an age that is your cut off or that makes you uneasy about reselling? For instance, we see dryers that are nice on the outside and still run well, but are 15 years old. Often times, we don’t feel confident about reselling something so old. Are we just novices? Is age really a non-factor?
Also, how did you manage to get 8 units at once!? Nice!
You don’t know how much we appreciate your insight and time commitment to this site!
Age isn’t that big of a factor in my opinion. There are certain Whirlpool/Kenmore machines that only have one button from like 30-35 years ago that are on their last legs. I would probably stay away from those. The brown/black paneled Kenmore’s and older whirlpools are great. With basic maintenance they can be kept working for 30 years or more.
We got the 8 units from a large condo-complex. The longer you do this the more connections you end up making.
I’m glad the site has been helpful!
Have you ever known anyone to have done this type of business in a city as small as Birmingham, Al (population of about a quarter million)
Absolutely. People are doing it in even smaller markets than that. I think that the used appliance trade on Craigslist can be done quite successfully in towns as small as 20-30k people. Smaller towns have less competition. Some, I have seen are small enough that many existing appliance operations don’t even bother using Craigslist. There is a lot of room for disruption in those types of markets. Go for it!
@Nigel – I have been doing this for the past month and a half in Auburn Alabama. It’s a lot smaller than Birmingham.
Initially, I would just flip washers and dryers from kids that were moving. It was August in a college town so all the leases were ending and starting over. I did pretty well off getting appliances from people in a bind and delivering to someone moving in. I was a middle man but I nor did anyone I every sold to think it was a shady thing. In my case I was an apartment maintenance supervisor here for two years and learned how to fix washers,dryers, etc. So that helps people trust in me. That and honesty! When you sell someone something you had better mean it when you say “It runs good”.
I worried that my market was seasonal because of the moving. Kinda, but a solid 1/3 of people I sold to weren’t moving and their machine just went out. I think there will always be business in any town. The real money is in fixing broken ones!
@Ryan- Thank you for this blog. You inspired me to do the dame here in my town!
@Jaybird- Thank you for your advice and encouragement; it was invaluable. I now know that I can count on a huge market at UAB and Sanford.
@Ryan- Thank you very much too. I noticed people on craigslist are already doing it in Birmingham so, all I need is to do is be more proactive and reactive than they.
Ryan, just found your site from something I was reading and wondered about something. I’ve purchased small decorating and vintage collectibles for a while, but the items you mention as selling best on Craigslist doesn’t include them.
So my question is this: Is Craigslist a good place to sell collectibles and vintage things like comics, toys, etc? I really don’t like eBay and prefer to deal with people face-to-face.
Thought I’d ask.
I think it depends on how expensive the items are. People are going to less likely want to drive across town to buy an inexpensive item. Craigslist is good for hard to find items and larger items that don’t ship well. But, it’s free to try, so I would give it a go.