2 Important Sales Lessons I Learned from Craigslist
By Amy O’Connor
My name is Amy, and I am a Craigslistaholic. There really should be a recovery program for people like me, but to my knowledge, there is not. So, my addiction to the pursuit of previously loved, highly discounted treasures continues. An added perk to finding everything I “need,” via Craig and his lists, are the sales lessons I’ve learned through my addiction.
Anything reasonably priced and worth having from Craigslist is going to go fast. In the beginning, when I was a Craigslist newbie, I would casually peruse listings, mull them over in my mind, weigh my options…and then I would email the seller, (mistake #1) using the automated reply option (mistake #2). I quickly learned that this strategy was flawed and fruitless. I was destined to remain only a Craigslist window shopper if I did not change my ways. And, as entertaining as Craigslist can be, I was there to buy, not to browse. So, change I did.
Sales Lesson #1: Time is of the Essence
You cannot leisurely peruse Craigslist if you want to score high quality, low priced items. (And I say score, because Craigslist shopping is like playing a game and items are won or lost depending on strategy). It all starts with the old sales question of, when is the best time to buy something? Answer: before everyone else! This is the reason why women buy bathing suits in freezing March…because by the time the summer months arrive, the only suits left are the bikinis made up of less fabric than a cloth napkin and ruffled, skirted grandma suits! The most desirable items are always the first to go wherever shopping happens, including Craigslist. I know myself and I know what I want and need. So now, when I see an item I want or need on Craigslist, I go for the win, immediately. I email sellers not to ask questions or to barter, but to let them know I am ready to purchase.
Sales Lesson #2: Stand Out From the Sea of Same
Until I figured out this lesson, my win/take rate of items I inquired about on Craigslist was about 10%. I was motivated to change my approach after the great kiddie playset hunt of 2013. I found a long list of playsets that I was interested in and I inquired about no less than 20 of them…to no avail. As in, zilch. Zero. No playset for the O’Connor kiddos. It was obvious that I needed a new plan. Clearly, what I had been doing up to that point wasn’t working, so why keep doing it? That is the very definition of insanity, right?
I went from a 10% take rate to 100% with a small but powerful change in my strategy. For those of you who don’t frequent Craigslist, here’s how it works: When one responds to Craigslist ad, the subject line of the email message is automatically populated with the title of the listing. For example, if you are responding to an ad for a “free backyard playset,” when you hit “reply,” the subject line of your inquiry email will automatically read: “free backyard playset.” This fact was the impetus for my strategy to stand out from the crowd. Rather than send a generic email which a seller would have no reason to notice amongst the flood of responses crowding their in-box, I started typing “Please choose us” in the subject line of all my Craigslist inquires. Viola! Instant responses! My desperate tone might help a little, but I think the majority of the power in this phrase is that it presents a unique message in a sea of sameness.
Craigslist may not hold the same addictive draw for you that it does for me, (have I mentioned that there’s a Craigslist app…and a Craigslist movie…and I’m thinking of renaming one of my children Craigs?) but the sales lessons I’ve learned from shopping on Craigslist can be universally applied: Act fast and stand out from the crowd, and you too will have success!
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