When someone emails to ask, “would you sell X for $xx,xxx?” I look at as a fishing expedition. Some may also call it tire kicking, but people who ask about buying a domain name at a certain price are usually more interested in fishing for the right number rather than simply kicking the tires on a domain name. I know this because I sometimes do it when I am trying to buy a domain name.
Asking “would you sell…” is non-committal. If the domain registrant replies affirmatively, the person who inquired can say something like “I will get back to you.” This is contrasted with a direct offer that is something like “I would like to offer you $xx,xxx to buy X.” If the domain registrant agrees, that is pretty much like a handshake deal from my perspective.
As a buyer, I like the “would you” question. It allows me to inquire about millions of dollars worth of domain name assets without having to commit millions of dollars in purchases. It almost never happens that a bunch of offers are accepted at one time, but asking “would you sell” allows for an out in case I have too many deals to swallow at once. It also allows the buyer to agree to buy the domain name if the price is right.
As a seller, I don’t like when this question is posed. When negotiating with someone, I like to deal with firm offers. I don’t want to agree to a hypothetical offer that the buyer can opt out of. I don’t want to say “yes” and find out the buyer needs to get his search marketing team on board or the buyer needs to get board approval at next month’s meeting.
When someone asks about a price in this manner, I usually push back to ask if it is a bonafide offer. I will often tell the other party to discuss internally and present an actual offer rather than asking if I would sell for a particular number. I might even imply that the figure would be strongly considered if a firm offer was submitted, but I won’t agree to a price based on a “would you.”
I understand that buyers operate in different ways. Some may not be able to present a firm offer until they get board approval or approval from their backers. They also don’t want to ask their partners to approve a number that may or may not be realistic. For me, I don’t like it when people ask a question like “would you sell,” and I will push back on that to get a firm offer if possible.