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April 12, 2017

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Domain Brokers: How to Choose One and What it Takes to Be a Successful One

By Ron Jackson 

In business when one thing goes down something else often goes up to fill the vacuum. When PPC (pay per click advertising) was in its heyday it was possible for owners of good domains to do so well parking domains there was no need or reason  to even think about selling assets (unless someone stepped up with a crazy offer, or course).  However, when PPC went into a tail 
spin in recent years - and bills still had to be paid - many of those same owners started looking for something else to replace a shrinking revenue stream. For many that "something else" has become domain sales - a development that has created a boom in the domain brokerage business. 

Those newly motivated to sell joined an already sizeable contingent of domain investors who had always put sales first, resulting in a flood of new business for experienced brokers that had a track record of success. One of the most frequent inquires we get are from people asking us to recommend a broker. 

It became clear that now was the time to take a closer look at the domain brokerage business and get answers to some of the most frequently asked questions. What attributes should a domain seller look for in a broker to have the best chance of selling their domains? What do brokers say sellers need to do to give brokers the best chance of selling their names? What attributes do individual brokers say sets them apart in a very competitive field?


Image from Bigstock

With strong demand for brokerage services more and more people are interested in becoming brokers themselves. So we also wanted to know what skills and/or qualifications leading brokers think a person needs to have in order to succeed in the brokerage business today? 

To get answers to all of those questions we invited all 13 of the brokers who were nominated for the 2012 T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Broker of the Year Award (that will be handed out at the conference coming up October 7-10 in Fort Lauderdale Beach, Florida) to weigh in on those topics. More than two thirds of them took time out of their busy schedules to reply and we are hopeful that what they had to say will help you sell more domains, or possibly even taken advantage of the brokerage boom to get into the business yourself. One company, DomainHoldings.com, specifically asked us to pass along the word that they have current job openings for brokers (email [email protected] for more information on that). 

Joe Uddeme, DomainHoldings.com

Joe Uddeme

Joe Uddeme of DomainHoldings, one of the brokers nominated for the T.R.A.F.F.I.C. Award, had this to say about the profession - "Domain brokerage, like any career is extremely challenging. We consistently are on the “battle grounds” and really have a thankless profession. Competition in any space keeps us honest. People think domain brokerage is an easy business. I would tell them to make sure they understand the full spectrum of the Internet marketing component before they get into brokerage. My background of marketing including PPC, SEO and Development of sites has allowed me to understand the business like no other. Domain brokerage, like any other profession can be rewarding if you are dedicated and willing to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

As for the attributes a domain seller should look for in a broker. Uddeme said, "Persistence, and a consistent knack 

for making a match. Some brokers wait for buyers to come  to them, the key to successful brokerage is to go out and make the match. Find the buyer that really has need for the asset and make them understand the true value of the domain in question."

Uddeme also offered some advice on what you need to do to have the best chance of selling your domains. "Pricing is the number one component of any sale," Uddeme said. "If an asset is priced well, it has a higher chance of moving in the current market. Domains are only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. It’s important to remember that we continually strive on a daily basis to find the best premium assets at the best possible prices to present value to the buyer and make it a win/win situation for both sides."

Dave Evanson, Sedo.com

Sedo's Dave Evanson is one of the most consistently successful brokers in the business, one who had a headline grabbing string of six-figure sales this summer including Bra.com ($165,000), Metal.com ($140,000) and Designers.com ($118,000). Asked what he would look for in a broker if he was a seller himself Evanson said, "It starts with reputation and track record. The broker must be smart, well-versed in domains including valuations, connected to buyers such as end users – or at least able to find them – aggressive, diligent, persistent, persuasive, confident, obedient, honest, loyal, and driven to close deals. They also need to know how to leverage multiple sales channels such as phone, email, social media, newsletters, blogs, etc., in a coordinated, systematic way."

Evanson added, "The seller and selling broker should have the same objective: maximize price under the best possible deal terms. At Sedo, brokers and sellers work as a team, leveraging synergies where possible. The seller should be honest and informative about the domain(s), covering history around ownership and usage, pricing expectations and preferred 

Dave Evanson, Sedo.com

timing. He should also be clear when authorizing the broker to negotiate on his behalf and set expectations upfront regarding his desire to be involved in the brokerage process, as well as the degree and frequency of feedback required."

When asked what attributes set him apart from other brokers and make him the best choice for someone looking for help in selling a domain or domains Evanson said, "Let’s call it the gray hair factor with a touch of wisdom.  I feel it is fair to say I bring a who’s who end user database to the table from over 35 years of high-level Fortune 500 corporate marketing and professional consulting experience.  Having served as Senior VP of Marketing for two of the nation’s largest financial institutions before toiling for 20 years as president of an international strategic planning management consulting firm I founded in 1991, I still maintain an active rolodex of business leaders and decision makers across several industries. I think I have a solid foundation in domaining in part because I’ve been buying and selling domains since before the turn of the century. Additionally, I’m able to tap into Sedo’s extensive database of known buyers by industry, type of domain, and dollar amount plus team up with 30 internal brokers who do business in over 20 languages across 150 countries."

With respect to aspiring brokers we asked Evanson what skills and qualifications he thinks a person needs to succeed in the brokerage business today. " Domain brokers come from varied backgrounds.  Some were brokers in other fields such as real estate, mortgage, or stocks.  Some were in sales or operations in other businesses.  Some were domainers or in support roles in the domain industry.  I’ve worked with brokers with all types of backgrounds, and seen them succeed as long as they work very hard, stay focused, uphold high ethical standards and get deals done," Evanson said. "The smarter ones build strong relationships with experienced brokers to shorten the learning curve.  As for a career in domain brokerage, there is plenty of demand and the future looks bright.  The market is dynamic with plenty of opportunity to do deals at different price points.  Longer term, the skills domain brokers possess will be transferable to other online categories including brokerage of websites and possibly lead gen and search functionality most likely at the local level."

Toby Clements, TobyClements.com

Toby Clements & wife Stephanie at the 
2012 Domaining Europe conference in Spain

While Evanson thrives in the corporate environment at Sedo others, like Toby Clements, have found success as independent brokers. Asked how he has done so well with fewer bodies to share the workload, Clements said, "There is no secret that we have one of the largest subscriber bases in the industry. The size is nice, but more importantly it’s the quality that counts. Our database was built over many years of working in the domain space. We held auctions, ran tradeshows as well as reaching out to countless end users, therefore we were able to capture real qualified people and companies that are truly interested in domains."

"Another plus is we do our best to bring premium names to the masses on a daily basis," Clements said. "Five days a week, our newsletter is jam packed with premium names at great prices. This keeps everyone on their toes. When we send out our newsletter, people react quickly and buy names on the spot for the most part. If they don't, a lot of time the name is already sold. An active buyer pool is one of the most important ingredients with our success."

When you start looking for someone to broker your domains, Clements offered this advice - "Focus on four important items: Experience, Knowledge, Ability and Track Record. Is the broker experienced? Does he have an overall knowledge and firm grip on what domains sell for? Does he have the ability to move them on a solid platform that produces sales on a consistent basis? Does he have a proven track record year after year? If you ask these questions about TobyClements.com, the answer is yes, four times in a row."

Brian Kleiner, The AfternicDLS

Brian Kleiner, AfternicDLS

Another brokerage star from the corporate world, Brian Kleiner from NameMedia's AfternicDLS, sees the business from another perspective and can effectively argue that size matters. "Being an employee of Afternic gives me access to a marketing and a distribution network of over 100 worldwide partners that is unparalleled in the industry," Kleiner said. "The Afternic marketplace gives domain sellers the most exposure to buyers, for the greatest chance for a successful sale. I also benefit from a database of historical domain buyers developed from 12 years in the industry.  Afternic’s sales acceleration program, optimized ‘for sale’ templates, performance-based parking and monetization platform, fast transfer capabilities and a simplified escrow process are just some of the factors that contribute to my success."

when you are looking for a specific broker to work with Kleiner said, "In order to be a successful domain broker, I believe that it’s important to have strong understanding of the value of a premium domain to the end user. Understanding the fundamentals of digital marketing, branding, driving site traffic, and the 

economics of generating leads in various businesses are all essential elements in closing a domain sale. But before you can even get to that point, I believe it’s important to have a broker who knows who to talk to at the target company, who can identify and connect with the decision maker, and who can persuasively communicate the value of the domain."

Landing a broker is just half the battle though. As a seller Kleiner said you have to do your part too if you want to see a sale happen. "My answer may not make me popular with some domain sellers, but having an asking price that reflects the economic conditions today is really important.  Just because a domain was worth a high number in the past does not necessarily mean that value still holds today, and realistic expectations for a sale in today’s market are important. Pricing a domain is also important because it provides a level of credibility and transparency to the end user, and gives the domain a better chance of selling."  

Mike Robertson, DomainGuardians.com

Domaining is a global business and there are good brokers based around the world. Australia's Mike Robertson of DomainGuardians.com is one of the most widely known, highly experienced and well respected brokers  in the business. He sums up what you should look for in a broker in one word - a word he considers so important that it bears repeating - "Connections, Connections, Connections!," Robertson declared. "Two other very important qualities are trust and reputation. Trust that the broker will act in your best interests and verify they have a proven track record of buys/sales by reviewing their industry and domain sales experience (see LinkedIn, forums, etc)."

"You should always engage a broker that matches your needs. On the seller’s broker side, some sellers require a quick liquidation, whilst others have category-defining domains that are aimed at the end-user market; there are brokers that specialize in each of these areas," Robertson said."Whilst we have an extensive network of “wholesale buyers,” Domain Guardians’ sales brokerage focuses on matching top-shelf domain names with corporate buyers. That process isn’t about speed or volume of inventory; rather it’s about fostering relationships with real buyers and achieving real results."

Mike Robertson

Robertson added, "We should also recognize that brokers don’t just sell domains, and often companies/individuals will contract a buyer’s broker to help them acquire their “dream domain.” If you are seeking a buyer’s agent, they should ideally have close ties to the main players in the domain space (sellers), a thorough understanding of domain values, and of course a proven track record, including testimonials."

"It is important for buyer clients to appreciate that their “dream domain” might be out of reach. In this case, buyers should consider finding a brokerage firm that can help provide creative alternatives. We pride ourselves on delving deeper than just connecting buyers and sellers by providing conceptual naming services, as well as global brand research and protection."

Image from Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Robertson talked about something sellers need to consider before they even look for a broker.  "Values are very subjective, but when a broker has engaged the best prospects, along with the right decision makers at these companies, amounting to the perfect buyer, the market will provide the liquidity value of the domain."

"Maybe Adobe won’t pay as much as a newcomer to the space, but if all the best candidates have been tapped, the seller needs to consider what the market has determined and discuss these options with their broker, realistically.  A seller’s broker doesn’t want to sell your domain for less money, but they do want to sell your domain, so if you can’t accept the market determining the value of your domain, you may want to reconsider engaging a broker," Robertson said.

"Domain Guardians doesn't take on brokerage for domains that we find to be overpriced or don't believe the market will find appealing.  Why waste your time, our time or the buyers we contact.  We gauge the market as best we can but there's a great deal of unpredictability that sellers need to be aware of.  Buyers might not be in the market to purchase at a particular time, might be engaging in another deal, might be closing their operations or might be cash strapped.  There are a variety of situations that prevent deals at this level and sellers need to be prepared to act fast.  We've seen many sales opportunities slip away from sellers who want to wait things out."

Andrew Rosener, MediaOptions.com

Another international broker, Panama based Andrew Rosener of MediaOptions.com, has a similar perspective, noting "Not all domain brokers are created equal. Some brokers have a great network among domain investors, which can be leveraged to sell domains quickly, but at reseller or wholesale prices. Some domain investors have a track record in specific niches or verticals.  First and foremost I think it’s important for a domain owner to identify their own objectives.  Are they looking for quick cash or are they ready to go the distance and give a broker a longer term contract to try and maximize the sale price?" Rosener said.

"Any broker who is willing to work without an exclusive or is willing to “market” your domain for only a very short period of time is probably not going to have the same objectives as the domain owner.  It takes a lot of time and effort to sell a domain name, never mind to an end user. You need to be willing to commit to a single broker for a period of time, which is appropriate to the level and price of the domain name you are selling.  No good broker is willing to spend their time and resources marketing a domain for which they are not protected via an exclusivity agreement," Rosener said.

Andrew Rosener

Rosener candidly added, "I don’t think we are the best choice for all domain names. Media Options is a boutique brokerage service and we have certain niches in which we are very strong, stronger than most; such as the standard lead generation categories like:  insurance, debt, credit, home security, consumer products & services and education. We also have a very successful track record in the short domain space (2 & 3 letter domains), primarily because it is an area in which we ourselves have invested heavily. We only have limited resources and so we only take on domains which we are confident we can sell and then we put 100% of our efforts into selling those domains.  For us it’s not about how many domains can we get under exclusivity, it’s about getting names which we feel we can sell in order to efficiently use our resources to generate the highest return for the domain owner and ourselves."

For those who are thinking about becoming brokers themselves Rosener has some advice on what it takes to succeed in the increasingly crowded field. "The most important criteria for a domain broker, or any broker for that matter, are the gift of gab, high energy, drive and lastly, and most, importantly, integrity. Your reputation is everything.  You’ll never please everyone, but as long as you continuously act with integrity and act in the best interest of your client, then your reputation will speak for itself over the long run," Rosener said.

Image from Pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

"Selling a high value asset, like domain names, is more than just a sales job,' Rosener added. "It requires far more than just sending out form emails.  It requires that you be able to tolerate and adapt to all different personalities. It requires that you can comfortably give a pitch in a board room to a top executive as well as make small talk with a small business owner in West Virginia who cares more about his trout fishing trip this weekend then the domain name you are trying to sell him."

"Being a domain broker also requires a high tolerance for hearing the word “no”.  You have to hear the word “no” 99 times before you hear your first “yes”.  But the key is not to let that bring you down or de-motivate you.  When you close a big deal it’s a great feeling and of course a great payout.  Those are the pros of being a domain broker, but you have got to love it to maintain the energy and momentum. The cons of brokering are of course that your next paycheck is only coming if you close the next deal.  For many, that uncertainty is what stops them from succeeding.  You need to have a lot of confidence in your abilities because your livelihood depends on nobody but yourself."

Bob Olea, DomainSalesPlus.com

Commercial airline pilot Bob Olea (who was profiled in our July 2012 Cover Story) is one of those who was recently attracted to the new opportunities that have opened up in domain brokerage. Already an experienced domain investor, Olea has set up a new brokerage shop at DomainSalesPlus.com. As a relatively new broker, the first question one might ask Olea is why choose him over the competition. "For me, I think it really comes down to having a good rapport and high level of trust and interaction with the people that I work with. I'm very available to my clients. This is a global business, and I've done deals at all hours of the day and night."

Having just hung out his shingle, the background and preparation needed to compete in the brokerage business in fresh in his mind. "Always watch the state of the market by knowing about current domain sales. One of the best sources of sales activity is the Wednesday DNJournal.com weekly sales report! It's an excellent snapshot of the 'Tip of the Iceberg'. Since a large majority of domain sales are never reported (usually due to NDA's), it's one of the best sources of real market data. It's actually helped me justify pricing with buyers (and sellers) a few times, based on a similar reported sale."

Bob Olea, DomanSalesPlus.com

Olea added, "If a person wants to be taken seriously as a broker in the domain business, it's very important for them to build their network of connections. A big part of that is attending industry conferences, and making those invaluable friendships that facilitate growing in the business. I still meet new and interesting people at every conference that I attend. It's a people business, and if you want to be in it, you need to spend time with the people that are active in the business."

"As you grow in the business and you learn more about selling domains and domain valuations you realize that it's one of the best and most interesting businesses in the world! There's still a very large knowledge disparity between talented domainers/brokers and the rest of the world. And in that disparity lies one of the biggest opportunities of the digital age! As time goes on and the rest of the world wakes up to the power and value of a good domain name, smart domainers and brokers are the ones that are right there to greet them – with an appropriate price tag of course!," Olea said.

On the flip side of that, Olea noted, "It's a great business, but it's not for everyone. The learning curve can be very steep, has many potholes, and it can be very expensive until you 'figure it out'. The rules of the game and the players are dynamically changing every year. It's part of the landscape. But for those that are willing to stick it out with a methodical and steady approach, and put in the time learning the craft - the rewards are there!"

Kevin Faler, GTLDVille.com

Image from Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Kevin Faler of GTLDVille.com asked to preface his thoughts on the brokerage business with what he called "my two-cents worth on the so-called "Domain Industry?" Faler asked, "Really, who can define it?  Seriously? That is what I thought! So then, since we cannot establish a solid point of origin as it relates to the aforementioned there have been successes along the way in where the industry has been molded and formed into what it is today. Again, I am not sure what that mold or form is...but it looks as though it has been a contiguous until now."

"This brings me to brokering! There are no requirements, certifications, licensing or even a cracker jack box prize submitted by anyone who claims to be a so-called domain broker," Faler said. "Those who do claim to be brokers have nothing more than a set of weak contracts either copied/plagiarized or authored by an attorney which most of them are so cheaply done my 17 year old domainer kid could argue. LOL.  And there you have it!"

"What else does a domain broker really possess? Perhaps some previous sales experience?," Faler continued. "Yes, most do and that is a great quality to have. Generally speaking, it is obvious to most buyers/investors whom I have spoken to realize this same theory but mostly shrug it off as they too are merely there to buy the domain anyway. After all, just like going into the new local car dealership you are merely there to buy the car. Would you ever check the certification/licensing of a car salesman? I doubt you would - you are there to buy the car.  Here is the crux of the problem. A lot of brokers are dishonest and that is the main thing to  understand when calling yourself a broker....honesty.  If you cannot be honest...then you are disgraceful."

Faler added, "I have a little surprise for everyone in the industry as I have now cornered the Spanish domain market with my business partner George Verdugo.  George and I have a large portfolio which has been secretly complied over time and now it is time to come out from the underground world of domaining.  We own several of the top Spanish domain phrases such as DomainForum.com, DomainNews.com, DomainBrokers - all in Spanish We are bi-lingual and we are embedded in several different countries around the world. I look forward to doing business in an honest way. This is how you broker - be honest, be yourself, be real and people will know you are honest!"

Evan Horowitz, HuntingMoon.com

After hearing from the eight brokers above, you can see that there are a lot of options to consider when looking for someone to help sell your domain. Broker Evan Horowitz of HuntingMoon.com said that leads to him being asked the same question over an over again, "Why should a domainer choose HuntingMoon to broker their domain versus one of the other brokers?"  Evan's answer to the inevitable question - "I think the key ingredient is attention.  Statistically, we know that not all domains offered for sale will sell in a the near term.  Will your broker answer the call?  Of course it is easy to be 'the bomb' broker when names sell, but how about when things are challenging?  Test brokers with emails and phone calls, and you can see when the broker cares or is too bothered to help out unless there is an easy 'kill'."

Horowitz wrapped things up for us with some sage advice on  the number one thing you can do to help them any broker you choose sell your name. "Set a realistic price and accept the highest offers 100% of the time," Horowitz said. "This is why I love working with a seller like Eric Borgos versus some sellers that stick to their guns almost religiously.  Volume and 

Evan Horowitz, HuntingMoon.com

throughput mean everything. If an offer is in range and the buyer will not come up anymore, then accept and take a profit.  In short, Take Profits whenever possible instead of 'when never! " Horowitz laughed.

Addendum: After this story was published we learned that DomainAdvisors.com President Jeff Gabriel, whom we also invited to comment, never received the email we sent. As the guy who brokered the most expensive domain sale ever reported (Sex.com at $13 million) we knew our readers would love to hear what Jeff had to say so we compiled his thoughts in a separate article that was published in our Lowdown section Oct. 2, 2012. You can read that here: More Tips on Choosing a Domain Broker From the Guy Who Brokered the Biggest Sale Ever Reported.


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