As resellers, we’re often found in situations where we are negotiating prices for lots of inventory:
You might have an acquaintance that wants you to look through their items to see if you would be interested in buying anything to resell…
Or you might do what I call “community outreach” and post in local FB groups or on NextDoor seeking to purchase inventory to resell…
Or, you’re just at a yard sale, estate sale, or flea market, trying to barter and make a good deal…
What is a Buyout?
When you’re trying to purchase inventory in bulk for a bargain, I call these “buyouts.” They can be particularly tough to navigate, as they require you to make on-the-spot determinations about value and engage in negotiation.
Over the years, I have found myself in coffee shop parking lots looking through bags of clothing on the hood of my car while a total stranger stares at me waiting for me to make an offer.
I’ve made some costly mistakes and had some incredible successes.
Here is my guide to navigating bargains and buyouts and how to negotiate with sellers.
Community Outreach: How to Find Bargains & Buyouts
There are so many creative ways to source inventory. One of my favorites is “community outreach,” which is bargain-hunting in your local community.
I go on local Facebook Groups, Craigslist, and NextDoor and post something seeking inventory.
Here is some example text for you to use to find inventory for resale:
“My name is xx, and I’m a “reseller.” I have a small business where I buy things to flip them online for a profit, on websites such as eBay, Poshmark, etc. I love promoting sustainability. You can find me here [Insert website/LinkTree/store URL].
I sell primarily fashion: Gently worn women’s and men’s clothing and accessories. I specialize in vintage. I am always seeking donations, and I also purchase lots of items. With luxury inventory, I even consider consignment options under a commission style.
If you have unwanted clothes around your house that you are looking to donate or sell, please send me a message here or email me at [my email address]. Thank you!”
Tip: Please be safe! Meet strangers in a public location (one of my favorites is at the police station) and bring someone with you.
This is a great way to find inventory and network. You would be surprised how many people love to support small businesses, or have really nice stuff around their house that they don’t necessarily want to donate having spent so much, but they’ll be happy to let go for a small amount.
Want to learn other creative ways to score free or cheap inventory? Check out the article How To Source Inventory For Free or Inexpensively.
Tip: After having met several people to look through several bags of trash, I have learned to ask for a preview of what someone has before meeting up. In respect for everyone’s time, I ask if they would mind snapping a few quick photos or even taking a video to show some of their items, so I can get an idea of what they have and make sure it will work for me.
How to Price Items in Bulk to Negotiate Deals
So whether you did community outreach or you’re at a yard sale, estate sale, or flea market, here are some tips for getting the best bargain and being a successful negotiator.
1. Set Reasonable Expectations
Explain that you purchase things for yard sale prices because the resale value isn’t comparable to retail value. I am very transparent: I explain that I purchase items for “yard sale prices” so that people understand, and I do not waste anyone’s time or insult anyone. I explain that clothing depreciates and retail value vs. resale value is a lot different!
2. Take Your Time
If you’re browsing through a large number of items, give it the time it needs. It can be intimidating if the person is staring at you while you browse, but they can wait. Be careful and thoughtful in reviewing each item before you drop a lot of cash on pieces.
Do not be afraid to look up a few comps or information about the items if you need to.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Explain the Business
Just like resellers sometimes become quite upset by lowballs, this is true of everyone. People spend a lot of their hard-earned money on items, and you offering them a fraction of their cost is not particularly appealing.
Don’t be afraid to explain to them a bit about how it works, either to help set expectations or to explain an offer. They might not realize what we do, the amount of work, the consequential expenses, and fees, etc.
Remember: you buy things, you spend time cleaning, photographing, editing photos, listing to multiple marketplaces, administrating listings, doing book-keeping, packaging and selling, perhaps paying for software or people to help, perhaps paying to list or promote, and paying marketplace fees. You simply need a desirable cost of goods (COG) for it to make sense.
Talking to strangers can be intimidating… but the only thing worse is when you’re dealing with friends, family, or acquaintances.
But, people respect honesty.
This woman I went to high school with had really nice pieces and wanted $425 for her items.
I didn’t just want to “lowball” her, and leave her insulted…
She went from $425 to $90 pretty quickly… yay!
Now, you don’t owe anyone any explanation. But, I like my approach, because I get to blame my offer on a reasonable explanation. Plus, there are no hard feelings, and it allows me to preserve my reputation and relationship with people, and keep the door open for the future.
4. Take Notes & Organize Yourself
As you browse pieces, take some notes as to what you’re looking at.
I make physical piles (or take notes with tallies) in various categories. I sort items into groups based on an estimated sale price, derived from experience and comps:
I make a “donate” pile: things I’m positively not interested in selling due to condition or value.
A “maybe” pile: pieces that I might sell (if the price is right) but unless I make a great deal on the whole lot, I don’t want it.
A “good” pile: items I would like to purchase for resale; and
A “definitely” pile: pieces that I love that have a high resale value.
I separate these into piles for multiple reasons. First, because it helps me to determine a price, but also because it is efficient: I’ll be left with a pile (the “definitely pile”) of items I would really like. So, if we can’t make a deal on everything, perhaps we can review those pieces individually.
5. Determine Your Desired Price and Maximum Price
Once you have organized and categorized the items, assign an approximate average sale price to each.
For example, you might determine that the items in your “maybe” pile are worth $1-$2, the “good items” are worth $2-$6, etc.
Tip: Underestimate when estimating profit per piece, so that you’re safe even if you don’t yield what you expect.
Once you have a range per item, you can multiply that by the amount in each category, and you’ll have a minimum and maximum you will spend on the lot.
Watch how I do these rough calculations when analyzing a lot in this video.
With these numbers in your head, you can proceed to negotiation.
Negotiation can be awkward, but pretend it isn’t, and proceed with confidence.
Understand that negotiation is an ancient craft: it is a normal part of business, and it is customary to offer less than you’re willing to pay, and for someone to ask for more than they hope to get. Keep this in mind, and be ready for a little back-and-forth.
How to Negotiate Purchase Price
When negotiating, you’re in the strongest position if you don’t go first.
So, after I review a lot of items, I ask the person “Is there a number you had in mind?” or “How much were you hoping to get for these items?”
Try to get them to start: because if they provide a number close to your range, that’s perfect. Note: even if they ask for less than what you hoped to spend… always make a counteroffer.
If they come out with a number that’s high, but close enough that a deal seems reasonable hopefully, you can quickly settle at a mutually-beneficial compromise.
If they ask for way more than you’re willing to spend and it seems unlikely if not impossible to make a deal, I recommend explaining that you’re pretty far off, offering a number that was on the lower end of your estimate, and seeing how they react.
If you can’t make a deal, you might try to separate the lot.
You might say, “these are the items that I’m most interested in; maybe we could talk about a price on these individually?”
In this example with a distant acquaintance, I had the luxury of negotiating electronically after she sent me video footage of the items.
We almost didn’t make a deal… She wanted $200, and I couldn’t swing that.
As you can see, I’m always super nice. Which is important, and they might just come back…
This ended up being a great transaction, and a returning client who has also introduced me to her friends and family, from whom I have also purchased items to resell!
7. It’s Okay If You Don’t Make a Deal.
The only thing worse than not making a deal is making a bad deal.
I was once looking at items from a friend’s younger sibling who was trying to make some money to pay for her college books… I spent way more than I should have on them because I felt badly offering what I should have.
You have to take the emotion out of business.
Easier said than done, but overspending to be polite, please people, or reduce awkwardness can be costly.
It is okay to say no, in fact, saying no can be as empowering as saying yes, especially with the pride that you have made the best decision for your business.
Do you have any experience with negotiation? Share your best tips and tricks below!