10 Steps to Successful Selling on eBay.

8:17 AM

10 Steps to Successful Selling on eBay.

So you want to be a successful seller with your own eBay business, do you? Here's a simple, ten-step path to eBay enlightenment.

Step 1: Identify your market. Take a while to sit and watch for what sells and what doesn't out of the items you're interested in. Any market research data you can collect will be very useful to you later on. You'll probably see the 'sweet spots' quite quickly - those one or two items that always seem to sell for a good price.

Step 2: Watch the competition. Before you invest any money, see what the other sellers in your category are up to, and what their strategies are. Pay special attention to any flaws their auctions might have, because this is where you can move in and beat them at their own game.

Step 3: Find a product: Get hold of a supplier for whatever it is you want to sell, and see what the best rates you can get are - don't be afraid to ring round quite a few to get the best deal. If the eBay prices you've seen are higher than the supplier's, then you're set.

Step 4: Start small: Don't throw thousands at your idea straight away - get started slowly, see what works and what doesn't, and learn as you go. Remember that it's very cheap to try out even the craziest ideas on eBay, and who knows, they might just work!

Step 5: Test and repeat. Keep trying different strategies until you find something that works, and then don't be ashamed to keep doing it, again and again. The chances are that you've just found a good niche.

Step 6: Work out a business plan: A business plan doesn't need to be anything formal, just a few pages that outline the market opportunity you've spotted, your strategy, strengths and weaknesses of the plan and a brief budget. This is more for you than it is for anyone else.

Step 7: Invest and expand: This is the time to throw money at the problem. Buy inventory, and start spending more time on your business. Set a goal number of sales each week, increasing it each time.

Step 8: Make it official: Once you've made a few thousand dollars worth of sales, you should really register yourself as a business. Don't worry, it's not expensive or hard to do - a lawyer is the best person to help you through the process.

Step 9: Automate: You'll probably find that you're writing the same things again and again in emails or item descriptions. This is the time to give up on the manual method and turn to automated software that can create listings for you, and respond to completed auctions and payments with whatever message you provide.

Step 10: Never give up: Even when it looks like it's all going wrong, don't stop trying until you succeed. If you keep working at it then you'll almost always find that you make a real breakthrough just when things are starting to look desperate.

Once you get into the swing of things, you might start thinking that you should quit your job and take up eBay selling part time. But it's not always as easy as that - there are all sorts of factors that you need to consider. The next email will weigh up the case for and against taking up eBay full-time.

10 Sure-fire Ways to Kill Your eBay Business.

8:16 AM

10 Sure-fire Ways to Kill Your eBay Business.

It's surprisingly easy to kill your eBay business, if you're not careful - sure, you can start over from scratch without it costing you anything, but do you really want to? Still, if you want your business to end up dead in the water, here are some simple ways to do it.

Lie about an item: Say it works fine when it sometimes doesn't work. Say it's in perfect condition when it has a scratch. Your customers will hate you!

Post whenever you feel like it: Make sure to leave your customers hanging around, wondering when their item is going to turn up. This makes sure they buy from someone else next time.

Let items end anytime: Few people will be around to care about your auction if it ends in the middle of the night. Why go to the trouble of working out whether auctions will end at a good time?

Don't bother with email: Customers are just timewasters anyway. eBay businesses are supposed to run themselves! Never give informed responses to questions about your item.

Sell rubbish: Really, it's just eBay. You can just sell any old tat from the market for a 200% profit. Let quality be someone else's concern - I mean, really, what do they expect for that price?

Refuse to give discounts: You know what your items cost, you know what your profit margin is going to be, and you're not going to negotiate. Remember that giving customers special deals might make them feel good and come back to you again.

Make your listings ugly: As many colours, flashing lights and animations as possible will really give those customers a headache. Write as much in CAPITALS!!!! as you can. Preferably big, red capitals. Be sure to use the fonts Impact and Comic Sans. For an extra special touch, see if you can figure out a way to add some music.

Don't take photos: It's such trouble, after all. If buyers are picky enough to actually want to see items before they bid on them, then screw 'em, that's what I say.

Write short descriptions: Be as brief as possible, and use lots of mysterious abbreviations. This obviously makes you look very cool. You can even just write the title again in the description box. Think of the effort you'll save!

Use reserve auctions: Now, this is a fairly controversial final choice, but it really is one of the best ways to scare away your customers. They'll see 'reserve not yet met', and click that 'back' button before you know it. Luckily, they can always bid in a normal auction for the item somewhere else.

Now that you know the ten ways to kill your eBay business, how about we explore what to do if you want to do the opposite, and make a success of it? The next email will give you ten steps to successful selling on eBay.

Is the eBay Customer Always Right?

8:16 AM

Is the eBay Customer Always Right?

I can answer this question for you right now: the answer is 'yes'. In fact, the answer is 'YES!' - the biggest yes you've ever heard. Of the course the customer is always right. If you want to be a successful eBay seller, you should go miles out of your way to make sure every single one of your customers is 100% satisfied, however much time or money it might cost you.

A dissatisfied customer will leave negative feedback, and negative feedback is to be avoided at all costs. That one piece of negative feedback will always cost you more than it would have to deal with the complaint, whatever the value of the items you sell. You should consider any positive feedback percentage under 100% to be an absolute disaster, and a personal failure on your part.

But What If…

But nothing! There is no situation where you, as a seller, should get into any dispute with a buyer. Here are a few common situations and how to handle them.

They say the item never arrived: Politely ask the buyer to wait a few more days to see if it turns up, and then email you again if it still hasn't arrived. If it still hasn't arrived, you should assume it was lost in the post somehow and offer to send a replacement if you have one, or give them a full refund otherwise. No, I don't care what that costs you. Are you serious about selling on eBay or not?

The item has been damaged in the post: You must offer to replace it or take it back for a refund without hesitation.

They say the item doesn't match the description: Resist the urge to email back with "yes it does, you just didn't read the description properly". Take the item back for a refund, and edit your description if you need to, to make any confusing points extra clear.

I'm sure you're spotting a pattern by now. Offering a refund will make almost any problem go away, and it really will cost you less in the long run. Remember, one piece of negative feedback will stay with you forever, while having a 100% positive rating is like owning a bar of solid gold.

You should always handle customers' complaints before they complain to eBay - in fact, you should email them pre-emptively to ask if they have any. Going through the dispute process is time consuming, reflects badly on you and is downright unnecessary.

Are you still not convinced? Think this would only work with cheap items? Well, you see, the higher the price of the items you sell, the more your reputation is worth to you. Let's say you were selling $10,000 worth of items each week, for example, and making a $1,000 profit per week overall. You might think that refunding one customer's $1,000 purchase would be a tragedy, losing you your whole week's profit. It's far better to look at it this way: if you don't give that refund, then not only will you lose the next week's profit, but you'll probably lose a few weeks' profit after that too. Now which option looks better?

I absolutely can't emphasise enough the importance of really believing that the customer is always right. But trying to make excuses for complaints isn't the only thing you need to avoid. There are a lot of pitfalls that you need to avoid if you don't want to kill your business before it's even started properly - and I'll show you in the next email what they are.

How to Use eBay to Grow Your Other Businesses.

8:20 AM

How to Use eBay to Grow Your Other Businesses.

Most of the people who make money from eBay don't actually make all of that money on eBay. There are all sorts of ways you can use eBay to give your existing businesses a helping hand.

The Supply Side.

If you have any leftover stock or used items from another business you run, then why not sell them on eBay? You can make this a regular thing, using it to get rid of things that won't sell for the premium you ask for in a shop, or items that are no longer in demand in the town or city where your business is based.

You can really make a lot of money this way, if you know what you're doing. You will, of course, already be an expert in the items you're selling, as you use them in your business, and you'll know that the items are of high enough quality to be sellable. This is a whole new market for your old inventory!

Not only that, of course, but remember that your good eBay reputation will make you a great buyer! If there's ever anything you want to get for your business, the chances are you'll be able to get it on eBay for a discount.

The Sales Side.

Here, though, is where the true power of eBay lies. eBay give you an 'About Me' page, where you can write anything you like and link anywhere you like. This means that you can get traffic to your business' website by linking to your website from your About Me page and linking to your About Me page from each auction.

To create an About Me page, just click on 'Community' on the toolbar, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click 'Create an About Me page'. You then get the option to either enter your own HTML or let eBay guide you through the process. All you need to do is write a little about your website, link to it, and you're done - you'll notice that more people start to come to your site straight away.

There are thousands of people who swear by this technique to drive traffic from eBay to their website - with a little persuasive sales copy on your site, they say, you can sell directly to buyers, cutting out the eBay middleman. What's more, all the traffic you'll get will be targeted - because the people who click through were interested in your auction to begin with.

This can be a really powerful technique, especially if you've already got an e-commerce site. Even if you haven't, you might find it worth your time to set up a website that does nothing but list your eBay inventory with a few dollars off each item, with a PayPal 'Buy Now' button for each item. Then simply make the link to your About Me page read 'Visit my website for even more bargains!', and you're done.

Now that you've seen how to drive visitors to your website, maybe you'd like a little help getting your auction in front of buyers. That's why our next email will show you the secrets of taming the eBay search engine.

What's Your eBay Reputation Really Worth?

8:15 AM

What's Your eBay Reputation Really Worth?

Your eBay reputation is everything you are on eBay - without it, you're nothing. Your reputation is worth as much as every sale you will ever make.

If you've ever bought anything on eBay (and the chances are you have), then think about your own behaviour. Buying from a seller with a low feedback rating makes you feel a little nervous and insecure, while buying from a PowerSeller with their reputation in the thousands doesn't require any thought or fear - it feels just like buying from a shop.

A Bad Reputation Will Lose You Sales.

In fact, a bad reputation will lose you almost all your sales. If someone leaves you negative feedback, you will feel the pain straight away, as that rating will go right at the top of your user page for everyone to see. Who's going to want to do business with you when they've just read that you "took a month to deliver the item", or that you had "bad communication and sent a damaged item"? The answer is no-one.

Your next few items will need to be very cheap things, just to push that negative down the page. You might have to spend days or even weeks selling cheap stuff to get enough positive feedback to make anyone deal with you again.

It's even worse if you consistently let buyers leave negative feedback - once you get below 90% positive ratings, you might as well be invisible.

You Can't Just Open a New Account.

Besides eBay's rules about only having one account, there are far more downsides than that to getting a new account. You literally have to start all over again from scratch.

You won't be able to use all the different eBay features. Your existing customers won't be able to find you any more. Your auctions will finish at a lower price because of your low feedback rating. Opening a new account is like moving to a new town to get away from a few people who are spreading rumours about you: it's throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

A Good Reputation Will Get You Sales.

When a PowerSeller tells me something, I tend to believe them. They can be selling a pretty unlikely item, but if they guarantee it is what they say it is, then I trust them - they're not going to risk their reputation, after all. This is the power of a reputation: people know you want to keep it, and they know you'll go to almost any lengths to do so.

This is true even to the point that I would sooner buy something for $20 from a seller I know I can trust than for $15 from someone with average feedback. It's worth the extra money to feel like the seller knows what they're doing, has all their systems in place and will get me the item quickly and efficiently.

You really will find selling on eBay so much easier, and there's only way to get a good reputation: make sure you please your customers every time. But some customers can be, well, just a little difficult to please. In the next email, we ask: is the eBay customer always right?

An eBay Seller's Checklist.

8:14 AM

An eBay Seller's Checklist.

Being a seller is a lot of responsibility, and sometimes you might feel like you're not doing everything you should be. This simple checklist will help you keep on top of things.

Have you found out everything you possibly could about your items? Try typing their names into a search engine - you might find out something you didn't know. If someone else is selling the same thing as you, then always try to provide more information about it than they do.

Do you monitor the competition? Always keep an eye on how much other items the same as or similar to yours are selling, and what prices they're being offered at. There's usually little point in starting a fixed price auction for $100 when someone else is selling the item for $90.

Have you got pictures of the items? It's worth taking the time to photograph your items, especially if you have a digital camera. If you get serious about eBay but don't have a camera, then you will probably want to invest in one at some point.

Are you emailing your sellers? It's worth sending a brief email when transactions go through: something like a simple "Thank you for buying my item, please let me know when you have sent the payment". Follow this up with "Thanks for your payment, I have posted your [item name] today". You will be surprised how many problems you will avoid just by communicating this way.

Also, are you checking your emails? Remember that potential buyers can send you email about anything at any time, and not answering these emails will just make them go somewhere else instead of buying from you.

Do your item description pages have everything that buyers need to know? If you're planning to offer international delivery, then it's good to make a list of the charges to different counties and display it on each auction. If you have any special terms and conditions (for example, if you will give a refund on any item as long as it hasn't been opened), then you should make sure these are displayed too.

Have you been wrapping your items correctly? Your wrapping should be professional for the best impression: use appropriately sized envelopes or parcels, wrap the item in bubble wrap to stop it from getting damaged, and print labels instead of hand-writing addresses. Oh, and always use first class post - don't be cheap.

Do you follow up? It is worth sending out an email a few days after you post an item, saying "Is everything alright with your purchase? I hope you received it and it was as you expected." This might sound like giving the customer an opportunity to complain, but you should be trying to help your customers, not take their money and run.

Being a really good eBay seller, more than anything else, is about providing genuinely good and honest customer service. That's the only foolproof way to protect your reputation. Of course, you might be wondering by now whether it's really worth all the hassle to get a good reputation on eBay. Won't people buy from you anyway, and couldn't you just open a new account if it really comes down to that? Our next email will set you straight.

How Important is Your Buyer's Reputation?

8:28 AM

How Important is Your Buyer's Reputation?

Your reputation as a buyer (or 'feedback rating') is the most important thing people see when they deal with you on eBay. It is on the basis of this little number that they will decide whether they can trust you or not.

Each time you buy or sell something on eBay, people can leave feedback for you, and you can leave feedback for them. This feedback can be positive, negative, or neutral, along with a comment. Your feedback rating, then, is worked out using a very simple sum: the number of positive feedback comments people have left for you, minus the number of negative ones. This means that someone with a feedback rating of 28, for example, might have 30 positive ratings and 2 negative ones.

If you are a considerate buyer, then you should find that positive feedback will just appear next to your username, without you needing to do anything. If you want to help it along, though, there are a few things you can do.

Always leave feedback for others: People will feel an obligation to leave feedback for you if you leave it for them (eBay will send you an email after each transaction to offer you the opportunity). Take the time to write a positive comment about sellers who do what they should and the chances are they'll do the same for you.

Pay promptly: Sellers love nothing more than to be paid promptly - paying as soon as the auction ends saves the seller all sorts of worry, especially if you pay by credit card or another electronic method. You will often find that your positive feedback appears within a few minutes of you paying if you pay as soon as the auction ends.

Don't be a difficult customer: Understand that your seller might take a day or so to respond to you, and perhaps a few days to send your item - harassing them is nasty and unnecessary, and won't get you good feedback.

Build relationships: If a seller sells a lot of a certain kind of thing you like, buy from them a few more times. They will be very happy to find a regular customer, and will go out of their way to leave positive feedback like 'a joy to deal with as ever'. Also, they might offer you a few special deals!

Sellers won't generally be reluctant to sell to buyers without much of a reputation, simply because it is the buyer who takes most of the risk in a transaction. It is worth remembering, however, that transactions where you are the seller and where you are the buyer are counted towards the same feedback total - so if you ever want to start selling, being a good buyer is especially worthwhile.

On eBay, people pay far more attention to sellers' ratings than they do to buyers' - most sellers can't be bothered to check their buyers' feedback, while bad feedback on a seller can (and should) be a dealbreaker. When you are buying, then, you need to worry more about the seller's reputation than you do about your own, and that's why the next email will be all about sellers' feedback ratings.

5 Simple Steps to Posting Your First eBay Auction.

8:13 AM

5 Simple Steps to Posting Your First eBay Auction.

It's surprisingly simple to get started posting your very first auction on eBay. Here's what you need to do.

Step 1: Open an eBay seller's account.

If you've bought things on eBay, then you already have an account - just log in with it and click 'Sell' in the toolbar at the top of the page, then click 'Create a seller's account'. If you've never used eBay before, then you'll need to open an account first using the 'register' link underneath the toolbar, and then click 'Sell' and 'Create a seller's account'. The eBay site will then guide you through the process. For security, this may involve giving card details and bank information.

Step 2: Decide what to sell.

For your first little experiment with eBay, it doesn't really matter what you sell. Take a look around the room you're in - I'm sure there's something in there that you're not all that attached to and could put in the post. Small books and CDs are ideal first items.

Step 3: Submit your item.

Click 'Sell', and you're on your way to listing your item.

The first thing you need to do is choose a category - it's best to just type in what the item is and let eBay choose for you. Next, write a title and description. Include key words you think people will search for in the title box, and all the information you have about the item in the description box.

Now set a starting price. $0.01 is the best starting price, as it draws people in to bid who otherwise wouldn't, and items will almost never finish at such a low price. The next thing to set is the duration of the auction: 3, 5, 7 or 10 days. This is up to you: longer sales will usually get more bids, but will also seem to drag on forever. If you've taken a picture, add it now - items with pictures always sell for more. Finally, tick the payment methods you will accept (just PayPal is best for now), and where you will post to (limit yourself to your own country to begin with). Submit and you're done!

Step 4: Wait for it to sell.

This is just a matter of sitting back and letting eBay do its thing - buyers will find your item and leave bids on it. Some bidders might email you with questions about the item, and you should do your best to answer these questions as quickly as you can.

Remember that if your item doesn't sell then you can list it again for free.

Step 5: Collect payment and post it.

eBay will sent your buyer emails guiding them through the process of sending you payment for the item. Make sure you have the money before you send anything.

Once you've got the payment, all you need to do is pack the item for posting (make sure to use some bubble wrap), take the buyer's address from the confirmation email eBay sent you, and write it on the parcel. Put some stamps on, post it, and you're done!

I hope you enjoyed selling your first item. Now that you're starting to get into it, the next email will give you a checklist of things you need to do to be a successful seller.

Learning the eBay "Lingo".

8:12 AM

Learning the eBay "Lingo".

Do you have trouble sometimes understanding when people talk about eBay? Don't worry, some of the jargon is really obscure, and you can't be expected to understand it until someone's told you what it means. Here's a little list of some of the most useful lingo to know, but you don't need to memorise it - even the most common jargon is only used relatively rarely.

Words.

Bid: telling eBay's system the maximum price you are prepared to pay for an item.
Dutch: an auction where more than one of an item is available.
Feedback: positive or negative comments left about other users on eBay.
Mint: in perfect condition.
Non-paying bidder: a bidder who wins an auction but does not then go on to buy the item.
PayPal: an electronic payment method accepted by most sellers.
Rare: used and abused on eBay, now entirely meaningless.
Reserve: the minimum price the seller will accept for the item.
Shill bid: a fake bid placed by a seller trying to drive up their auction's price.
Snail Mail: the post, which is obviously very slow compared to email.
Sniping: bidding at the last second to win the item before anyone else can outbid you.

Abbreviations.

AUD: Australian Dollar. Currency.
BIN: Buy it Now. A fixed price auction.
BNWT: Brand New With Tags. An item that has never been used and still has its original tags.
BW: Black and White. Used for films, photos etc.
CONUS: Continental United States. Generally used by sellers who don't want to post things to Alaska or Hawaii.
EUR: Euro. Currency.
FC: First Class. Type of postage.
GBP: Great British Pounds. Currency.
HTF: Hard To Find. Not quite as abused as 'rare', but getting there.
NIB: New in Box. Never opened, still in its original box.
NR: No Reserve. An item where the seller has not set a reserve price.
OB: Original Box. An item that has its original box (but might have been opened).
PM: Priority Mail.
PP: Parcel Post.
SH: Shipping and Handling. The fees the buyer will pay you for postage.
USD: United States Dollars. Currency.
VGC: Very Good Condition. Not mint, but close.

The chances are that you'll find more specific jargon related to whatever you're selling, but it'd be an impossible task to cover it all here. If you can't figure one out from your knowledge of the subject, then type the term into a search engine, followed by the word 'ebay'. The chances are that someone, somewhere will have seen fit to explain it.

While it's good to be able to understand others' jargon, avoid using it unless you really need to (for example, if you run out of space in an item's title). Many people on eBay are not experienced buyers and you will lose them if you write a load of gobbledegook all over your auction.

By now, you're well prepared for eBay life, and you're probably ready to get started with that first auction. In the next email, we'll show you how to dive in and get started.