Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Selling On Ebay - a Good Way to Learn About Business

Okay, hear me out.  Ebay???  You are thinking that I’ve finally lost it – how could you learn anything from Ebay?  Isn’t that just a website for getting rid of old stuff from around the house?  You know, I won’t deny that some of those same thoughts went through my head at one time, too.
This article isn’t about how to do Ebay well, or get rich from Ebay, or anything like that.  Perhaps some of the lessons could help you on Ebay, but that isn’t my goal. Rather, I want to share with you some of the lessons that I’ve learned from selling on Ebay and I truly believe that they can help you in other businesses.

You have to take Ebay seriously. 

This may sound obvious, but if you are doing Ebay as a side-hobby, you can only depend on luck to actually make money.  Unless you are selling iPhone 5′s, your customers are not guaranteed.  The same goes for any other business.  If you are “dabbling” in something, or just “trying it out”, the odds are stacked against your success.  You have to have skin in the game.  Jump in head first and act like it is a job – you are the most important boss you’ll ever have!
If you do it half-way, you’ll get half-way results, at best.

Customer service is important – always.

I bet a lot of people who sell on Ebay are tempted to not take customer service seriously.  It doesn’t feel like a “real” business, but I guarantee you that your customers feel “real”.  They are giving you real money for a real product, so don’t they deserve first class service?   Take advantage of every opportunity to distinguish yourself to your customer, even if you are fairly sure they won’t buy anything from you again (how many ice-cream makers will they really need?), they can still give you a boost by giving you a great positive feedback review.
I remember how irritated I felt one time when I sold an old textbook on Amazon and my customer gave me a neutral review with the following comment: “Did not include packing slip.”  A PACKING SLIP!  He got his book, didn’t he?  Look, whether we like it or not, customers like to feel like they are important to us (and they are, believe me).  Remember this and it will take you far.  Needless to say, I never forgot a packing slip again.

You have to learn to “batch” your work, or else you will be working too many hours with too few rewards.

The first few times I sold on Ebay, I felt so frustrated.  It took so long to create a listing, upload photos, write a description, etc.  It didn’t feel like it would be worth it unless I sold my items at really high prices.  How in the world did people do this for a living?  I felt like I was doing something wrong.
And I think I was.  The trick is to get your hands on multiple of the same kinds of items.  You put in the effort on the backside:  choosing your product, taking pictures, creating your listing.  Then, you leverage that effort and make a profit off of the same work repeatedly.  It’s easy as pie!  Well, not really, but it will help you hang on to your sanity.  The same idea goes for shipping:  spend a designated time period each day packaging and labeling and then make one trip to the post office (or better yet, schedule a pickup!).
And don’t spend all day checking your items repeatedly.  Tempting, I know.
These same ideas are useful in a different business:  batch your work.  Make money off of the same work again and again.  Don’t waste your time on busy work.

You’ve got to develop a system. 

I won’t go into too much detail, since the idea is pretty clear.  You need a definite system.   For example, at 11:00 in the morning, I start printing off my labels and I take everything to the post office at 2:00 pm.  If I get an order after 2:00, I don’t worry about it until the next day.  I researched packaging materials, keep all of my inventory in one place, and keep track in a spreadsheet what I am selling.
In all businesses, you need a system.  Some are more complex, but you’ll find if you don’t spend the extra time to decide how you are going to handle different situations, you’ll be spinning your wheels more often than not.

Give people what THEY want, not what you want them to want.

When I first started selling on Ebay, I thought that I knew what people wanted.  And I refused to hear the market telling me that it wasn’t interested in what I was selling.  How could hear the market?  I could barely concentrate over the sound of crickets when I looked at my listings.  Nobody wanted what I wanted to sell them.
I stumbled across a pretty random item and put it up for sale.  I was 100% positive that nobody would be interested.  It sold the same day.  I ended up listing hundreds of that same item and sold every single one.  It’s a product I never would’ve chosen if I hadn’t been willing to change course.
So, in your own business, make sure that you spend time finding out if people actually want what you want to sell them.  You will save a lot of time and money.
I’m sure that people can think of even more lessons learned from Ebay, and I’d love to hear them!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Two Delightful Santa Books for Children

I recently discovered two fascinating children's books by a unique author with a compelling story.  If you've never heard of Elizabeth Rooks, you've been missing out on a real treasure.  Luckily, I found these books just in time for Christmas 2012 - I think they would make great gifts!  The books are titled "Where Does Santa Go on Vacation after Christmas?" and "Where Does Santa Work after Christmas?".  I don't usually do book reviews, but I love Elizabeth's personal story and the way that she helps us answer the tough questions about what Santa Claus does the rest of the year!

"Where Does Santa Go on Vacation after Christmas" follows Tyler, an imaginative and curious young boy, Tyler, and his quest to discover where Santa vacations during the year.  Tyler and the reader together discover the glorious variety of cultures that make up our world.  The best part of this book is that it teaches children that even someone like Santa has trouble fitting in when he visits different parts of the world.  What a fun way to teach children about diversity and understanding others.

Tyler’s character is instrumental in the second book, “Where Does Santa Work After Christmas,” as well.  Through this book, children discover that Santa has more than one career – he isn’t just a jolly, bearded man in a red suit.  Santa shows children about different professions through his roles as a veterinarian and a fire-fighter and teaches children compassion and responsibility.

These two books are an endearing complement to any book collection, and would make an excellent Christmas gift this year.  They can both be purchased either at Elizabeth Rook's website and on Barnes and Noble or Amazon.com.