eBay Lesson – Advanced Training

In this advanced lesson for eBay sellers, we’ll be looking at ways of expanding your business and taking it in new directions. To start off with, here’s a different way to profit off eBay…

Trading Assistants

If you decide that you don’t enjoy sourcing stock, but still like the buzz of selling on eBay, or you simply want to expand your business, then you might want to consider becoming a Trading Assistant. A Trading Assistant is someone who sells their expertise as an eBay seller. People with goods to sell who don’t want to/ don’t know how to manage their sales hire Trading Assistants to take care of all that for them.

Trading Assistants manage the inventory, place the listings on eBay, and also package and post the goods to the buyer. For this they receive a cut of the profit.

There are many rewards for working as a trading assistant: for a start, you’ll be able to interact with your clients in person, which can make a nice change from sitting at a computer all day; you don’t have to worry about sourcing stock, and there is enormous potential for expanding your business.

However, it’s not a job for the faint-hearted. You have to be very good at making a profit most of the time in order to make this work. You’ll also have to take on a new professional image dealing with clients and have excellent communication skills.

eBay has a Trading Assistant Directory in which trading assistants can advertise their services.

To be listed, you need to have sold four items or more in the past 30 days, have a feedback rating of 50 or higher, and at least 97% feedback. Because you are responsible to your clients for selling their goods, you need to consider the following factors before you become a trading assistant:

  • Are you going to charge a percentage of each sale or a flat fee?
  • Will you ship the items?
  • In what format will you sell the items? Fixed Price? Auction?
  • What if the item doesn’t sell?

A word of advice from powersellers:

For the percentages to work out favorably, it’s difficult to make a good profit on items that sell for less than $100.

It’s not unheard of for misunderstandings to occur between a trading assistant and client, so one of the most important tasks on your ‘to do’ list should be making sure you have a strong, clearly worded contract in place that includes:

  • A clearly itemized list of eBay’s pricing options, including listing enhancements.
  • A chart or table of fees so that your client is easily able to see how they add up.
  • An explanation of Final Value Fees
  • Some basic eBay operating rules
  • Important points: such as – the client can’t back out once the auction has been listed and so on.
  • Make sure that your area of responsibility is clearly defined, as is that of the client. You don’t want to leave room to be accused of things beyond your control, nor do you want to give them room to start taking over!

A good contract and good communication is the key to being a successful trading assistant. I strongly recommend going over important points verbally with the client also.

To find customers:

  • List in the Trading Assistant directory
  • Advertise in your local paper.
  • Advertise in trade magazines, particularly for niche and collectible items.
  • Pin up flyers on community notice boards and using word of mouth (always the most effective way!). Just walking around your local town centre and personally distributing flyers or business cards is one of the best ways to get people to notice and remember you.

You’ll find that you will only need between 5 and 10 good clients to fill up your time initially – depending on how you want to grow your business and how much stock each client has to sell.

Wholesale Suppliers

Product supply becomes increasingly important as your business grows. You’ll find that you’ll need at least two sources for each product you sell in order to have a reliable re-stock system. Large amounts of product usually only come from one place: wholesale suppliers. There are two different types of wholesale supply:

  1. Bulk Lots: This is where you purchase large quantities at regular intervals from the supplier. The goods are sent to you where you store them and package and post them as you make a sale.
  2. Drop Shipping: You pay for the goods but you never see them. The wholesaler packages and posts the goods straight to your customer for you.

The best way to find wholesalers is to use directories. It’s important to realize that legitimate wholesalers won’t go out of their way to seek business from low-volume sellers (i.e. eBay sellers), and thus, probably won’t optimize their website for generic keywords such as ‘wholesale supplier’ for that reason. They might do business with you if you go to the trouble of contacting them, but they won’t seek you out. Thus, be very wary of sites that appear in a Google search for ‘wholesale suppliers’ – they may very well be illegitimate.

Good directories include:

  • Liquidation.com
  • SaleHoo.com
  • Surplus.net

The problem is though, everyone who uses eBay knows about a lot of these sites. You’ll still be able to get some good deals, but the best bargains to be found will be when you find and approach a wholesaler yourself. As your confidence grows, trying searching for wholesalers using by cold calling.

When contacting a wholesaler, you need to consider the following:

  • If you are purchasing in bulk, have you got enough room to store your stock? Or do you need to pursue drop shipping?
  • What quantities will you need to buy to ensure you not only have a good supply for a month or so, but will meet the wholesale supplier’s demands?
  • Buying from a smaller wholesaler might be easier at first as they will be more inclined to need your business. But what happens as your business grows? Often small wholesalers have trouble keeping up in fast-paced sales seasons.
  • How long will it take for the product to be restocked?
  • How big or heavy is your item? If you are selling furniture or something quite large, then you might find it difficult to manage without a drop shipper.
  • Buy one or two of the products first to not only quality test them for yourself, but to see if they sell well on eBay.

You may also find that it is difficult getting wholesalers to open an account for you when you are a new seller. It is a lot easier if your business has been established for some time already before you go seeking a wholesale supplier. Then you can answer with confidence questions such as:

  • What other products are you carrying?
  • Who are you customers?
  • How much inventory do you expect to sell in a month?
  • How long has your business been running? And so on.

Just be sure not to inflate how much stock you sell in order to get the wholesaler on board. You’ll only find yourself in deep water when you have too much stock on your hands later on!

The Asian Marketplace

In the last 5 or so years, Asia – and China in particular – has become a major trading force in the world. What is most interesting to us is that there are a lot of opportunities there for finding cheap wholesale goods that are able to be sold for a good profit in the West.

So how do you make contacts in Asia?

Finding a good contact is the hardest part. Some people make a trip to Asia for this purpose; however, not all of us have the budget to do this, so the best alternative is to use directories.

In general, Asia is best as a source for generic products rather than designer brands. Most wholesalers advertising ‘genuine’ products will actually be selling copies. If you are looking for genuine designer brands, I recommend you use suppliers in the USA or your home country, where it is easier to verify that you are getting the genuine article.

Then, start building a relationship with the contact by emailing them or chatting via MSN. It’s all about establishing a friendly rapport as well as finding the goods.

Ask them to send a sample, and then place a small order. I often ask new contacts to send the sample for free, and pay for the shipping myself. That way it costs us both a little and we share the risk. When you think you have found your product, negotiate the lowest possible price and manufacturing time that you can. Get the company to send a purchase contract and email or fax it to you. Once it arrives, read it carefully and sign it. The simplest and quickest way to get it back is to scan it and then email it back.

How should you pay?

The Chinese are mostly unable to accept credit cards, so you will usually have to pay by Western Union or wire transfers. I certainly don’t recommend these payment methods, but unfortunately there is not much choice.

These methods provide no security for buyers: be aware that there is no way of getting your money back should something go wrong.

To alleviate the risk, the best thing to do is to order a small quantity at first. Then if something does go wrong, you won’t have lost much money!

For larger orders, I strongly recommend that you pay for an inspection. Once your orders reach several thousand dollars in amount, it’s worth paying $500 to have a third party inspect your shipment and guarantee that what you ordered is actually getting loaded onto the container. It doesn’t guarantee the quality though! Two Chinese shipment inspection services are http://www.chinainspection.com/ and http://www.chinainspect.com/.

And how do you go about shipping you newly discovered stock? For samples, the easiest way is to open an account with DHL. Once your account is opened, you just have to provide the account to the factory, and they will send you the samples, and you will be billed for shipping to your account.

When you come to order a bulk lot of merchandise, find a shipping company in your local area and compare services and rates. Ocean freight is a lot cheaper than air.

eBay International

You’ll have probably discovered by now that the competition on eBay is immense – and growing all the time. Even with a niche, it can still be difficult to keep sales on the level that you would like them to be. That’s why some sellers are taking off overseas.

Rather than just working through eBay.com, some sellers have found that they can target new audiences (with the bonus of less competition) by selling their products on eBay France, eBay Canada, eBay UK, eBay Germany, eBay Australia, and even eBay China and Japan.

The main benefit is that International eBay sites have smaller numbers of sellers, while buyer numbers are still high. Often this means that it is much easier to establish a niche as the market is less saturated. Experts predict that International Sales will eventually vastly outweigh sales from within the US.

Another important factor is the new audience. Buyers just love to see prices in their own currency, without having to go to the extra effort of converting them into their own currency or emailing the seller. While they may have been put off by the currency conversion rates from buying the product off eBay.com, they are happy to buy off the eBay site servicing their own country.

To back this up, eBay sellers who have experimented with selling on international sites say that they’ve had an improved response. Listing on an eBay site hosted overseas also means you can provide other details for the market, such as customs tax, shipping costs and so on.

While some sellers only begun selling internationally when they noticed how many overseas buyers were buying their products, I don’t suggest that you wait around!

New product opportunities

Selling to other countries can open up a whole heap of market opportunities you might not have even been aware of previously. What a lot of eBay sellers don’t realize is that buyers in other countries don’t have the same access to goods that they take for granted.

All-American brands such as US football T-shirts, Levi’s, Converse trainers and more are all extremely sort after overseas. Collectibles are always popular too.

My point is that there will always be something that is commonplace in your country, but rare and expensive overseas.

To begin with, I suggest checking out:
  • http://www.ebay.fr/
  • www.ebay.com.au
  • www.ebay.co.uk
  • http://www.ebay.de/
  • http://www.ebayjapan.co.jp/
  • http://www.ebay.com.cn/

Blogging

eBay blogs are a new development from eBay to encourage marketers to promote their products in a new way. People are always looking for interesting content by people who share their passions and this provides sellers with an opportunity of drawing attention to their items for sale and enhancing their reputation. If you can provide a reliably interesting blog on West African stamps, pre-1980s radios, or whatever you are selling, then you’ll endear yourself to collectors of those items.

To create a blog:
  • Go to http://blogs.ebay.com and click Start Blogging.
  • Give your blog a name – preferably including keywords related to what you sell – and then write a brief description.
  • Enter descriptive tags so other people can find you through search. For example, if you are selling vehicle parts, you might include tags such as ‘V8 engines’, ‘mag wheels’, ‘rims’, headlight’, and so on.
  • Finally, decide how your blog will look by choosing a background theme.

Once you submit this information and create your blog, you can change settings and your blog’s appearance by clicking on Settings and Customize in your owner’s toolbox.

The URL you can share with others is always:http://blogs.ebay.com/userID.

What to write?

Sometimes the hardest part of blogging is writing the first post. With that in mind, a great way to get started is by reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them. Hopefully, these bloggers will return the favor posting comments on yours!

And how about this for a strategy? eBay has a page http://blogs.ebay.com/ where all the new posts show up as they are placed. Watch this page for a day or two, and notice when less people are posting – this means that your new post will stay on the first couple of pages for longer and be more likely to be read!

If you want your blog to have a more customized look, you can use eBay’s advanced customized tools.

To customize your blog:
  • Click on Advanced Customization under Customize in the left navigation bar.
  • Enter CSS in the text area.
  • When done, you can save or reset the CSS field. You can always revert back to a standard style (or theme) at any time.

After you decide how your blog will look, you’re ready to start writing blog entries. eBay’s blogs allow you to create and edit HTML easily in either a rich text editor or, if you are an HTML whiz, you can enter code directly.

To create an entry:
  • When you first set up your blog you will be prompted to create a new entry. If returning to do it later, select New entry in your Owner Tools in the left navigation bar.
  • Give your blog entry a title.
  • Write your post in the text box. You can use the commands at the top of the entry field to add photos or HTML to your entry.

When you’re ready to publish, save your entry to draft. Be sure to review your post before you publish – you can always go back and edit it later.

Note that blog entries appear in reverse chronological order, so the newest entry is always on top. Other members are able to read your blog and comment on it using the comment tool.

Search the forums to get tips on good blogs to check out. The more you read, the more inspiration you will get for your own blog.

Put your writers cap on and start writing! Remember, blogs can be deleted very easily, so if you don’t like what you’ve written, just start again!

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