Review:The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay

This five-pound multimedia package is packed with tips for making money on eBay. Though best suited for novice auctioneers, seasoned sellers will find useful resources, too.
Book Review:The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay
By Derek Gehl
Blaine, WA; The Internet Marketing Center, 2007; multimedia package contains text and CDs; $197

It seems that the gap between people making money on eBay and people making money training people to make money on eBay is closing quickly. Here is one of the latest entrants into the latter category. Touted as the "World's Greatest eBay Training Course," the second generation "The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay" is priced at a hefty $197.

But then more than a mere book on the topic, this is a five-pound multimedia package containing 338 side-tabbed loose-leaf pages, a color pictorial binder, a DVD, 5 CDs, and for good measure, a flamboyant 3' X 2'color poster spelling out in pictures the program's itinerary. We reviewed Derek Gehl's eBay training package to determine if it justified its price — and the time investment.


Internet Marketer Derek Gehl
The Man Behind the Multimedia: Internet Marketing Center CEO and author Derek Gehl.

Gehl, the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center based in Vancouver, an Internet marketing consulting company, began, we are told, nine years ago in a basement with an advertising budget of $25. Now he says the company is worth $60 million. IMC trains entrepreneurs in all aspects of Internet selling via consulting, traveling seminars, newsletters and catering to niche markets such as this eBay training package produced by Gehl and his "Advanced eBay Mentoring Team." The elaborate text breaks down into 30 "lessons" presented in six "steps," with the text augmented by the six discs.

The Discs: The Good, The Bad, The Annoying
Certain discs can be exasperating. Such is the case with Disc 1, the only DVD in the set, in which Gehl, sitting at a desk, pontificates for the full 37 minutes, interrupted only briefly for slides of his points. The presentation is part sales-pitch, part pep-talk on what the average person can accomplish using the system, and part a summation of the program with cues to the other discs' various topics. It seems mainly superfluous, at times, annoying.

The second disc features audio of Gehl interviewing the head of his team on avoiding eBay pitfalls, useful over-the-shoulder listening for those so disposed, but probably would have been better in a video format. Disc 5, touted as "inspirational," contains three interviews of eBay sellers helped by IMC, (including the seller of the Double WizDog Indoor Dog Potty,) again somewhat useful for picking up selling strategies, but it tends to be nearly as much an infomercial as informative.

On the other hand, Disc 4 is a marvelous resource of nearly 300 hyperlinks to virtually every needed page on eBay and to tools, products, software, freeware, third-party vendors and sourcing for all aspects of eBay selling. The links on the disc can be accessed alphabetically or by lesson number, referenced in the text. The sites range from Craig's List to something called "fatfingers," a site that helps find sales with misspelled product names that are overlooked in searches, thus becoming bargains for those who can find them. In between is an outstanding Internet cornucopia of business resources, including sites probably unknown to many eBay sellers. This disc is an excellent Internet business 'Rolodex.'

Disc 3 features three video tutorials with step-by-step instructions on setting up eBay and PayPal accounts, finding viable product to sell on eBay and setting up an eBay Store. It is comprehensive, well-done and referenced to the text.

On Disc 6, you will find a free download link to an eBook titled "The Internet Marketing Center's 10-Step Formula to eBay Success," which the purchaser of this program is free to sell at any price they like, ad-infinitum. The point is to help novice sellers get their feet wet on eBay (and no doubt provide advertising for the IMC.)

The Text: Covering the Basics — and Then Some
The 338 pages of text are the meat of the program and are certainly comprehensive. The information imparted at the beginning of Step I is suitable for those who have never heard of eBay, much less visited the site. It included advice on which eBay site to use (U.S., Germany etc.,) registering on the site, selecting a user ID, bookmarking pages, on to the advise to bid before trying to sell, signs of scams and so on. The text is so detailed that it is not until page 21 that the feedback system is explained.

But then by Lesson 4 of the 6 in Step I, the information becomes more trenchant, such as the advice to use a three-tier formula for identifying moneymaking eBay product:

  1. Is the item scarce? Scarcity determines saleability if the buyer cannot find it elsewhere, such as a rare and collectible movie poster, unique antiques or an MP3 player that has sold-out in stores.
  2. Is the item desirable? An expression in bookselling is that there is "new gold and old junk," meaning a 200-year-old book is not valuable if no one is interested in it, whereas the latest Harry Potter book is white-hot. Successful items on eBay are usually desired by many people, which tends to make them hard to find, adding to their allure.
  3. Is the item in demand now? Using the example of the MP3 player, the text points out how they were in very high demand when first released, but cooled off as the initial rush of buyers obtained them.

When deciding what to sell on eBay, it's advised that you "mine your own skills and interests," for several good reasons, starting with the fact that if you have knowledge or expertise in an area, you will seem credible as a seller. The lessons go on to give good advise on the need for research and how to accomplish it, citing on-site eBay resources and eBay approved software. The section ends with detailed suggestions for one of the most venerable strategies in commerce — find and steal winning formulas from the competition.

Profit Margins and Product Sourcing
As the book progresses, it picks up steam. The four lessons in Step II deal with determining profit margins — again spelled out for novices. They cover the "big 3" product sources: wholesale, drop-shipping and liquidations. And, more interestingly, you get solid, detailed advice on contacting manufacturers and their wholesale suppliers and convincing them to do business with you. (Far from guaranteed if you are not a large volume vendor.) Here there are requisite questions to ask of suppliers, such as how to get access to catalogs and samples (always offer to pay for samples), what the pricing and minimum quantity policies are, shipping terms and so on. You also learn the four things never to say to wholesalers:

  1. Don't say you work from home.
  2. Don't ask if they will do business with an eBay seller.
  3. Don't say you don't have enough money to pay for a minimum order.
  4. Don't try to negotiate price upfront. Instead, gather information, determine your requirements then return to negotiate price.

While this may seem a bit furtive, it is solid real-world advice, as is the final note in this section: "If a supplier says he will not sell to anyone doing business on the Internet do not try to change his mind, move on to another supplier."

Step III deals in detail with creating and formatting sales from headers through ad copy to photos, category selection, keywords, payment, shipping strategies and attracting good feedback. Most useful are the 23 pages devoted to an often-neglected aspect of successful eBay selling — writing sales copy. The author points out, and I agree, that many headers and item descriptions, even by veteran eBay sellers, are woeful, in that the items are not described in detail, the prose is not engaging or professional in style and tone, and basically neither welcoming nor persuasive to potential bidders.

However, the writer encouragingly explains that producing sales copy is not an art like creating poetry, fiction or drama, but a science, that can be learned. Again we are advised to filch: in "advanced search" under "Completed Listings" you can seek out examples to emulate as well as those to avoid. Here is what to look for:

  • Items with the highest selling prices and most bids to determine if the product description or header contributed to the success.
  • Items with the lowest number of bids and selling price for the same reason.
  • Items with many bids but lower selling prices from similar products to again determine if the description affected the sell-through price.

Description, of course, is only one factor in creating successful eBay sales. Other aspects such as sourcing, category selection, images and graphics are also covered at length, including eight pages on choosing the right category and 10 pages on keyword selection. In the six pages devoted to simply shooting and preparing images for sales, for example, there are "ten photo secrets," each with paragraphs of explanation that is typical of the detail accompanying most topics in the book.:

  1. Show items from various angles.
  2. Get close; show as much detail as possible.
  3. Light your images well.
  4. Remove flash glare.
  5. Prop-up flat items.
  6. Provide a size reference.
  7. Provide a color reference.
  8. Use a clean, uncluttered background.
  9. Crop your images for maximum impact.
  10. Take photographs as you write.

Growing Your Business
Step IV contains 20 pages on all aspects of starting and growing an eBay store and using eBay and third-party automation tools. Resources for the various issues include all eBay free and subscription services, third-party tools such as Andale, Vendio, Auctiva, Terapeak and HammerTap and freeware including SaleHoo Alerts, an eBay-endorsed wholesale research tool, and Ifanview, image editing software that's much cheaper than Photo Shopwith many free features, again, with hyperlinks to the sites on Disc 4. Steps V and VI are devoted to sophisticated promotional strategies and growing a business off eBay and into international markets. At a total of 100 pages, the boast that these sections contain tips that cannot be found "anywhere" is probably true. Included in the newer innovations mentioned is RSS (really simple syndication,) a means of 'feeding' auctions directly to blogs, other Web sites and anyone who requests it in real time, automatically.

While RSS has been available on eBay discussion boards and for news announcements for over a year, it remains relatively unknown among many sellers. The advantage is that they could use it to notify their best customers when they have new products for sale. RSS requires a reader and there are dozens of free RSS readers available, including NewsGator, Rojo, Bloglines, My Yahoo, My MSN and Google Reader, among others. The latest versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox browsers can read and save RSS feed links.

The Bottom Line: Best for Newbies
Whether or not this is the "world's greatest" eBay training course is open to conjecture, but it's quite possibly the most comprehensive. With its near-maniacal attention to detail and sheer scope, "The Insider Secrets to Selling on eBay" is not for the lazy, serendipitous or hobby seller; just reading and viewing it all can take days.

Topic by topic, much information offered here is more forthright and real-world useful than many books on eBay, including some by specialists, and it is a better training tool than certain expensive conferences and seminars we have attended. But then the price — $197 and $20 shipping to the U.S., may be prohibitive to many eBay novices except those who intend to sell high-ticket items or make eBay their fulltime business. (Though there is a complicated discount 'launch deal' available on the Web site.) Save for those who are struggling or have hit a brick wall on the site, eBay veterans will be turned off by the amount of basic material here; but that said, even the most savvy eBay sellers will probably find something new in this sprawling package.

Frank Fortunato is a regular contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com.

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