Book Briefs: 10 Tips for Selling on eBay

Halloween is coming, so we've got a treat for you: 10 eBay business tips excerpted from the book "Tricks of the eBay Masters."

Halloween is coming, so we've got a treat for you: 10 eBay business tips excerpted from the book "Tricks of the eBay Masters," (Que Publishing, 0-7897-3699-3; $22.99) by auction guru Michael Miller.

Tricks of eBay Masters
Michael Miller's latest tome of tips for eBay sellers.

The author is a top eBay seller whose past books include "Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Auctions," "Making a Living from Your eBay Business" and "Absolute Beginner's Guide to eBay." (He also recently wrote "YouTube 4 You" and was interviewed in our story "YouTube for E-Tailers: Tips, Camcorder Reviews").


Tricks of eBay Masters
Guide Guru: Michael Miller is the author of dozens of technology and auction manuals.
Miller's "Tricks of the eBay Masters" includes 101 tips and tricks, with advice on topics such as how to write a business plan, purchase inventory and choose a shipping service. Here we highlight 10 nuggets of advice outlined in his most recent eBay selling tome.

TRICK 1 for Management: Create a Business Plan — and Stick to It
It's easy to stumble into short-term success on eBay, but it's much harder to make it a long-term thing. When writing it, consider why you're in business, what you sell,to whom you want to sell it, how much you sell it for, what you'll have to pay for it, where you'll get them, how many you expect to sell, how much money you expect to make and how you expect the business to grow.

TRICK 2 for Deciding What to Offer: Sell What You Know — Why?
First, you'll enjoy it more. Second you'll be better at it. When you know a category, you're better able to pick up on trends and know what's really going on. Third, you'll know the lingo. Fourth, it's easier to find inventory because you know who the players are in the industry, and you may even already have your starting inventory in hand.

TRICK 3 for Purchasing/Managing Inventory: Leverage Payment Terms
Cash flow, or, how much money you have to spend now to pay for your inventory is a big factor to consider. As your business grows and gains a more legitimate appearance, you'll find that more payment options become available when purchasing from suppliers.

Obviously, the larger the payment terms, the better. If you can stretch the payment terms long enough, you essentially let your supplier finance your eBay purchases. Net 10 is good, but net 20 and net 30 are better. The longer your terms, the more leverage you have with your funds.

TRICK 4 for Creating Effective Listings: Offer the Buy It Now
Impatient buyers see something they want and they want it now. This is why savvy sellers, when they can, offer the Buy It Now (BIN) option in their auctions. With BIN, you name a fixed price for your item. If a shopper wants the item immediately, he or she can click The Buy It Now button and pay the fixed BIN price; the auction is automatically closed and that customer is the winning bidder. Using this option is especially popular for commodity products where the price is pretty much dictated up front by the market.

You might also want to consider this option around the Christmas holidays when buyers don't always want to wait to see whether they win an item; desperate holiday shoppers will sometimes pay a premium to get something now.

TRICK 5 for Pricing and Payments: Price Below the Breaks
Whatever pricing strategy you embrace, keep in mind how much you're paying for each item you list because eBay charges a listing or insertion fee based on the starting (or reserve) price of the item. What you don't want to do is spend more than you have to in listing fees. To be smart about how you price your items, you have to know the breaks in eBay's fee structure — and then price your items just below the breaks.

TRICK 6 for Packing and Shipping: Print Prepaid Postage Labels
One of the biggest time-savers offered by eBay is the capability to print prepaid shipping labels (with prepaid postage). You can do this directly from eBay via PayPal, for both U.S. Postal Service and UPS shipping.

When you print prepaid labels on your own printer, you can arrange for your postal carrier or UPS to pick up the packages from your front door or you can drop them off at any shipping location. You can access eBay's label-printing function from your Closed Auction page.

TRICK 7 for Promoting your eBay Business: Create an E-mail Mailing List
Savvy sellers keep updated records of all their past auctions and past buyers. This way, they can create a list of buyers to be contacted when similar merchandise is up for sale.

The easiest way to create an e-mail mailing list is through eBay. If you run an eBay Store, eBay offers free e-mail marketing. You can even use eBay's e-mail marketing tools to measure the success of your e-mail newsletters, which makes it easier to fine-tune your promotions in the future. All eBay Store owners can send a total of 5,000 free e-mails a month to subscribers.

TRICK 8 for Trading Assistant Businesses: Offer Pickup Service
If you're running your business out of your home, or if you have a drop-off retail location, your clients can drop off their merchandise at your location. However, you can set yourself apart from your franchise competition by also offering a pickup service. This is a great time-saver for your clients, and justifies any higher fees you may charge. Alternatively, you can charge a separate fee for the pickup service.

TRICK 9 for Cutting Costs/Increasing Profits: Buy Now, Sell Later
Buy merchandise when it's available at a lower price, then hold onto it and offer it for sale at a later date when the prices go back up. Perhaps the best example of this is to purchase items during the off season, and then sell it during the hot season, such as swimwear or winter sporting goods. Also take advantage of sales and promotions, or purchase discontinued products that you know will remain in demand.

TRICK 10 for Growing your eBay Business: Expand Your Merchandise Offers
Offer more and different products for sale to increase your number of listings. First, make sure that you've completely filled out the offerings in your current product category.

If you sell women's shoes for example, are there additional brands or Styles you could offer? Next consider expanding into related categories. Building on the women's shoes example, perhaps you could expand into men's or children's shoes, or into other women's clothing. What goes best with shoes? Maybe hosiery, purses or accessory items. Think of other items that your current customers are likely to purchase; these items are good candidates for diversifying your product line. Also, don't rule out selling in a completely different product category. I know of many sellers who do two things and do them both well.

If you want to read the other 91 tricks, you can buy the book here at the discount price of $20.69 with free shipping.

Michelle Megna is managing editor of ECommerce-Guide.com.

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