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FutureNow Article
Monday, Jul. 16, 2007

Top 10 Tips for Selling “it” on eBay

By John Quarto-vonTivadar
July 16th, 2007

ebay_1.jpgFor nearly a decade, companies have hired Future Now to help them understand how people buy online. In this same amount of time, I’ve spent a good chunk of each paycheck bidding, saving money, doing “market research” on eBay. And, throughout the years, it continues to amaze me how few eBay sellers get it right.

One little-known but poorly-kept secret out there in vendorland is that many big companies — the same ones who come to us for retail advice — use eBay to dispose of returned, open-box, or otherwise retail-disabled inventory. Did you know that?

So it dawned on me: Here I am, an experienced buyer — who better to ask than me about what makes me bid, bid, bid? Want to SellItNow™ your way to increased eBay sales? Here are some guidelines so you’ll be able to sell like the pros (and by pros, I mean folks like these, not just eBay PowerSellers).

10 tips for persuasive eBay listings:

#1) A Sticky Headline — If you can’t write a strong headline, you might as well not bother. It’s your only hope for getting anyone to ever see what you’re selling. (Don’t forget to test your headlines.)

#2) Better Product Images — Having better-looking product images than other sellers will do wonders. In fact, 83 percent of eBay shoppers skip listings without images, while sites with galleries get 15% more activity and those with so-called super-size photos show a 24 percent spike in sales.The better photo wins every time. Consider this photo, for example. And remember that lighting control is essential, as well as these two other points about product photos on eBay:

  • Place a product image by the headline. It’s the best way to grab attention to your headline. Remember, you’re trying to slow the bidder’s eye as she cans hundreds of similar listings. It costs virtually nothing to add a photo by the headline, you’ll get way more click-throughs, and it simply looks more professional. If you don’t have $0.35 for this critical feature, you’ll never get my attention. Don’t be penny-wise and pound-foolish!
  • Show multiple views with close-ups. This article makes the point, so we won’t repeat ourselves. It’s especially important to show multiple views and close-ups while exaggerating product flaws (see tip #5).

#3) Outstanding, Original Copy — If you’re tempted to just cut-and-paste your way into persuasive sales copy, forget it. Your words matter. First of all, it’s obvious when sellers just use the same boilerplate copy from the manufacturer’s website, which may not even be good to begin with, that everyone else is using. Besides, using the manufacturer’s copy implies to me that the product is brand new and untouched.

Show some personality. Showing personality helps potential buyers to see you as real; it builds trust. Why did you buy this product in the first place? Why are you selling it? Have you sold any of these items before? Different people buy in different ways, so the words you choose, and how you choose to dispense them, are everything. Start with spontaneous, emotional copy at the beginning, then get more methodical toward the end when listing product details. The second half of this article offers good advice on how to write for different personality types.

#4) So, What’s the Catch?Why do you have such a good deal? Oftentimes, the most persuasive thing you can do is to be completely transparent about your business model. Are you making tons of money by selling digital cameras in bulk? Did you buy too much for your brick and mortar store, and you’re selling the overstock? Is your wife making you sell the XBox before you get a Nintendo Wii, so you’ve set a low reserve just to move it (this happens). I want to know. Sorry, but saying “Lowest price on eBay, guaranteed!” means nothing.

#5) Exaggerate Flaws — This one may seem counterintuitive for the novice seller but it makes perfect sense and the best eBay sellers do it masterfully. If there’s a minor scratch on that DVD player you’re selling, zoom in on it enough in a separate photo to the point where it seems ridiculous that you’re apologizing for it in the first place. Overestimating flaws builds trust. Trust is what makes people bid.

#6) Accept PayPal – It’s been the eBay gold standard since 1998. If you don’t accept it, you’re not making things easy. I’m skeptical. In fact, offer as many payment options as possible. Get the cash (GTC)!

#7) Know How to Price — Hear about all those folks trying to sell iPhones on eBay for $1,000? How’s that working out? It’s not. In the world of eBay, your competitors are two clicks away, at most. Overestimate the market for your product, and you’ll never get that crucial first bid. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Be aware of what it’s selling for elsewhere. Find out how much similar products are selling for and you’ll have a good idea of what you should expect to get for it. Then…
  • Take the expected winning bid price and cut it in half. Shave off another 10% off, and you’ve got your reserve price. Think that’s crazy? Too low? Guess again. Studies have shown that bidding is what drives up the price. The more competition among bidders, the higher the winning bid. The only way to kick-start the bidding frenzy is by putting the floor well below the ceiling.
  • If you’re willing to accept a price that’s around or below where it’s selling elsewhere on eBay, list that price as the “Buy It Now” and throw in “free” shipping. Now you’ve killed two birds with one stone. You’ve created a compelling offer and you’ve avoided the stigma of “shipping rape” (see #10). Free shipping is often the #1 driver when it comes to online promotions.

#8) Link to the Owner’s Manual — (Where applicable) link to the owner’s/user’s manual/instructions for your product. Feel free to borrow product details from here, just don’t use the manufacturer’s boring words ;) Just don’t use this tip as a substitute for tip #3 above.

#9) Have a Star Rating Above 99% — If you have a star rating below 99%, that means you’ve upset too many people for me to feel comfortable buying. Sorry, but if you have a 100% rating and you’ve sold to less than 100 people, I’m still not confident; it’s not a true 100%. If you’ve sold to thousands of people and have a 98% rating, your “success rate” means nothing.

#10) No Shipping Extortion — Last, but not least, some eBay sellers lose their minds when it comes to shipping. Do you think we’re stupid? Um, no, it doesn’t cost $15 to ship from a one-pound package from Kansas to Brooklyn within 10 days. If it costs $5 to ship it from China, why must I pay $25 to ship it in “4-6 weeks” from California? And, by the way, I’m receiving the package, so I often how much you’ve paid the very moment I get it. Try this, and the only one you’ll fool is yourself.

eBay sellers: I’ve still got one last free corner of space in my apartment. Please help me fill it with stuff! The quicker it fills, the quicker I’ll clear it out by selling on eBay and then have all sorts of free space to fill up with new eBay purchases!

Do you have any tips to sell more effectively on ebay?

Update: Seth reminds us people are irrational.

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Comments (18)

  1. Great tips John – thank you. Too many people treat eBay like a garage sale and then are surprised when they get garage sale prices! Many of us are making a very nice full-time living selling on eBay by employing many of your tips.
    Couple other thing I would mention…use the tools that are out there to make your eBay business run smoother & faster & more profitable – Terapeak, Endicia, Turbo Lister, Vendio, etc are just a few on most PowerSellers lists.
    If you are going to compete, you have to have an eBay Store. This is the most powerful & inexpensive tool you could own for selling online. For $16 a month, you get an automated webstore with very powerful seo – if your Store is set up right.(99% of the eBay Stores are NOT set up right) Now you not only have the 233 million customers from eBay, but you then have the attention of anyone who is on a search engine looking for your product. My client’s eBay Stores are showing up on the first page of Google for their products because of this powerful SEO feature.

  2. Great article! Perhaps you could follow this up with ‘Top Ten tips to sell “it” on Craigslist’?

  3. Great article articulating a lot of the things I’ve learned by painful experience…

    One more I might add though is to consider offering to sell/ship internationally. From personal experience, I can attest to the fact that MANY items will sell for significantly more if you make sure that antique guitar collector in Tokyo or Saudi oil tycoon with too much time (and cash) on his hands can purchase it.

    And it’s not just eBay. Most U.S. eMerchants ignore international shoppers because they think it’s too much hassle, risky, etc. Not necessarily. Take a look at http://www.shurikensystems.com/html/it_s_a_small_world.html which coincidentally includes a real world example of an eBay transaction that missed out on potentially as much as 82% upside by not shipping overseas…

  4. I used to sell a lot of items on Ebay but have ceased. I buy very little as well. Ebay does not protect consumers as well as it should and there are now many, many shady sellers operating from off-shore using Ebay.

    From the sellers end, most bidding now happens in the last 20 seconds of an auction. I think the system should process ALL bids in the system as of the close of the auction. In other words, if some places a max bid of $5 on a 50 cent item with 5 seconds to go and someone else bids a max of $10, the item should go to the highest max bidder for $5.50 (assuming a 50 cent increment). Instead, the item will sell for $1 because of the time cut. The time cut should end the acceptance of bids but not the processing of bids as it does.

    In an election, when the polls close you don’t stop counting votes, you stop accepting ballots. If the Ebay computers were faster, the seller would get more money. So really, the amount you collect is a function of the speed of Ebay’s computers—is that right?

    I recommend avoiding Ebay until they clean up their act. Too many friends and clients have been “taken” lately and I no longer see Ebay as a safe harbour…

    Chris Reich

  5. You’re so right, John. I’m a work-at-home mom who has been an eBay powerseller since 2000. I’m blessed to have a 99.9% positive feedback rating (29,547) with only 23 negatives in all that time (all from eBay newbies). My husband is a marketing exec/web developer who’s an insatiable consumer of grokdotcom wisdom. This month, he finally had the chance to “persuasion architecture optimize” my eBay business. He used everything he’s learned from you guys to build me a new web site at http://www.sunshinestyles.com. He also optimized my actual eBay auctions. The result: I’ve seen a spectacular rise in my eBay and Internet traffic, my profits and my global brand recognition. It’s only been a little over 3 weeks since he put everything in place, but my profits have already increased by 22%. Last year, my gross revenue hit $225,000. Now, our expectations are much higher.

  6. Hi John,

    Very good points indeed. I couldn’t agree more about the importance of a Sticky Headline. Think about the printed press – do you think they’d sell as many papers with dull headlines? Not on your nelly!

    I would also like to pick up on point 2 – Better Product Shots. If anyone is wondering how to spruce up their product shots they could do themselves a huge favor by checking out Bling! It – http://www.blingit.us

    All the best
    Steve

  7. Great artikle.
    I’m selling mp3 player on ebay and had the same expierences.

  8. You’re so right, John. I’m a work-at-home mom who has been an eBay powerseller since 2000. I’m blessed to have a 99.9% positive feedback rating (29,547) with only 23 negatives in all that time (all from eBay newbies). My husband is a marketing exec/web developer who’s an insatiable consumer of grokdotcom wisdom. This month, he finally had the chance to “persuasion architecture optimize” my eBay business. He used everything he’s learned from you guys to build me a new web site at http://www.sunshinestylesonline.com. He also optimized my actual eBay auctions. The result: I’ve seen a spectacular rise in my eBay and Internet traffic, my profits and my global brand recognition. It’s only been a little over 3 weeks since he put everything in place, but my profits have already increased by 22%. Last year, my gross revenue hit $225,000. Now, our expectations are much higher.

  9. Shows the difference between how people think — all this information is “wow” for me (except that I have heard it all from my wife who is amazed that everybody doesn’t just “know” all of that naturally. Uh, she’s not an NT — trust me…

  10. Does anyone know what is the best listing way ? I’ve tried One day listing, but it did NOT work much..

  11. [...] eBay Ads? Tips, Tricks & Tonics! A good read Top 10 Tips for Selling “it” on eBay | FutureNow’s GrokDotCom / Marketing Optimization B… 10 tips for persuasive eBay listings: #1) A Sticky Headline If you cant write a strong [...]

  12. hello
    Nice thread having such a wonderful information about tips for selling, thanks for posting..

  13. good tips!

  14. I think you need to have a good product to sell.

  15. lol. You can have any product for sale. Use that tips, and you can to sell it.

  16. I am a self taught ebayer who does ok . It is great to find a list like this to summarise all the stuff I do by instinct and put it in order for me. Ebay is outselling my on line store – I now need 10 Top Online store tips . Now I am off to take some even better photos !!

  17. Great list, just started trying to sell my pens last week, it’s not what I expected. But after a week, I’ve learned a great deal

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John is the co-author of the best-selling Always Be Testing and 3 other books. You can friend him on Facebook, though beware his wacky swing dancer friends, or contact him directly at john@johnquarto.com

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