How to Sell on eBay – Small Business Primer for Getting Online Sales Started Fast with eBay
How to sell on eBay
To sell successfully on eBay... any business or person should establish themselves as a trusted merchant. Once an image of trust is formed you can use your eBay listings as a tool to promote your business and your products at the same time to the entire world at a very low cost.
Graphics and content usually command the buyers attention online. But as in any business, everything starts with customer service. All the pretty graphics and fancy descriptions in the world will not maintain and grow your business if your do not follow the rules and deliver the products. If you and/or your business do not know the basics of eBay selling, it will be very difficult to maintain an image of an established and reputable online merchant. Learning the basics is where everything starts in this world. Online or not, you must know the ropes to succeed.
The following primer is intended as a quick start guide for listing a single item on eBay using the free and easy tools eBay provides to the average eBay seller. Obviously the goal is to become an above average eBay seller... To do so, your business will require more advanced tools available through eBay solutions providers.
First things first though… It is a great idea to simply jump in and try eBay selling for yourself. If you have an eBay account already in your name, but have never sold before... Go ahead and set up a seller account with your established eBay name, or create a new one, and use this "personal" account to learn about the necessary steps for eBay selling. This is a good way to research eBay as a sales tool for your business or company. Doing so will give you a hands on idea about how eBay works.
eBay is an unmatched resource for any business in many ways beyond simply selling product. It all must start with the simple act of selling one item...
Let’s get started!
Registering as a seller
Before you start, you'll need to make sure you are registered with eBay. Registering is a very easy and painless process.
Simply click on the "Register" tab at the top of the homepage and follow the instructions. To minimize fraud and protect buyers, you're required to provide a credit or debit card to verify your identity. Make sure you also sign up for a PayPal account at the same time if you do not already have one.
PayPal is the easiest way to accept payments on eBay and even though some sellers qualify for better rates elsewhere, it is always advantageous to your business to at least accept PayPal payments even if you prefer to use your own credit card processing.
Writing a listing
Writing and eBay description can be as simple or as difficult as you want to make it. Always try to keep in mind that you are providing a description of your product for a BUYER. Write about the benefits of your product not just the specifications. Sell the sizzle and be honest. Buyers respond to honesty, especially with used items. Show the flaws, tell the honest and forthright truth about your merchandise. Writing an eBay listing doesn't always look straightforward to beginners. Keeping a few simple rules in mind will help.
- Take your time: set aside an hour to get the listing right. You'll get quicker with experience. Once you launch a listing it could get a bid right away, when a listing has a bid eBay will not allow any revisions to the original text. Spell check and get it right from the start!
- Make it easy: List a product you are familiar with. If you carry a particular best seller in your retail store or business, list that item first.
- Think Keywords! Buyers find your listing from the title you place online. Proper Keywords increase sales!
The anatomy of a listing
An eBay listing requires information about the item, you enter this information into the "Sell your item" form...
Using the eBay “sell your item” form will introduce you to all of the necessary steps required to list a single item on eBay. When you have mastered this method of getting product online via eBay you may be interested in third party applications which make this process much easier and repeatable. For now, lets look at the basics…
eBay helps you build your listing or auction for you step by step, from assigning categories to setting the price. Click on "Sell" to get the "Sell your item" form.
Category: you need to list your item in one of the 13,000 categories of goods listed on eBay, from musical instruments to concert tickets. Choosing the right category helps buyers find you. It can be difficult to choose the best categories for some items, but eBay's category selector in the "Sell your item" form can help. You can list your item in two categories if you like, but the cost of listing the item you wish to sell will double.
Title: give your item a winning title to help buyers searching eBay find you. Cram your title full of descriptive keywords that people will be looking for. Include the name brand of the item, the color, and size if any. You should also take a look at similar items selling on eBay to get an idea about what keyword terms other more experienced sellers are using successfully to sell similar items. Later you will look at signing up for free and paid research tools like Terapeak or Hammertap to help with this research. You have 55 characters to fill up with words that buyers search for. Don't rely on guesswork - use Pulse (www.ebay.co.uk/pulse) to get the inside scoop on what buyers are searching for.
Description: provide a written description of what you're selling. Describe your item as if you don't have a photograph. Write your blurb in a text editor and then copy and paste the text into the "Sell your item" form (after removing all formatting). Be honest and exhaustive. Include the good, the bad and the ugly: if the item is damaged, say so. Read the eBay rules regarding keyword spam. eBay forms on using tricks such as using the phrase “like Prada” or “Similar to Rolex” when your item is not a Prada or Rolex branded piece of merchandise. Just stick with the facts but do it will style and use the benefits of your items to sell the buyer on why they want to purchase from you!
Photographs: Proper photos are essential to stellar sales, so make them clear and crisp. Try to use natural lighting rather than the small flash on your point and shoot digital camera. Keep the background solid and only have one subject in your photograph. Using scantily clad models may sell product but be careful of your image. When selling something of high value include more than one image, at multiple angles, and progress around your item with the images to give a complete picture of what it is your selling. Pictures sell and video is even better… Later we will discuss inserting YouTube video of your items in your auctions or listings – a killer sales tactic!
Pricing: Protect yourself by starting your auction at the lowest possible price you're willing to accept. Remember that lower start prices do attract more bids, earlier in the auction. If you have some good feedback and have created a good listing, think about starting your auction off at .99 cents. Starting this low will attract interest and, bids – the more bids the more traffic to your listing. Traffic to your listing increases bids, get the picture? eBay is a marketplace which establishes true market value of merchandise… If you place your product correctly, the market will respond favorably.
Shipping: Using the included eBay shipping calculator is essential to sales. People are very aware of the shipping scams other sellers have been using for years on eBay. (You know the story: $25 >1lb item listed for .99 cents on eBay with flat rate shipping rate of $24.99…). To sell any item your shipping costs must be competitive. If you have an established account with UPS or Fedex you should consider including free shipping for a Buy it Now price… Buyers love free shipping!
Listing your item
Once you have put together all of the parts of a listing and assembled them in your sell your item form on eBay you will have a better idea of how the whole process works for the next item you plan to list. Keys to remember:
- Check spelling across the board in every field.
- Make sure you have accurate shipping information entered: Size of the box, weight, your zip, etc… Getting tagged for oversized shipping or shipping an item for less than you programmed into the shipping calculator can be painful lessons.
- Re-check the category eBay assigned to your item: some categories sell better than others
- Remove any “Don’t Buy From Me” text from your description: (i.e. Don’t bid if your feedback is low or Don’t bid if you do not plan to pay)
- Keep your text easy to read with just one font selection in a limited amount of colors. Think about reading a book instead of a circus wagon.
It's fairly simple and you'll be guided through each step. Relax. You can amend and revise your description and details as many times as you like before submitting it to the site. You don't pay a fee until you list your item but also remember that once an item is listed, you do not have any way to get those listing fees back if you need to make a change which requires canceling a listing. So check your work.
eBay and PayPal fees
eBay charges you a small fee to list your item, and you'll have to pay a Final Value Fee if it sells. Listings fees range from 11 cents to $300.00 depending on the starting price and what category you list in ($300.00 if the listing fee for a 90 day Real Estate Classified listing). Final Value Fees are calculated as a percentage of the sale price. All of eBay’s fees for listing and final value can be found here: http://pages.ebay.com/help/sell/fees.html
Keep an eye out for cheap listing days when you can benefit from a reduced fee.
PayPal, the safest and most secure method of payment, will also charge you every time you receive a payment. You'll pay a flat fee of 30 cents plus 2.9% of the amount being transferred. With an increased volume of PayPal payments you will qualify for reduced rates as a business.
Fees are essential to determining your best selling price for any item. As a general rule of thumb, with a small margin for error on an average item selling for less than $500.00, figure the cost of eBay and PayPal combined at 10% per successful transaction.
Managing your auction
The job is not over once the listing is posted. When your listing is “Live” on eBay the world is now part of your retail store. Customers will come in and out and look at your merchandise 24 hours a day.
Some of these customers will want to ask questions. They will usually do this via the eBay email messaging system. These eBay emails will be forwarded to your registered eMail account.
eMail security Note: - It is very important for your security and that of your customers to never respond to a eBay member question via your registered eMail account. Always go to your “My eBay” control panel and select “messages” to read and respond to customer messages. eBay tries very hard to reduce the fake or phishing scam emails but the task is nearly impossible. Some emails will look very official in your registered email account inbox but unless those messages are also within the eBay messaging system, they are not real and to answer one is a mistake. – Never sign in to eBay from any email sent to your account!
Once your listing is posted online the fun is just beginning. Some potential buyers will ask you questions about the item, and it's good practice to reply as quickly as possible. You might want to add to your listing if you think your answer would be useful to other buyers. Doing this also indicates to other bidders that you respond in a prompt and professional manner.
You can keep track on your item's progress using the "My eBay" tab at the top of the eBay homepage. Use this function to see how many bids you've received, the price you've achieved and how many people are watching your item.
Quick Tip – If your item has a great deal of “watchers” and you have a reserve price or Buy it Now price on the item, consider lowering these prices by a small amount about 24 hours before the end of the auction. eBay will notify each watcher of your item via eMail that you have lowered the price. Your price only needs to be lowered by a small amount to get a free promotional email delivered directly to your prospective buyers!
Ride it Out!
As an anxious first-time seller, it can be disconcerting not to receive any bids in the first few days of the auction. You might be worried that you made a mistake when listing the item. Do not despair – eBay is becoming more advanced each day and so are eBay buyers. The seasoned buyers know to wait before bidding because they do not want to drive up the price or show their hand. Inexperienced bidders will bid immediately but savvy eBay buyer waits till the last minute or uses a “sniping” program to buy your item in the last seconds of the auction. This invariably creates a “last minute flurry” of activity and your item may surge in price from $50.00 to $5000.00 in a matter of 10 seconds. Keep your cool, only lower that price once to get your emails out to the “watchers” and hold firm. You can’t cancel or change the item with the last 12 hours in any case.
Quick Tip - When building your auction, make sure to include a "counter" so that you can see how many people are stopping by: it's a free option in the "Sell your item" form.
Safety for sellers
Some sellers will go into great detail within their listings telling buyers all of the forms of payment they will not take. This is done on the chance that a payment is fake or fraudulent. This is of course a concern but it is a concern of any business and is considered a cost of doing business in most retail circles. Protect yourself from these fraudulent payments by clearly stating your policy to not ship the item until the payment clears your banking institution. Use any length of time you wish to estimate the delay of shipment resulting from a less than stellar form of payment. Then offer quick shipping if the buyer uses your most secure and preferred form of payment. This is a trick I have used since starting on eBay in 1998 and I have only received a couple of bad checks. I accept every form of payment available and do so happily. But nothing ships until I can see that payment safely within my account.
Stand out from the crowd
If you are using the very basic sell your item form it is difficult to stand out from the crowd. eBay offers additional features on the "Sell your item" form to help you get more attention from buyers. These features such as bold fonts, highlighting and "Homepage Featured" will give you more prominence, but unless you have a honed listing, the fee based extras are not good value. We only recommend the gallery image selection as an upgrade. To really “Stand out from the crowd” you may want to invest in your own eBay listing template design or a combination of listing template and eBay store design. This is really the only way to project your brand image to the browsers on eBay and to stand out as a serious seller.
When you're selling on eBay you choose the duration of your listing. Generally it's advisable to use seven-day or 10-day listings (additional fee) to get the most exposure, but if you're selling something like a concert ticket, or if you have items which are in high demand, like Wii Games or Hannah Montana collectables a shorter listing would be best. (Turning inventory is preferable to long exposure).
If you start a seven-day listing, it ends exactly seven days later: make sure that your listing ends at an hour which will allow your item its best chance of selling (these hours of the day change depending upon the item, the best way to learn the best times to end an auction on any item is to use Terapeak research tools). Many sellers swear by ending their listings on Thursday and Sunday evenings when eBay is busiest.
Take the utmost care when packaging your items for shipment. The U.S.P.S. has many resources available to help you learn how to ship if you are not set up already, (they even provide free boxes). Whatever method you use to ship, be sure your items are packed well and insured with some form of tracking capability.
Quick Tip – Use your business card as a return label on the outside of the box and throw some inside the box – Your buyer may remember you and you can get direct off eBay sales this way!
Always save your feedback as a seller. This is a policy which will save your feedback rating for when you need it most. Follow up with your buyers about 10 days after your shipment to be sure everything went well and to ask for positive feedback. If there was a problem, resolve it quickly and with little friction. But if you do receive negative feedback do not panic. You can always ask the buyer to mutually remove negative feedback if you have saved yours for this purpose. Some buyers will leave a negative by mistake or because they had a bad day. These buyers do not want a negative on their account any more than you do… It’s a tough world out there; sometimes we have to see it through business-like eyes. Your feedback is your business reputation on eBay and you should protect it with all of your capable efforts to do so. If you did not deserve a negative rating you have every right to try an get the buyer to remove it.
Set up a System
OK, now you have gotten your feet wet on eBay – What’s next?
Set up a repeatable system of selling. You need to find ways to reduce the time wasted making listings and re-listing of items. There are numerous software suites available to help your company do this. Some are free, and some are costly. The features you will require will vary with your business plan. Staffing, inventory, and goals… But once you have a listing software suite installed, your eBay business will become a well oiled machine for marketing your products to the world.