The Importance of Networking

 

Steve Raiken, Raiken Profit, and I getting ready to thrift at a local Savers.

Steve Raiken, Raiken Profit, and I getting ready to thrift at a local Savers.

I spent the day visiting pawn shops and thrift stores with Steve Riaken. He’s from Connecticut and is in Phoenix for a few days while on a 90 day sourcing trip around the country. He left his home on December 1st and is a little more than halfway through his trip.

I had never met Steve in person before today. The only conversations we had were via Facebook posts or private messages. I don’t remember where I first learned of Steve, but it was probably 4-5 months ago. I started following him on Periscope and listening to him when he was sourcing. I was intrigued by his Pawn Shop hustle.  I joined his Facebook group on Cyber Monday and have followed his posts there. When I saw that he was going to be in my area I put it on my calendar. About three weeks before he was scheduled to arrive I reached out to him and asked about getting together when he was in town. A few conversations later, we had the logistics worked out.

NetworkingPeanuts PicWe met up at a Pawn shop around noon and made quick introductions. At that moment I realized my Facebook profile pic is a Snoopy Cartoon Character and immediately realized that I needed to change that ASAP!  If you’re going to network via Facebook, you need to have a real, current, picture of yourself so people know who you are.

Over the course of the day we probably hit 9-10 pawn shops and three thrift stores. He scored some great finds and I learned his pawn shop hustle. Before we knew it, it was time for us to leave and meet up with a group of his followers for dinner. It was something we sort of quickly threw together and we were pleased with the intimate setting we had with just eight of us. I met six new people who are doing the same thing I am and we were sharing stories, exchanging ideas and brainstorming! I was a fun filled evening sharing ideas with stranger friends.

Local Green Room Members meeting up in Phoenix.

Local Green Room Members meeting up in Phoenix.

If someone that is a big deal posts that they are going to be in Anytown, USA, instead of asking the same old question “When are you coming to Mytown, USA?” (posters get so tired of those comments), find a time when they are going to be in a state close to you. Get in your car and drive 6-8 hours, check out airfares, spend a few bucks on a hotel room, make it happen. The chance of some of these Big Deal people coming to Yourtown, USA are pretty slim. One of them and 50 different states and the reality is they are never going to be in your hometown, so make it happen and show up where they are going to be.

Networking quoteAs Steve and I were saying our good-byes in the parking lot we talked some more about the different aspects of our businesses. I told him of my plans to sell my personal belongings on eBay, downsize my life and my love for helping eBay newbies. I explained to him how I was documenting this life changing process via this blog and he immediately started feeding me ideas on how to promote my business, my brand, my name, etc. And he was excited and eager to help promote me!

Steve has a huge social media following. He lives on the other side of the country. He knows his stuff. He’s a big deal. And I got to spend an entire day hanging out with him because I reached out and made it happen.  And more importantly, I have a new, genuine friend.

The Reality of Slow Sales

Slow SalesI’ve noticed several Facebook group posts about how slow sales are; people wanting help and advice on what to do to get things moving, etc. People shared some great advice and I love it when action is taken on that advice and people report back with their stories. Most are positive, but I saw one where someone tried everything and still no sales. I had a few ‘good’ days last week and a few ‘ok’ days and was disappointed when I woke up this morning with no overnight sales. I decided to take a look back at my sales for the past week and see how things shook out. I sold 34 items over the past 7 days; an average of about 5/day. Not bad but not great either. Three of the past 7 days I only sold 2 items…but I don’t remember thinking ‘sales sucked today’. Two of those days I had ‘awesome’ sales and I was stoked to see the pile when I shipped. What really hit me was that 34 sales in one week is LESS THAN 1% of the number of items I have listed (currently hovering right around 3600). So when you are stuck in a rut and think sales are slow, step back and take a look at your sales from the last week or two and see how the number of items sold compare to the number of items listed and perhaps you’ll have a different perspective. Of course continuing to list and following eBay’s best practices and you increase your chances of sales that could be the best of the year!

Instead of worrying about how sales have slowed down, take the opportunity to do a few things to better your listings and be on track for when they pick back up.  Here are just a few suggestions:

  • List! List! List!
  • Catch up on your bookkeeping
  • Revamp your oldest listings
    • Make sure titles and descriptions are the best they can be
    • Revisit your keywords
    • Make sure you’ve got clear pictures and lots of them
    • Review your prices
    • Make sure you are offering returns
    • Make sure all your listings offer free shipping
    • Update your handling time to 1 day
    • Consider donating items that have been in your store over 18 months
  • Take Pictures of unlisted inventory
  • List! List! List!
  • Revamp your inventory system
  • Do a physical inventory of listed items
  • Order supplies
  • List! List! List!

 

Inventory Management

IMG_1323One of the things I struggled with as my eBay business grew from a hobby to a full blown business is tracking inventory. Up until about four years ago I had 500-600 items listed and it was fairly easy for me to track them in my head. I knew I kept all my red Kitchen items in the garage cabinet, my toys in another garage cabinet, American Girl items in the former game closet, etc.

The Red Kitchen Items in the Garage Cabinet

The Red Kitchen Items in the Garage Cabinet

As my business and listings grew I began to panic when I sold something that I couldn’t immediately visualize where it was stored. This became a much bigger problem when eBay created their seller defect program in August 2014. Try as I might, I sold items that I could not locate and because this was one of the factors tied into the Seller Defect System, I lost my Top Rated Seller (TRS) status for an entire year. That had to have been the most painful year of selling in my 18+ years on the platform.

One of my frustrations was that eBay did not give us the tools to help manage our inventory and therefore reduce the number of ‘out of stock’ items we sold. It was announced at the “We Are 20 – eBay Sellers Conference” in September 2015 that the defect program would be changed in February 2016 and the only two items that would get you a defect was “Out of Stock” and tracking information not uploaded.

The Storage Unit - Two rows deep on both sides

The Storage Unit – Two rows deep on both sides

I decided to set out and start a physical inventory of every active item listed in my eBay store….no easy task while working a full time job, continuing to list and shipping…never mind entering into the busiest quarter of the year, Q4.

Here it is four months later and I still have not completed my physical inventory, but I am about 2/3 of the way done. How to manage inventory is a question that comes up quite often in the Facebook groups I monitor. While I’m anxious and excited for an inventory management tool that eBay will roll out soon, I’m a bit nervous for the defects that I will receive if I sell an item I can’t locate, or as the buyer and eBay sees it as “Out of Stock”.

With the help of a work colleague I created an inventory database system for myself using FileMaker Pro. With it I can track my purchases when I bring them home, give them an inventory number, enter the title and any notes for the description, cost, date and place purchased, etc. When I pull the item to list, I simply enter the inventory number, transfer the pertinent information to the eBay listing, list the item and transfer the eBay Listing Number to my database.  This system is fabulous and works for me and I download sale and listing data from eBay monthly and reconcile.

I am passionate about inventory tracking and talked to anyone and EVERYONE at the Seller’s Conference to help them understand the importance of making something sellers can easily use. While in San Jose I did get to sit down with the Director of one of the teams and mapped out my ideas and how I was managing my inventory. I was VERY PASSIONATE about it. 🙂 One thing that he said they could easily do and do fairly quickly is to change it so that when we are using sell similar the CUSTOM FIELD is visible and allows for us to make changes there. But I’m getting ahead of myself…I told you I was passionate about this!

For tracking my items I use the Custom Field found on your My eBay or Seller Hub page…you may have to customize your settings to see it, but you can put it there. I add my inventory location after I list an item….BB is Bankers Box and I have my shirts sorted by size, style, etc.

Inventory Tracking Pic

When I sell an item I look at this information and can easily go to the box, bin, shelf, cabinet, etc. where the item is located and pull it to ship. And I’m soo happy to report that if you are lucky enough to be using the New Seller Hub, the Custom Field is now visible when listing under a ‘sell similar’…Thank you Scot and team!

During the conference I learned there is an inventory component to the new Seller Hub rolling out at some point this year and I’m super excited about it and can’t wait to start using it. What I have seen of the new Seller’s Hub has me almost giddy with excitement and anticipation of the possibilities!

Custom Field

No matter what size seller you are, do yourself a favor and start an inventory tracking system from the get go. It will make your life so much easier as your build your business and have thousand of items to track.

What kind of tracking system do you use? How do you find your items when they sell? What tips do you have that would help others with their eBay businesses?  Comment below!

List It And Forget It – LiFi

I’m a big believer in the LiFi method of selling….List It and Forget It. I have 3600+ items in my store and no time to micro manage my them. So I list an item, put it in my inventory and then forget about it until it sells.

LiFi Dog LeashHere’s an item that was listed February 5, 2011….sold it November 25, 2015. My notes tell me it cost me $.50 at Target on clearance. So if you calculate my original cost, the listing fees of $.05/month my cost is $3.20. I’m not going to make a TON of $$ on this but I did make something. All my work is done by the time I list something (and my picture is AWFUL…picture, one picture, that’s how old this listing is!) I love it when my return is realized in 3-6 months, but even after 4.5 years, I can still make SOMETHING off this item.

What about the expense of relisting an item, month after month?

Red Solar Snowman Path LightsHere’s another listing where I calculated the monthly expense for a listing that was over 5 years old…FIVE YEARS!

I had 28 of these when I listed them on January 3, 2010 and 5 years, 8 months and 17 days later, on September 19, 2015, I finally sold the last one. Good bye to my little red solar path lights. I can’t say I was sad to be done with you!

I list all my items GTC (Good ’til Cancelled). That means that every 30 days eBay will automatically relist my item until it sells. I have an anchor store so after my first 2500 items it only costs me $.05 per listing per month or $.60/year. So the TOTAL listing cost for this 5 year listing was $3.45…Here’s a breakdown of the profits for a 5 year listing

Initial investment in 28 items at $2/ea = $56
Listing fees = $3.45
Selling and PP fees at 15% = $75.59
Shipping at $3.25 each = $91

Total income from sale at $17.99 each = $503.72
Less expenses related to sales = $226.04
Net Profit = $277.68 or $9.92 each

Not a bad profit on a $2 investment. When I bought these I LOVED them and thought they’d be a hit and I’d sell them all before the next season. When that didn’t happen I didn’t throw in the towel and dump them at GW, all my work was done and I just needed to let it ride to realize my profits.

These weren’t taking up space I needed for other things so there was no harm in me just letting them sit for that long. Quicker sale and profits realized is a better business plan, but if you hang in there you can still make some money.

LiFi works!