Think Like an Arms Dealer to Be Successful Selling on eBay & Amazon

Today’s post is a tounge-in-cheek guest post by Adam Bertrand.

Adam is a normal guy who sold 15 books one day in July of 2008 on Amazon instead of trying them at the yard sale.  He noticed that the books sold within the first 3 hours of listing them and that was the beginning of his super-successful venture into online book-selling.  He’s no book-selling superstar with 557 employees, 2 industrial warehouses and with 1,000,000 books listed, but he has achieved over 1,200 feedbacks with a 98% feedback rating on Amazon, 100% feedback rating, Powerseller and Top-Rated Seller status on eBay, is currently grossing over $10,000/month part time and is teaching others how to do the same much quicker than the 2 years it took him.

Adam has a blog at sellyourbooksonline.com where he discusses his proven strategies, powerful tips on where to find books, how to list books for maximum profit and much more.  For the more serious sellers, he also currently is offering an eBook called Used Books: Big Business which has been a huge hit with his readers.  If you’re interested to find out what Adam has to offer head on over to his blog or register and pop your head in at his message board at sellyourbooksonline.com/forum where you can get access to other sellers just like yourself.

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Here is Adam’s Post:

Do you know what an arms dealer is?  If not, it’s OK.  This is an eCommerce blog and I’d hope you weren’t involved in any unscrupulous activities other than possibly selling a Teacher’s Edition book on Amazon.  An arms dealer is an international figure that typically sells millions of dollars worth of weapons and ammunition to war-torn countries, groups of terrorists, or basically anyone that may want to purchase a surface to air missile or 500.

In a bloody civil war, each side of the battle needs as many weapons and ammunition as possible.  A savvy arms dealer knows this.  He doesn’t care which side “wins”.  All the arms dealer cares about is making as much money as possible so he offers his merchandise to BOTH sides while the civil war is raging.  He’ll sell a rocket launcher to North Korea, watch them blow a helicopter out of the sky in South Korea and then turn right around and sell a missile to South Korea to launch at North Korea in retaliation.  It’s a brilliant business model but not one that would guarantee  you a long lifespan, good morals or earn you popularity with the laws in any country.

Now, why in the world am I talking about international terrorist activity on an eCommerce blog?  Because this kind of business model is perfect for us as sellers to not get involved with either side while coming out smelling like roses at the end!  Think of Amazon as North Korea and eBay as South Korea for a minute.  I know, Jeff Bezos couldn’t pass for Kim Jon Il in a dark alley but just go with me on this.  If North Korea and South Korea were trying to destroy each other why would you want to join either side?  Isn’t this what Amazon and eBay are doing?  Chances are you’re gonna get blown to bits either way you go.  If it were me, I’d become the arms dealer, become a neutral party and squeeze every ounce of profit I could out of both sides.

These two giant eCommerce platforms are always vying for top spot and I see sellers on the blogs and forums ranting at eBay about how they’re never going to go back because they’re being forced into buying a store or how they’re getting screwed in the search results.  They’re going to show eBay and sell on Amazon!  What about the Amazon seller that can’t brand his business how he’d like because he can’t advertise his own site to his customers or customize his store like he can on eBay?  He’ll show Amazon!  He’s going to eBay, open up a store, market himself to his heart’s content and show that HE’s in charge; not Amazon!

According to compete.com, Amazon is currently getting 68,437,136 unique page views every month while eBay is getting 68,615,422.  Let’s just call them dead even at this point.  That’s a total of 136 million something pairs of eyeballs searching for things to BUY!  Barring all the other variables, choosing either side essentially cuts your chances of making a sale in half!  That arms dealer gig doesn’t sound too bad now does it?

Just like an arms dealer needs a weapons manufacturer, possible blood diamond source and a killer (get it?) inventorying system, an online merchant needs the same.  Online sellers have at their disposal services and tools like Monsoon, Indaba, Channel Advisor, FillZ, Art of Books et al.  These are the tools that are used to play both sides while they are both duking it out with each other.  Do you have a rare collectible book not selling on Amazon?  Turn on eBay!  How about the latest on Oprah’s book club?  Turn on Amazon!  These services allow you to play both sides at the same time and tell that eBay buyer that finally comes along, “Sorry, but I sold that book 6 months ago for 20% more on Amazon”.

Strategies an Arms Dealer Would Envy

1. Research each marketplace for the types of buyers that hang out there.  From experience I know Amazon is not known for it’s collectible books.  You’ll find those guys at Abebooks or on eBay, but don’t give Amazon the cold shoulder just in case!  Since Amazon is free to list you might as well offer it there as well.

2. For large sellers, no matter how small the listing fee, it really adds up.  I pay a nickel for a listing but if you multiply that by the nearly 8,000 books I have that’s a recurring $400/month!  Find a service that will allow you to take less risk on eBay by, for example, not listing books with an Amazon sales rank of over 2,000,000.  The sales rank is a good indicator of market demand so if you have that metric at hand why not use it to your advantage and not take a risk on paying a listing fee on eBay and it never selling?

3. Do not list very popular items on both sites at once.  Even though these services do an excellent job at removing a SKU from all the other sites when it sells out, none are instantaneous.  If you’ve got yourself a copy of the latest Harry Potter pick a side and stick to it.  You’ll know it will sell like crazy on any site so why take a chance on a dozen double sales, refunds and customer service headaches when you have a sure win anyway.  Don’t run out of grenades that South Korea wants when you’ve sold them all to North Korea! They might not like that too much.

4. Finally, take advantage of shipping differences in Amazon and eBay.  eBay offers higher search visibility to sellers that offer free shipping.  However, Amazon will always give you the $3.99 shipping credit for a book order.  What’s a seller to do?  Why not offer a price that is $3.99 higher on eBay, offer free shipping and reap the rewards of higher visibility all while having that same book listed on Amazon for $3.99 less but with the shipping credit?

I hope this tongue-in-cheek approach has taught you to never make snap decisions and to carefully strategize each one.   Also, to always be the guy ON the fence admiring both lush, green fields when your fellow sellers are jumping back and forth OVER the fence trying to always find something greener.  Sometimes it really does pay off to take a step back from the chaos, think outside the box and instead of making a million dollars selling to Side A, selling to BOTH sides, making a much larger profit and taking your ball and going home.

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