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Seven Mistakes eBay Sellers Make

Lily O'Halloran

Building a successful eBay business takes time and a little know-how. Learn seven mistakes that many eBay sellers make, so that you can save yourself time, money, and stress by avoiding these common missteps.

1. Provide too little information.

I am always surprised by the number of auctions that contain such a small, and often garbled, amount of information. How do sellers expect to sell their wares when buyers aren’t sure what they would be bidding on? Don’t make this all too common mistake. Start with a simple, factual description of the product; this information should always come first. Buyers want to know exactly what the auction is for; if you are selling a product of interest, the buyer will read on.

Next, include a description of all relevant product details, such as product or model number, color, size, style, storage capacity, and so on. To avoid causing disappointment to the winning bidder, always accurately describe the condition of the product including any minor defects if applicable.

Don’t forget to be persuasive! Your auction listing is a sales advertisement. After listing all the facts, include a lively description of the benefits of the product. Why is this product great? Let potential buyers know the advantages of the product. Better yet, tell them why that can’t live without it.

Include a call to action. A call to action is simply a request to do something. For example, at the end of your informative auction listing you might say “Bid now” or “Bid now, don’t let this xxx get away!” where xxx is the name of the product.

Too much information is better than not enough. Buyers are often in a hurry. Don’t require buyers to email you for pictures or additional information. Give them enough information to make an informed decision. Informed buyers are happy buyers.

2. Include ridiculous or rude policies.

This is yet another mindboggling concept that is widely practiced by eBay sellers: include rude and ridiculous bidding, shipping, and payment policies. Have you seen them? Policies such as: “Don’t bid on my auction if you have no intention of paying. I will track you down and you will pay!” or “Don’t bid on my auction if you have less than 10 feedbacks.” Actually, I have seen policies that are much worse than those examples. Some sellers will write more about what a buyer should not do than about the product being auctioned.

What does this do? Adding policies such as these to an auction drives customers away. No one wants to buy from a jaded seller. These policies are very unprofessional and will definitely not increase your chance of making a sale. The majority of buyers are respectable customers that are not trying to pull one off. Treat potential buyers with respect to gain more customers.

3. Delay feedback until the buyer leaves you feedback.

Why do sellers do this? Actually, I know why. These sellers are coercing buyers into leaving positive feedback. Not only is this insulting to buyers, it is very unprofessional. Let your service speak for itself; don’t hold positive feedback hostage. When a buyer pays for their winning bid, they have done their part as a buyer. Feedback should be left after the buyer pays.

Think about it from a buyer’s perspective: Buyer wins auctions. Buyer pays for auction right away. Buyer receives product, but has not received feedback yet. The buyer then receives a message from the seller telling him to leave her positive feedback, and then she will do the same for him. What?!? That is just plain wrong. In the end the buyer probably will leave positive feedback, because they did receive their product; however, their view of that seller is forever diminished.

Be a professional: instate a policy to leave positive feedback after the buyer pays. You may run across a crazy buyer once in a blue moon, but most buyers are not out to rip you off. Buyers want a pleasant transaction just as sellers do.

4. Do not include a photo of the product.

Including a photo may seem like a no-brainer, but why then are there so many auctions without photos? A picture can be as persuasive, or more so, than the written description of a product. Unless you are drop shipping products from the manufacturer, a digital camera is a necessary business tool. (If you are drop shipping, your drop ship service provider most likely provides product photos that you can use to showcase the product for sale.) Digital cameras are becoming less expensive all the time. Even a simple and affordable digital camera can get the job done.

Auctions without photos tend to end without a single bid. On the other hand, auctions with high quality, superior photos often end up with higher than expected winning bids. Taking high quality pictures is a lot of work, but the results can be outstanding.

5. Reply to customer emails when you get around to it.

Take your sweet time. Customers don’t have anything better to do than wait around for you to answer their email, right? Wrong! Assume buyers are in a hurry, because many are, in fact, in a hurry. By the time you answer their question, they may have already bought the item from another seller. Selling on eBay is a business. Businesses must respect and value their customers to be successful. As an eBay seller, this means that you should check your email regularly to seek out and respond to potential buyer’s emails before their attention wanes. When a customer takes the time to show an interest in your auction, treat them well – show an interest in them. Respond quickly and courteously. Every customer email provides a chance for you to shine and show off your business. What message do you want to send?

6. Accept limited forms of payment.

Accommodate as many buyers as possible by accepting as many forms of payment as you are able to. Don’t disregard PayPal. The majority of eBay buyers have a PayPal account. If you do not accept PayPal, then you are shutting out a huge pool of buyers. Buyers can search eBay specifically for auctions that only accept PayPal. PayPal enables buyers to pay by credit card, debit card, or PayPal balance. Without the option to pay by credit card, many buyers won’t bid.

Similarly, if you do not accept money orders, then you are losing out on a tremendous number of buyers. Create auctions that are accessible to a diverse group of buyers by allowing buyers to pay with a variety of methods, as many as you are able to accept.

7. Start auctions at the highest price you think you can get.

… And they might just end without a single bid. Buyers want to feel like they are getting a deal. A high starting price is generally a deterrent to buyers. Buyers are likely to pay more for an auction that starts with a low starting price – assuming that the auctions is well written and includes at least one photo.

There are times when a low starting price, by itself, is not the best option. For example, you are selling a product that you cannot afford to lose money on. Another example involves a product that has a very distinct target demographic. In either case, you are better off using a reserve price along with a low starting bid.

Reserve price auctions are controversial. Many buyers pass over auctions with reserves; however, you may be able to attract these bidders by including a Buy It Now option. The set price informs buyers of the price you are looking to receive for the product. Buy It Now also enables buyers to purchase the product without waiting for the auction to end. A reserve price auction keeps the Buy It Now option available until bids pass the Buy It Now price.

Before selecting a starting price, research the market to determine what price the product has been selling for and how much demand there is for the product. Use these data to price your auctions accordingly.

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