Six Sigma for Small Business

It is not surprising that some people may perceive Six Sigma as being only for large corporations. Major corporations such as Allied Signal, Black & Decker, Dow Chemical, Dupont, Federal Express, General Electric, Johnson and Johnson, Kodak, Motorola, Sony, and Toshiba have all rolled out Six Sigma efforts and achieved outstanding results. Yet, it is incorrect to think that Six Sigma process improvement results can only be achieved by huge organizations. Small businesses can also succeed in implementing Six Sigma and reap the process improvement benefits that Six Sigma provides.

Certainly, there are factors that can be disadvantageous for implementing Six Sigma in a small business rather than a large business, such as lack of resources and expertise in change initiatives. However, there are also characteristics inherent in small businesses that can speed up the effective implementation of Six Sigma more than in large businesses, such as flexible process flows, a shorter decision-making chain, and higher visibility of senior management.

Six Sigma can work in any size business because the nature of Six Sigma is dependent upon characteristics inherent to any business, not on the size of a business. Six Sigma MAIC (measure, analyze, improve, and control) disciplines work no matter the size of the organization or even the size of the Six Sigma project.

Small businesses do have constraints that limit their ability to initiate a large scale Six Sigma implementation. However, there are ways to overcome these limitations. Small businesses don’t have large reserves of excess cash to earmark for the massive training programs employed by the large corporations in implementing their Six Sigma programs. Small businesses generally can’t afford to have full-time Master Black Belts on staff and may not have the personnel with the skills and expertise to step into the role of Black Belts without extensive training. A certified Six Sigma consultant can act as your Black Belt for the initial projects until you have generated sufficient savings to be able to provide some of those savings for training your own people. Training happens at a slower scale for smaller companies but it still happens. Financially, savings realized from the first set of projects usually justifies the entire cost of the Six Sigma training.

Once some members of the organization have been trained as Green Belts, Six Sigma projects proceed with Green Belts executing Six Sigma processes. Incrementally, Green Belts are developed into Black Belts and new Green Belts are trained. Using a more gradual training approach addresses many of the constraints of smaller companies and allows them to implement Six Sigma at a pace a small business can more easily manage.

There is a benefit to implementing Six Sigma in a smaller business. Because of the size of a small business, the financial results and cultural transformation that stem from Six Sigma will propagate more quickly through a smaller organization. Focusing the Six Sigma tools at virtually any properly scoped project will drive savings to your bottom line and achieve breakthrough change in your organization.

Small Business Planning — Three Myths

Are you — like 70 percent of small business owners — working without a plan? Here are three myths that need to be dispelled about strategic planning for small business.

1. It has to be formal — Not so.

The value of a strategic plan for your small business is in putting the ideas on paper, creating action steps that will get you where you want to go and implementing those action steps.

2. I’m too small — Not so.

Even a one-person business can benefit from a strategic plan. A strategic plan can help you make decisions about time management and budget. You can use your strategic plan to help you determine whether to attend an event or advertise in a publication. It’s a check and balance tool.

3. A strategic plan is like a ball and chain — Not so.

It’s your plan. Too many small business owners feel like once it’s on paper, it can’t be changed. Wrong! Your plan should be an active document that gets reviewed and updated at least monthly, if not weekly. You’re the business owner, you wrote it, you know what’s happening in your market — adjust as necessary.

Why You Need a Business Planning System NOT a Business Plan

When someone mentions business planning we have been conditioned to think about writing a business plan. There are hundreds of books and articles, tons of software, an army of consultants, and a multitude government programs to help you write a business plan. There are virtually no resources to help you set up what today’s business environment really demands – a continuous, ongoing planning system.

A commonly accepted theory is that for a business to survive and prosper it must be flexible and nimble. It must be able to turn on a dime as conditions warrant. Having a written five-year plan is not part of this picture. In fact, trying to follow a long-term plan during rampant change is not logical. It is applying linear thinking to a non-linear situation. It just doesn’t work.

Having a formal, written business plan is so accepted as being crucial to success that there haven’t been many studies or surveys to test this premise. If business plans were such a wonderful thing, there would be a significant and conclusive difference between businesses that have them and those that don’t. Interviews of 100 founders of companies on 1989s “INC 500” list of fastest growing private companies in the U.S. found only 28 percent had “full-blown” business plans. The 1993 AT&T; Small Business Study found that 59 percent of small businesses that grew over the previous two years used a formal business plan. A 1994 survey of the country’s fastest growing companies found 23 percent lacked a business plan. “The Relationship between Written Business Plans and the Failure of Small Businesses in the U.S.,” by Dr. Stephen Perry, surveyed 152 failed and 152 non-failed small businesses in 1997. He found that 64 percent of the non-failed firms had no written business plan. He also found that non-failed firms had more extensive written plans than failed firms, 23 percent compared to 9 percent, respectively.

As you can see the results of studies and surveys are all across the board and don’t prove anything. Clearly, a significant percentage of successful businesses don’t have written business plans. None of these studies reveal the nature of the process that created the plan. Was it the result of an annual process with occasional updates or an ongoing, continual process? As Professor Albert Shapero said, “Companies that plan do better than companies that don’t, but they never follow their plan.”

The focus needs to be on the PROCESS not on the plan. If a continual, ongoing planning process is in place, a written business plan is just not important. Writing a business plan without a planning system in place is a massive effort that is done very infrequently. Many businesses write three to five year plans and update them annually. The plans are reviewed periodically during each year to analyze the plan vs. actual variances. Little, if any, thought is given to strategy between the annual updates. Strategy should be the focus everyday. Setting up a planning system allows and sometimes forces you to focus on strategy.

A planning system consists of two functions. One is a goal setting and attaining process, and the other is a trend watching or environment scanning process. Setting up a planning system takes several steps. The first and foremost task is to set aside or make time for planning on a regular, ongoing basis. It must become part of your routine, not an occasional event that can be easily postponed. In the evaluation phase, the owner or management team and the company are analyzed. From the analysis, key or critical areas of the business are identified. These areas are filtered down to focus on the most important ones. Performance measures are determined and systems to gather and process the necessary data are set up, if needed. A base of current performance is used to set goals.

Now the regular, ongoing stuff begins. Strategies are formulated, tested, implemented, monitored, and reworked until the goals are achieved. Each planning session is split between working on strategies and trend watching. As goals are achieved, the goal setting and strategy formulation process begins again.

Let’s put the focus back where it belongs on continuous, ongoing planning instead of writing business plans. As Karl Albrecht said in his book Corporate Radar, “The majority is not always right, the conventional wisdom is not always wise, and the accepted doctrine could well be flawed. The more fashionable an idea, the more it is likely to be exempt from critical evaluation. Breakthrough thinking sometimes calls for contradicting the most widely held assumptions and beliefs.”

Using SWOT Analysis To Improve Your Business

Analyzing the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) of a business is a well-established tool that is widely used by academics, consultants, and advisors. Although it is a simple concept, business owners often struggle when trying to use it because it is so broad. It is difficult to determine where to start, what questions to ask, and where to focus. The obvious problems get attention while many other important issues get overlooked. SWOT analysis is a great tool, but its effective use requires additional structure.

Strengths and weaknesses relate to internal factors, while opportunities and threats cover external ones. The internal factors can be divided into five categories: management, workforce, sales and marketing, operations, and financial. The external factors are also divided into five categories: threat of new entrants, bargaining power of suppliers, bargaining power of customers, threat of rivalry from competitors, and threat of substitution.

To approach the analysis in a structured way, prepare a checklist using the categories mentioned above. Identify factors within each category that are important to your business. Under management for example, a major weakness for virtually every small business is relying too heavily on the owner. What would happen to the business if something happened to the owner? In the workforce category a factor could be employee turnover and the availability of new hires. The threat of new entrants might include the possibility of a big box retailer opening near your business. The bargaining power of suppliers and customers categories should consider the possibility of losing a major supplier or customer. Come up with several factors for each category to complete the checklist. It is important that you do not try to rate or solve each issue as you identify them. If you do, you will get bogged down on each factor and never complete the analysis.

Once the checklist is complete, you should rate each factor based on its importance to your business. Use an alphabetical scale from A to E, where A = very important, B = important, C = some importance, D = little importance, and E = not important. Next rate each factor based on proficiency (internal) or vulnerability (external). Use a numerical scale from 1 to 5, where 1 = very proficient or not vulnerable, 2 = proficient or little vulnerability, 3 = average proficiency or some vulnerability, 4 = poor proficiency or vulnerable, and 5 = deficient or very vulnerable.

The factors with the lowest letter and highest number (A5) are the biggest weaknesses or threats. The ones with the lowest letter and lowest number (A1) are the biggest strengths or opportunities.

Using this structured approach makes a SWOT analysis possible and practical for any small business. To make this process worthwhile you must use this information to take action. Work to fix the worst problems first, prepare for the biggest risks, take advantage of the best opportunities, and build your secondary strengths.

Staying Sane Survival Tips for Small Business Owners

Your lunchtime thoughts are comprised of brilliant marketing strategies and anxiety over bill payments. You’re the CEO, human resources director, janitor, and administrative assistant all wrapped up into one. You open the doors at dawn and lockup when it’s time to wrap up for the day.

Welcome to the world of small business ownership. Lovely, isn’t it?

Of course, the rewards of small business ownership are quite high. Your focus determines your reality and your success, you never have to answer to an angry boss, and (for most owners) you get to work in an industry of your choice. There’s an obvious trade-off with the long hours, multiple responsibilities, and occasional panic attacks of “how am I going to get this done?”

Not to worry. You’re not alone. In fact, almost all small business owners face the same issues you do. And many have survived and lived on to tell the tale (in small business seminars, in fact!), so don’t get discouraged. Here are several easy tips to get your business head out of the clouds.

Become an expert at time management: If you went to college, chances are you learned how to balance midterm studying, paper writing, socializing, and plain old partying into a somewhat successful formula. Dust off those time management skills, because they’ll get your small business running in an efficient fashion. A great way to do this is to use the tools that come with modern office software. Any sort of email program that features a calendar, such as Outlook, will allow you to track appointments, follow-up emails/phone calls, and important dates. It will also allow you to create daily to-do lists while maintaining an organized list of your contacts. You can also use spreadsheet software, such as Excel, to keep track of the progress of multiple tasks, calculate and crunch numbers, and store tables upon tables of information. Get this software, load it on to your office computer or laptop and use it religiously. It will organize your life and allow you to attend to the important things for your business.

Contracts are good things: Here’s a hint – if you’re not an expert at something, don’t do it yourself. Your budgets are stretched and your time and sanity are running low. How about a hired hand? From virtual administrative assistants to business planners to copywriters, hiring out help on a contract basis can free you from the logistics of running a business and allow you to stay focused on what your business really does. Obviously, hiring a professional costs money, but it also means a separate set of eyes specializing in something that you’re not the most adept at. The process could even pay for itself. If the quality of work these contract professionals bring in generate revenue by allowing you to work harder at what you do best.

Seize every opportunity: When you’re a small business, you’ve got to get creative with your marketing. Fortunately, every single moment and action presents itself as a time to sell your business. Writing an email? Then attach your business description to your signature and casually mention your business. Going to the library? Bring some flyers and tack them on the bulletin board. Going to get office supplies? Ask the supply store manager how you can place your business cards on the counter. Every scenario grants you the opportunity to reach another person. And even if its just one person, that someone can tell a friend, who may tell two friends, and so on. Word-of-mouth and grass-roots marketing can be a powerful tool, and it’s cheap – so use it!

Keep your chin up: It might be a cliché, but it’s true – the best way to have run a successful business is to stay positive. Keeping a positive mindset affects you, the ones you work with, and your customers. No one likes to work when they’re down in the dumps. But if you’re chipper, motivated, and ready to go, you’ll inspire yourself and the ones around you. It may sound trite, but it’s the truth. Maintain a positive attitude and work hard and the results will present themselves!

While running a small business is consuming and exhausting, don’t forget that you also need to stay mentally and physically healthy. These tricks will help you run your business more efficiently, but it doesn’t excuse you from running yourself into the ground. Remember to find an outlet for the physical and emotional stress that come with running a small business. You’ll feel refreshed and energized and ready to work hard and efficiently – and that means more business and more profits!

Persistence: A Key Ingredient in the Recipe for a Successful Small Business

It has been said that success is rarely easy or quick and that it is only the product of consistent effort which is repetitively applied. This is definitely the case for the small-business owner when trying to become successful in the cutthroat world of marketing. Any successful business depends upon marketing your product or services to the general public and convincing them to spend their hard earned money or time. It is only through persistence and never giving up on your dreams can success be achieved. Within this article, you will find several ideas of how you can maintain perseverance and understand that persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful small business.

Finish What You Start

Oftentimes people get off to a flying start in their business endeavor, but as time goes by they get side-tracked never finishing what they started. The history of small business is full of great starters but not-so-great finishers. There has never been a great book left half-written, nor a successful business left half-built. The key to finishing what you started is perseverance and commitment. Remember that many people with less talent, less ability and less experience can achieve greater things than those with greater gifts if they commit to the end of what they begin to do.

Don’t Fear It, Face It

Fear is a terrible thing and when applied to running a small business can end in disastrous results. Most people are afraid of rejection or the thought of failure. Fear of rejection will cause people to accept lives of conformity and mediocrity, while fear of failure will lead people to pass up on life changing opportunities. The small business owner will oftentimes have to take chances and risks in order to survive. It is the ones that face their fears of rejection and failure that survive. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones once said, “The men who try to do something and fail are indefinitely better than those who try to do nothing and succeed.”

Decide to Be Decisive

Everyday we make choices. Most of the time we are not even aware that we are making them. In the world of business, indecisiveness can be fatal. To pursue opportunities for your small business and maximize potential, you have to become decisive. Becoming pro-active in making decisions in the direction of your business and staying the course will be for more successful than waiting for choices to happen and then dealing with the consequences.

Never, Never Give Up

This is the definition of persistence. As one Japanese proverb teaches us, the eventual winners are those who “fall down seven times, gets up eight.” We aren’t losers until we give up. This is definitely true for the small business owner.

Persistence is indeed a key ingredient in the recipe for a successful business. You must stick to your game plan and finish what you start. You must be decisive in what you chose and never fear rejection or failure. And above all, you must never, never give up. One final thought from J.D. Rockefeller, “I do not think there is any quality so essential of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Why Online Presence Is Essential For Small Business Success

If you are any kind of small business or home operated business, online presence is essential. Majority of web site visitors are from the English speaking population due to the high levels of internet penetration in that category, online presence for all small enterprises cannot be overemphasized. The research data in the US about online connectivity reveals the following facts which may help to understand the importance of the web presence for businesses especially the small enterprise.

70 % of the US households have web connectivity.

In 2004 worldwide online population was 801 million worldwide.

Of these 36% used English as the language. Of this U.S. alone accounts for close to 200 million.

The next major group was European languages with 38 % and major single language next to English was Chinese accounting for 14%.

Home web users were generally affluent, literate, and belonged to the younger age profile. This means the web presence for any business is necessary if you want to succeed in promoting your products and services to a population who can afford them and also willing to buy them online.

The household that did not own a computer or who were were not connected to the web, generally felt it is not useful or needed and cost too much.

What this means for a small business owner is that they are better off promoting their products to people who were online.

You small business success is undoubtedly linked to your online presence

How to Choose the Best Small Business VoIP Solution

Telecommunication cost is always an obstacle for small business owners, especially if you need to call domestic or international long distance. The long distance cost factor alone, depending on the type of business you’re in, can make the difference in the success of any small business.

The telecommunication market today is one of the most competitive. Rates for both local, domestic long distance or DLL (long distance in the same country) and international long distance (ILD) are going down every day. The new player in small business phone systems, VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol), adds a whole new dimension when it comes to choosing a phone system for your small business or home based business.

There’s so much hype today about VoIP, or Voice over IP, or Voice over Broadband, whatever you want to call it. Everyone’s saying that VoIP is the “future of communication” and that VoIP will replace regular analog phone calls. Is all this true? If it is, how do you, as an entrepreneur, decide how to choose and invest in what’s best for you? Firstly, if you have no idea what VoIP is really about, here’s where you can get educate yourself: http://www.mybusinessvoip.com/start

There are two things you need to consider:

1) Level of investment
2) Cost vs. Quality

To go full out into using VoIP, you’ll need to invest in IP phones, and possibly even in IP PBX. Otherwise, you should go for IP phone adapters, which allow you to maintain whatever system you already have, but also gives you the option of converting some of those phone lines to VoIP. Most entrepreneurs are reluctant to go 100% into VoIP, and yet they still want the benefits that come from it. That’s why IP phone adapters are so popular today. In fact, here’s a list of the most popular providers for comparison: http://www.mybusinessvoip.com/compare

When is comes to quality vs. cost, the direction is pretty clear. Before choosing the proper VoIP phone system for your business, you need to figure out exactly what your business needs. If your business relies heavily on the phone for prospecting customers, providing customer support, or giving out important information through the phone, then you should definitely opt for better quality.

If you use the phone for short communication with your business partners or agents, or any other reason which is NOT your main business function, it would be better to save a little and go with the low cost option. The difference in quality is not very apparent in most cases.

If you are just starting your small business, VoIP phone cards also provide some sort of temporary solution until you can get enough financing to develop a better system. Phone cards usually let you dial international and national long distance at a lower cost because they use either VoIP as the back end provider or through a special promotion or arrangement between telecommunications companies.

Today, you can even get “virtual phone cards” which allow you to make phone calls by dialing a toll-free number in a long list of countries. This is especially useful if you spend more time travelling and doing business overseas than you are at home.

Regardless of which VoIP phone system you choose for your small business, make sure you are getting the most out of the money you spend for these long distance or international plans. Forget the bells and whistles. The purpose of having a good phone system is, and always should be, to communicate and express yourself.

How To Find Customers For Your eBay Consignment Business

Selling goods for others, consignment selling, is the fastest-growing business segment on eBay.
Over 80,000 sellers have registered for eBay’s trading assistant program.

The largest, most trusted resource online for auction information Worldwide Brands, Inc

If you can find people who are willing to give you something to sell without your paying for it unless it sells, then you have created an unstoppable money machine. With this business you get the inventory in your hand before you sell it, but your inventory is free.

Think about this a moment: What is the biggest problem eBay sellers face? It’s finding goods to sell on eBay that they can buy at a low enough cost to make a profit. What could be better than the consignment business? There is no investment in merchandise. If an item sells, you make a profit with little or no investment—or risk. If it doesn’t sell, you simply call the consignor up and ask them to come and pick up their goods. So, simply put, if you can find enough good merchandise to sell, this is a win-win business. The consignor ends up getting more for their merchandise than they could get from a garage sale or by selling it in a local auction, and you make a commission with little or no risk to you beyond the eBay listing fees. Assuming you know how to sell on eBay, and you can handle the administrative and bookkeeping side of this business, you really can’t lose as long as you find a steady supply of people with merchandise to sell.
Let’s explore the ways to do this.

Marketing Your Business:

Marketing your business or, put another way, selling your service is the key to success in the eBay consignment opportunity. This includes all forms of advertising, networking, and public relations. Marketing is a continuous process. If you stop marketing, you will stop growing. How you plan to market your services is the most important part of your business plan. The money you spend on marketing will most likely be the largest single category of expense you have after rent and labor.You should spend your marketing dollars very carefully. Make sure you test every advertisement for effectiveness before running it again. Always start small. Most advertising venues such as newspapers, magazines, and radio will give you large discounts for signing up for a program instead of doing just one or two ads. This is highly negotiable, however. My standard answer to an advertising salesperson is “I will buy three spots (or ads) and test them. If they work, I will sign up for a larger program. If I go ahead with the larger program, I want you to credit my first three ads with the program discount.” Because advertising is very competitive, the sales rep will agree to this most of the time. If he doesn’t, then talk to his competitor first before making a decision.

Advertising :

Advertising is probably the easiest way to build a clientele. Advertising takes many forms and has a wide variety of costs, depending on the reach and frequency of the advertising you do. The great thing about advertising is that you can start small, reinvest your earnings, and grow with very little financial risk. Avoid the temptation to jump in and commit to a large program. Test your ads first in small papers and journals, before spending large sums to advertise in larger publications.

Print Advertising:

Starting out, local advertising is probably your best source of merchandise. I stress the word “local.” This is a relevant term. If you live in a small town (under 100,000 population), you can take out a classified ad for very little money (usually under $15). If you live in New York City or Los Angeles, a classified ad in the major newspapers can cost over $50. If I lived in New York City and were starting out on a small budget, I would forgo the New York Times and place an ad in one of the neighborhood journals, such as the West Side Journal. On the other hand, in a small town I could afford to advertise in the largest newspaper.
There are also plenty of small publications such as the Ad Server, Little Nickel, and so on. These are very inexpensive to advertise in.

If you take your business to a higher level with employees and/or a storefront, then you will be able to afford advertising in the major newspapers.

Here is an example of a classified ad that I have used with success:

Make money selling your valuable goods on eBay. We do all the work for you. We photograph the items, list and launch the auctions, collect the money and ship the goods. We sell art, antiques, collectibles, computers, small electronics and good quality clothing, jewelry and accessories. Call 206-555-7777

Here are some shorter ads that also work:

1/ I will sell your items on eBay. Low fees. Call Skip at 306-555-5555

2/ Professional eBay Seller will get Top Dollar for your valuable goods Low fees, quick payment 703-555-5555

3/ eBay Seller works for you. Get Top Dollar for your antiques and collectibles. 212-444-4444

Radio Advertising:

Local radio stations can also be very inexpensive and effective. Small local radio stations sell 30-second spots very cheaply. For example, I once purchased 25 spots for $300. One half of the spots ran in prime time. I received over 70 calls from the spots. About 20 of those resulted in acquiring merchandise to sell on eBay. Those sales netted over $6,000. What is more important, a few of the people I dealt with are still in touch with me and bring me merchandise on a regular basis.

Bulletin Boards and Posters :

Another source of advertising is local bulletin boards in supermarkets, book stores, Laundromats, senior centers, neighborhood kiosks, and so on. Yes, people actually read these. Just create a 5×7 card with the same text as the classified ads.  Post as many as you can and check them on a regular basis. You can also put those little tabs with phone numbers on the bottom that people can tear off.

Cold Calling :

Lots of people sell things at garage sales that they could sell for much more money on eBay. There are hundreds of eBay power sellers who cruise garage sales, tag sales, and estate sales buying up good used items they can sell on eBay for three or four times the cost. If you want to sell on consignment, however, getting to the sale when it opens is too late.Instead, try this: On Wednesday or Thursday, get a list of sales from your local paper. Go to the house and knock on the door and explain what you do and offer to look at what they are selling to see if you could get more money for them on eBay. If you are too shy to do this, you could also just prepare a short note or a flyer explaining what you do and either drop it off on their door or send it in the mail timed to arrive a couple of days before the sale.Another source of cold-calling is dropping into small antiques and collectible stores.

Today a lot of dealers are already selling on eBay themselves, but I know a few dealers who want to sell more on eBay but just don’t have the time. There are other, old-fashioned dealers who have never tried eBay and probably never will. These people are very approachable. eBay and the soft economy of the past few years have been cutting into their sales, and many small antique dealers are struggling. Your efforts can really help some of these small-town dealers stay in business.You can do this with any business, but the advantage of antiques and collectibles is that they are usually higher priced than most used goods.

Another technique I use is to visit estate sales and garage sales at the end of the day just before they close. Sometimes people have things that wouldn’t sell, because either there is no local market or they priced them too high for a garage sale. Often you can sell these items at a higher price on eBay.

Networking :

You should volunteer to speak before community groups such as the Lions Club, Rotary, the senior center, chamber meetings, and so on. Give a talk about “How to sell on eBay.” This will help get your name out in the community. Your talk should not be a sales pitch for your services, but you can mention what you do at the end of your talk and most groups will let you hand out business cards or flyers.

Join your local Chamber of Commerce, where you can meet bankers, attorneys, and local business owners. The best way to meet and develop a relationship with these folks is to volunteer for some of the committees, such as the speaker committee or dinner committee, or else for events the chamber sponsors. This will bring you in close contact with other members and people will look upon you as someone who really cares rather than someone who joined the chamber just for the business contacts.

As a chamber member, you will also be allowed to advertise in the chamber newsletter or magazine and will have a directory of all the members that you can use for direct mail.

As you will be dealing with business people you will want to look business-like.  This doesn’t mean you have to wear a suit. The corporate casual look is very acceptable. Nice slacks, a blouse or shirt and perhaps a blazer if you are speaking to a group, or meeting a business owner, will work fine.

Creating a Presentation Book:

Prepare and carry a presentation book (or a “pitch book” as it’s called by salespeople). Buy a three-ring notebook and plastic sleeves that hold an 8″ × 10″ sheet of paper.

Prepare inserts as follows:

* Facts about eBay
* Facts about you (feedback status, power seller status, years of eBay experience, and so on)
* A screen shot of your feedback page with comments
* Examples of common items selling on eBay
* Some screen shots of successful auctions you have completed
* Your fee schedule
* A list of local references

You should also carry extra copies of your fee schedule, your flyer or card, and a consignment contract to leave at the end of the meeting.Practice giving your presentation until you can give a concise “pitch” in about ten minutes. You will be reading upside down (people seldom sit side by side in a business meeting), so you will need to memorize what you want to say about each page.Your presentation should be concise, informative, and to the point. When you get to the end of your presentation, don’t forget to ask for the business. Do not say something lame such as “Well, what do you think?” Instead say something along the lines of, “Mr. Jones, do you have any merchandise that you would like me to try selling for you?” Or you might say, “Mrs. Brown, would you like to give me a couple of items to test-market for you before making a final decision?”

If you take one thing away from this article, it should be that consignors will not beat a path to your door. It is not enough to announce to the world that you are in business. You have to proactively go out and look for consignors. I would try all of the techniques listed here. Over time, you will learn which ones work best for you and your particular market.

Sell What Sells, NOT What’s ‘Cool’

Selling On Ebay – What products to sell on ebay
Sell What Sells, NOT What’s ‘Cool’

Too many people get bogged down trying to sell only what they know or like, or what they think is ‘Cool’…

“Sell what Sells, NOT what’s Cool” 

Our company publishes the Internet’s leading Directory of genuine wholesale “Drop Shippers” (wholesalers who ship products, one at a time, directly to your customers; eliminating the need to stock inventory). It’s called The Drop Ship Source Directory. We also publish the Internet’s Leading Directory of genuine Wholesale Suppliers who will sell to you in small Bulk Quantities, while still giving you larger Bulk Quantity prices. That’s called The Light Bulk Wholesale Directory. As a result of the information we research and publish, we get questions all the time about what products Home-based Internet Business owners should try to sell online.

I’ve been at this for years, and have become very successful in my Internet business. But let’s face it, folks. If I knew what was going to sell well on the Internet tomorrow, next week, or next month, I wouldn’t be writing this article. I would have retired and purchased a small private island by now. In the retail business, whether you are online, in a physical store in the local mall, or at a roadside stand, it makes no difference; choosing the products you are going to sell is always the hardest part of getting started.

I can’t whip out a crystal ball and tell you what to sell. However, I can tell you about the biggest mistakes that I see new Home-based Internet businesspersons making, all the time.

Too many people are fixated on four things:

  • Selling only products they like.
  • Selling only products they know a lot about.
  • Selling only products they think are “Cool” or “Sexy”.
  • Selling only products they think “The Hottest Products on the Internet”.

I get four basic emails from people who are stuck in this rut, and I can pretty much tell that right off the bat, by the way the email begins.

  • An Email from a person who only thinks they can sell what they like starts something like this:

“Dude, I’m like, a Sk8ter, and I need to find a Wholesale Supplier for, like, Sk8tboards + wheels + stuff”.

The first problem this person is going to run into (aside from the fact that he needs to learn how to write a business email!) is a problem for all four types of people here. There may not be Wholesale Supplier for the products they want, that will work with a Home-based Internet Business. We’ll talk more about that in a few minutes, though.

The second problem is “tunnel vision”. This person may actually find a Wholesale Supplier for “sk8tboards + wheels + stuff”. If he does, great. However, someone who has such a narrow vision of the Internet Marketplace will never branch out and fulfill his own potential in that Marketplace.

Say he does find the Wholesale Supplier he’s looking for, and opens a store. Because of the narrow vision that led him there, he’s likely to stick with that store, and that store alone. He’ll make some money, but unless he gets really lucky, he won’t make a really good income out of it. He’ll piddle along selling “sk8tboard” stuff forever, when he could have done so much more.

What he needs to do is broaden his scope. If he’s interested in “sk8ting”, wonderful. But instead of focusing on just that, he should explore selling all kinds of sporting goods.

Sam Walton, the revered Founder of Wal-Mart, was once a starting quarterback on his High School football team in Columbia, Missouri. He also liked to play basketball. Can you imagine what would have happened if Sam Walton never tried to sell anything besides football and basketball equipment? There would probably be a pretty big store in the US selling just footballs and basketballs today, because Walton was a very good retailer. But it never would have grown to the size and scope of Wal-Mart today if Sam had allowed tunnel vision to crowd his overall view.

It’s okay for our “sk8ter” buddy here to open an Internet store or run Auctions that sell skateboard equipment. Niche marketing is a good thing. But in his overall business, he should look for other products with which to eventually run other Online Stores or Auctions as well. One store leads to two, two lead to four, and so on. Never get stuck limiting your entire business to just one type of product!

  • An Email from a person who only thinks they can sell what they know about goes like this:

“Hey there;

I’ve been riding horses all my life, and I own a small stable where I teach riding. I’m opening an Internet Store where I’m going to sell all kinds of stuff that other riders will want to buy. I’ve got to find a Wholesale Supplier for saddles and Western Wear and such”.

Again, this person’s first problem is going to be that he may not find Wholesale Supplier of the products he knows so well, that’s willing to work with Home-based Internet Businesses. But, we’ll get to that in a bit.

His second problem is similar to the first person’s problem, but not exactly the same. This person isn’t fixated on selling only what he likes; he’s just a little bit scared of having to learn about something new. He’s obviously going where he feels safe.  That’s okay, but let’s remember what I’ve mentioned twice so far: he may not find a Wholesale Supplier for the products he likesGenuine Wholesale Supplier do not grow on trees, folks, and most of those who are out there do not want to work with Home-based Businesses. There isn’t one available to you for every possible type of product. It’s very important to keep that in mind when you start out!

So, what does this person need to do? He needs to understand that being in business is about learning new things every day. New ways to market, new software to get used to, simpler ways to do his monthly books, etc., etc., etc. Learning new products is just as critical. Again, never limit your business to just one type of product.  You don’t have to like what you sell. You just need to make money selling it!

An Email from a person who only thinks they can sell what’s “Cool” goes like this:

“Hi;
I’m looking for a Wholesale Supplier of electronics, like MP3 Players, Plasma TVs and such. Please tell me where to find them.”

A request for Wholesale Supplier of electronics is a dead giveaway. Almost everybody who starts a Home-based Internet Business wants to sell electronics at first. It’s the Cool, Sexy market, and even if you never sell anything, you can show your friends your site and say, ‘Dude, I can get you an Xlent deal on the hottest new stuff!

Electronics, like any other Cool or Sexy market on the Internet, is not the place for most people to start. That market is absolutely flooded with other people who already had the same idea, and the profit margins have plummeted. Why? Too many inexperienced Internet sellers. They start price wars, figuring they’re going to clean up by undercutting everyone else’s prices by a little bit. Problem is, the second guy comes along and undercuts the first one a bit. Then the third person comes along and undercuts the second. And so on.

Pretty soon all you have left are tens of thousands of people trying to sell electronics for pennies more than what they pay for them, just to advertise a slightly better price than their competition.

Not good.

The person who wants to sell Cool and Sexy stuff needs to understand that they are not out here to look Cool or Sexy. They’re here to make money. Four Slice Toasters and Propane Camp Stoves aren’t sexy, but they sell and their markets are not overcrowded, and that’s what the goal is.

  • Finally, an email from a person who thinks they need to sell only the Hottest Products on the Internet goes like this:

“Hello;

Can you tell me were I can find out what the Top Selling Products on eBay are? I want to know what everyone else is selling and get in on it.”

BAD IDEA!

Look at it this way. If you were in a giant field filled with nothing but concession stands selling Salted Peanuts, what’s the smartest thing you could do? Set up yet another Salted Peanuts stand, or set up a Lemonade Stand?

I’d sell Lemonade, wouldn’t you? :o)

In our business, we look at the Lists of Top Selling Products on the Internet, too. Then we run the other way as fast as we can. We don’t want to be just another face in the crowd selling the same thing as everyone else. We want to think about products that may be complementary to the Hottest Sellers, that not many other people are selling.