Although the latest headlines have begun to hint that the worst of the "Great Recession" is over, many of us are still looking at glass-half-empty bottom lines. So we were delighted when our research on the new Top-rated seller designation eBay announced in July revealed two sellers who are not only still thriving in bad times, but are also having a ball operating their eBay businesses. To add some extra sauce to this goose, both of these sellers offer non-essential or luxury items—which some feel people are bypassing in this economy.
Jordan Insley is a Titanium PowerSeller who sells primarily iPods, but also digital cameras, wireless mice and gaming systems. Matt Becker is the second-generation operator of eBay's BeckerTime, a Diamond PowerSeller of pre-owned Rolex watches. We decided to take a close look at these two and their methods to see if we could determine some common ground for their continued success.
eBay tapped both sellers to participate in the Top Seller Account Management (TSAM) program. "I randomly got a call from them about three years ago," Insley recalls. "eBay called to make sure [my] products were coming from proper sources."
Becker also received a called from eBay inviting him into the program. "We were called because of our sales volume, customer satisfaction levels and all the measuring tools eBay uses," he says.
The numbers between these two are quite impressive. In the last three years, Insley has sold about 230,000 iPods and Becker does about $1 million per month in sales on the site. But impressive numbers are just the tip of the story.
Future's so bright
Both of these sellers also still love the products they sell. Becker took over the business when his father, Gordon, the company's founder passed away. He'd decided almost 10 years ago to join his father in selling the watches they both loved. Today Becker and his stepmother, Carolyn, operate the business, and are very optimistic about their future on the site.
"This last round of [eBay] changes has been the most positive," Becker notes. He's especially enthusiastic about eBay's new Top-rated seller designation.
I love getting up each day and seeing what the next new thing is going to be
"It will result in a better environment for both sellers and buyers," he says. "One thing that's good about this program is that sellers don't have to have a huge sales volume to qualify. They've taken the pure focus off the numbers."
Insley agrees that the future with eBay looks bright.
"I love getting up each day and seeing what the next new thing is going to be!" he says. His enthusiasm is easy to understand considering how much he loves the iPods and other products he sells. "I'm an electronics guy. We always try to find the most popular products that everyone wants and offer them at great prices with great customer service," he says. "It's kind of a challenge, but that's my job. I watch the Web and news to see what the buzz is. I read a lot of different blogs. With iPods, you always want to try to find out when the next thing is coming."
As you saw in our recent article about the TSAM program, "Your Personal Sales Consultant," both Insley and Becker report excellent relationships with their TSAM consultants.
"Our company has always had a good relationship with eBay," Becker observes. Becker also reports that his TSAM consultant has consistently helped him understand the changes eBay announces. "We view eBay as our partner," he says.
Insley agrees and also reports a great working relationship with his TSAM consultant. "eBay has resourceful people who genuinely want to help," he tells us. "I know they're there for me if I have a problem."
The great customer service these two superstars enjoy from eBay is the same great customer service they offer to their customers.
"You have to stay focused on the customer," Insley notes. "At the end of the day, you're going to have to make your customer happy. A lot of sellers want to do things their way, but you have to think about what makes your customers happy."
At the end of the day, you're going to have to make your customer happy
For inspiration, Insley looks to companies like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales. "You'll go into a store like Nordstrom and know you're going to get a good customer experience," he explains. "If you go to a lesser store, you may get a great product at a great price, but you won't be able to count on a great experience."
Insley devotes a lot of his time to providing that type of interaction to his iPod customers.
"A lot of people don't know how to make an iPod connect to iTunes, so I help them," he tells us. "It takes me just a few minutes to get them set up and going. Instead of e-mailing back and forth, I just give them a call, and say, 'Let me help you get this to work.' They may spend a few dollars more for our iPods, but if they have trouble after 45 days, they can still call me, and I'll help."
Since he's the "electronics guy," he knows that means a lot of his customers simply don't understand the products the way he does. Insley doesn't consider this type of customer support a burden; "it's required," he states quite simply.
Focused on success
When we asked Insley and Becker for some secrets to their continued success, their comments were hardly secrets at all. Successful eBay sellers have been sharing this same advice with us for many years. It's been refreshing to hear it anew in these hard times, but it's still, at its core, the same thing.
"Lots of hard work," Becker tells us. "We've fallen off the horse many times, but we continue to get back up. We stay focused."
Show us a successful eBay seller, and we'll show you someone who has been up and down and down again many times, but still keeps getting back up and working to make a successful business keep moving.
"We do a lot of trial and error," Becker says. "The more bait I throw in the water, the more fish I can catch."
Insley's secret has to do with his passion for his products. "It's not just something we're doing," he says. "We care about our products and the buyers who shop with us. We take pride in our business. I still love taking and editing photos!"
"I'm excited about the next five years with eBay," Becker agrees.