Friday, November 30, 2007

Soft skills from Ben Dr eBay 01

Quote from a posting by Ben at IMS forum at here.

What are SOFT SKILLS, to me they are things you don't learn in school like mindset, time management, entrepreneurship, sales psychology, product development and people skills. because at the end of the day all you want to do is communicate and build a relationship with your customer.

I make use of the opportunity of meeting Ben and try to get him to share a bit in this area, particularly, Time Management.

He did give an example how a lady complaining that how come after spending 3 hours everyday, she is still not making much money from internet marketing. He did found out that she actually spend most of her time checking email, etc and spend maybe just about 15 minutes on actual writing for her blog itself. Conclusion is that people tends to have this mindset that by sitting down in front of the computer and doing things is actually called working. But delivering results through doing something should be call work, right.

So 2 lessons can be learned here. Your mindset have to right and your time management skills will have to ensure that you are spending time on getting the most important thing done first, particularly that income generating part of the business and also as well as the core of the whole business. Maximising your time by focusing on things that needed to be done and done in a shortest possible set of time.


Thursday, November 29, 2007

Things learned from Ben Dr eBay

These are the few things I have learned from Ben.
1. Marketing
2. Customer Research
3. Use coupon
4. Several eBay accounts in several countries
5. Separate Buying and Selling eBay account
6. Combined Shipment
7. Source from cheap production country like China
8. Do not sell things that are consumed or applied
9. Foresight
10. Filling in the gaps in the distribution network
11. Generate ideas have them tested
12. Optimising your business model or methods

1. Marketing. It can be very simple. You can turn a $2 product and sell it for $30. That's a 15 times profit. How it is done - Bought a simple mouse pad for $2. Brand it with a cool name like razor edge (or something like that). Market and sell it in eBay. The guy manage to sell off maybe about 7 of it.

2. Customer Research. A neat idea from Ben. Go and check out your competitors' customers. Send them a survey form or questionnaires and find out what are the things they don't like, like, things that can be improved... etc. These things can be pertaining to the how shopping experience is like to the product they are buying.... trying to steal your competitors regulars... One of the way of getting these customers are look at all those closed transactions in eBay and send them an email. Surprisingly, these people do respond to these questionnaires.

3. Use coupon for the last 10 days before Christmas. Why coupon... simple... anything send out during the last 10 days will most likely won't be able to reach your customer before Christmas. These customers will most likely buy things from you before Christmas as Christmas gifts. So what happen to those who did last minute shopping? Use the coupon. They can buy a shopping coupon from you to give as Christmas gifts. These coupon can be sent by email and it can be printed out and send as gifts. Simple... A great way for eBay seller in Singapore to go all out till Christmas and most of these customers can be in US. Neat idea.

4. Several eBay accounts in several countries. This way you will make of the promotions pertaining to eBay from different countries. Example, this month till Christmas, Singapore eBay is giving out free subscription to its users. And sometimes in other country at another time for a different promotion.

5. Separate Buying and Selling eBay account. The idea of doing this is to protect your most precious selling account. The credibility of your selling account is paramount in achieving powerseller in eBay. Sometimes, due to a variety of reasons, a seller might give you, the buying a bad rating. It is not fully explained to me but he does give me a feeling that it seem like the chances of seller giving bad ratings to buyer is quite high... maybe did not received any money or late...

6. Combined Shipment. Combining several shipments from different sellers into a single container makes shipping costs generally lower for the individual sellers. This is usually done by shipping direct to the target customer market. In fact, Ben has started a company in China just by fulfilling this special needs of the sellers in US. It seems like not only it is profitable but the government of China are also giving extra incentives to have goods shipped out of the country by giving extra 7% profit for the peeps does shipping out of the country. The reason why they are giving out free money is that they wanted cold hard cash in return for their economy. Give money to earn money....

7. Source from cheap production country like China and sell it to a country with higher buying power. Side note, the best way for a Singaporean to do business in China is not to invest money there (Yah... you have by now know that China is a country where copyright is bluntly ignored. Copy not right but right to copy) but a good place to do your business product shopping there as this is the place to get dirt cheap goods of surprisingly good quality. (Some of these factory actually produced the originals for the original producers or so I heard) The advantage a chinese Singaporean is that he or she is fluent in Chinese and the world business language, English. Though not totally plug into the societies of these countries but we can have a reasonably good understand of the 2 highly varied countries (US and China).

8. Do not sell things that are consumed or applied. The problem with this is that the goods or products may not be able to meet the expectation of the desired effects it promised. A key thing is that whether these things are labelled as supplements and therefore there maybe no liability when it fails to deliver. But your reputation will take a huge plunge when this happen.

9. Foresight. Sometimes this can be quite simple and not difficult at all with some simple reasoning and your are well informed. A good example is how Ben make a fortune by selling PS3 to US consumers last year 2006 before. Just before Christmas, Sony only releases 200,000 units of PS3 for the 100 million or so US consumers for Christmas. No doubt the hype before the release has make the unit sell like hot cakes before it even reach the US shores. So way before Christmas, all the units bought prelaunched are all sold out. Those who has bought just need to bring their coupon to collect their PS3. He actually manage to get someone in China to sell him a container of PS3 in consignment. Only have to pay back in a months when he received his payment from his buyers. So basically, he did not pay a single cent for the goods in the first place. Some credibility and connection he has there in China.
10. Filling in the gaps in the distribution network. This is especially so for a large country like the US. A business opportunity for smaller online retailer to fill in. Why the gaps... for example... when there is a new gadget launched, usually, the folks in large cities will received it first. Next, will be the smaller cities, followed by large town, then smaller town. Kind of like the trickle down effects. A good example is the launch of the new Apple iPhone whereby folks in towns are not able to get the phone for quite some time. So online retailers are able to quickly fill this gap and fulfilled the needs of these consumers. Online retailers can be the eBay Stores, etc.
11. Generate ideas have them tested. You can talk to a like minded friend, surf and read up to generate fresh ideas or maybe look into old ideas and see if there is any other way to improve on it. Some will like to call this technique, brainstorming. So, do not be afraid that an idea is too silly or difficult to work. Ideas can be merged and remold into a newer better idea. So by quickly generating a lot of ideas, you will have a good chance of finding a gem in one. These are ideas gear towards making a better sales, new source of goods, getting more customers and making them into your regulars, any other tools that will help in generating more sustainable sales in the long, etc. Get this ideas tested out and see how it will fit into the overall picture of your business.
12. Optimising your business model or methods. By optimisation, you will find that not only you will have free up more of your time but at the same time earning a bigger income. The optimisation method is simple, discard or improved upon methods or ideas that is not doing well and focus on those that are doing. Scale up the those ideas or techniques that are doing well without scaling up much of your time spent. By doing this Ben is aiming to double his income of S$5 million to S$10 million next year while spending less time doing it. Amazing isn't it. Such is the power of opitimsation and time management included.


Met Ben Dr eBay

A quick summary of my first individual meeting with Ben.

Met Ben yesterday to have a chat with him. Basically, it is some kind of interview done in a very informal way. He wanted to groom people who will not give up easily and chances of success is high. After a session of sharing of passions and ideas, he have a better idea of me and vice versa. Conclusion, he is not keen and I was turn down. On one side, yah... kanna rejected, of course I will feel down but at least I learn something from the experience. His reason for the rejection is as I am not working now, financially, I won't be able to make it in eBay business at the moment. There will be a need to come up with about 200-300 dollars a month to really get started. So next step, get a job and become more financially secured and chart my path of success.

A few interesting things about Ben. He got a degree in journalism in US. Started his business in buying and selling 2nd hand textbooks while pursuing his degree. In the end, he sold off his business before coming back to Singapore. So he got his whole education paid and came back with a 5 figure bank account. He got started in writing diary when he was 9. It was more like a journal. It got started when a friend ask if he just as good as a fellow classmate. Yes, if he follow exactly whatever he does. So, it is also a journal of various ideas and they are tested out and the results recorded. So after awhile, he is more or less got program to things that works. This sort of training has resulted in a quick, sharp and creative mind he has now. At a single session chatting with Stuart Tan, he can generate over 20 ideas.


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