Today is the day to dig yourself out of your selling rut

Albert Einstein is often attributed as defining insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results’.

In business, we call that being in a rut — displaying habits or patterns of behaviour that have become tedious and unproductive but are hard to change.

Both definitions seem appropriate for an eBay seller promoting the same products year after year, even though profits are in constant decline and there’s no sign of an upturn. But the seller keeps on going just in case… and ignores the possibility of selling more profitable products or switching to more productive places to sell them.

Conversely, an astute seller studies and responds to market changes and is constantly seeking new ways to grow profits, reduce overheads, widen their product range and optimise their buying audience.

Apart from stunted profits, there are two major problems associated with selling solely on eBay and Amazon:

• eBay is renowned for removing specific products or complete product listing categories with little to no notice, leaving people selling those products high and dry. It happened some years ago when eBay banned digital download products from their sites and hundreds of eBook and software sellers saw their ventures die overnight.

Another example of this occurred when international and trading relations between the US and other countries change… for instance, with Cuba and Iran. Take collectable stamps, for a product example. If you were selling stamps from Cuba and Iran, you’d have had your listings removed within hours and banned for the indefinite future.

• Amazon and some other companies set up competition against sellers when someone corners the market with a fast selling and profitable product, replacing the seller’s listings with their own. That doesn’t appear to be happening on eBay but is well worth looking out for.

So are you in a rut and, if so, how do you get out of it? The following tips will help…

1) You’re probably in a rut if you are selling the same products you have always sold, in the same marketplaces and without achieving regular high profits.

It is ‘without achieving regular high profits’ that distinguishes what most of us call a rut from a profitable venture.

But rut might also – loosely – describe someone making a great living selling many different products, but only on eBay or one other site and without testing alternative selling venues.

So a seller may be making lots of money but could also possibly make more. Choosing and testing alternative marketplaces is the only way to know for sure.

We’ve looked at multiple marketplace selling several times recently and decided the easiest and potentially most profitable places to sell on right now are eBay (numerous worldwide sites), Amazon ( and .com), and

2) You’re probably in a rut if you run a potentially more profitable business all by yourself, because you don’t trust your business to other people or you don’t want to pay their wages.

But research suggests most one person ventures could expand to three or four people – or just use outside freelance helpers – and grow profits much higher than the cost of using that extra help.

It’s called ‘delegation’ and passing low grade and unprofitable work to others so you can focus on more meaningful tasks is one of the easiest ways to turn a low profit venture into a hugely profitable affair.

But rather than employing helpers, with all the hassle of employment law, I suggest you delegate work to freelance operators at sites like:

Fiverr (and

Upwork (now including Elance)

Alternatively, get the kids involved. That’s how I turned my eldest daughter into one of the savviest business people I have ever known and someone I turn to every day for help and advice.

Questions to Ask Yourself to Get Out of Your Rut

• Analyse profits and workload, also problems and concerns from adding another product or alternative selling venue to your money making mix.

Has a new product downgraded your overall feedback score and has that in turn reduced your sales and profits?

Should you stop selling the product and ‘return’ to the rut?

Or could you use unfavourable comments to introduce changes and make your product even more profitable?

Has using FBA – Fulfilment by Amazon – increased your sales and profits over previously selling exclusively on one other site?

Do you feel more in control selling from your own website than selling solely on eBay, being subject to constant rule changes and sometimes oppressive third party intervention?

• Do your suppliers like you selling their goods on eBay? Do they permit sales at other sites like Amazon and Etsy? That being so, should you avoid selling those goods on eBay and revert to the same old, same old?

Or might you look for other products to sell on eBay? Or should you avoid selling those hitherto profitable products on eBay and sell them somewhere else instead? The latter is probably the best choice.

It’s a fact that many suppliers favour some sites and ban sales of their goods at others, notably eBay where prices are generally much lower than from high street retailers.

To illustrate, years ago I sold cufflinks from a major supplier who phoned one day to say his high street sellers had objected to my prices being two or three pounds lower than theirs. Their high street overheads were much higher than my eBay selling fees and they threatened to stop buying from this manufacturer unless all eBay sales were banned or prices matched to theirs.

In such a case, do you stop selling the product or sell it elsewhere, where higher prices are easily achievable (on Amazon, for example, and Etsy because the cufflinks were handmade)? I think you know the answer to that one!

Those are just a few ways to determine if you are in a rut and how to get out of it. So if you are in a rut, today is the day to dig your way out!

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