066: The Auction Guy – Daniel Schmidt

First exposed to eBay by his grandfather on Christmas day 1998, Dan Schmidt, now makes his living selling on eBay as co-owner and operator of ThriftCHI. His eBay store offers up at least 200 unique items via auction every Sunday, and typically has an average of 2,000 buy it now items available. Having gained ‘best-of-breed' corporate experience developing and running NFL Auction, he's developed a systematic approach to selling on eBay that's proven successful and he'd like to share some of the tips and tricks he's developed over the years today.

Interesting Notes

  • Dan, at the age of 22, is introduced to eBay while he was visiting his grandpa, an antique dealer.
  • The first thing he bought on eBay is the Winnie the Pooh necklace for his GF then who is now his wife.
  • Dan lived and grew up in Hawaii and his passion for sports, particularly football led him to the Pro Bowl and became friends with a couple from National Football League (NFL). He became an intern in the NFL doing some hospitality programs, then an opportunity arise and the next thing he knew, he is running an NFL auction.
  • He had the opportunity of working closely with an eBay account executive who gave him a lot of tips and tricks on how to do it right for best practices.
  • Dan started his own eBay business in the late of 2011. His wife saw him working for himself and eventually decided to jump on board and left a healthy career to come and join him on eBay and they have done that ever since.
  • Definitely, they have a team effort. Her wife does the cataloguing, weighing and measuring while he does the pictures, scheduling and the listing. They shared with the shipping in the morning. When they wake up, they print their packing slips and when done, they go to post office.
  • Dan uses the analogy of fishing when it comes to selling on eBay. Every item in his listings is equated to a baited pole with a line to the ocean. eBay is an ocean, it's huge. There are hundreds of millions of fish out there looking and if they like your listing, they will go for it.
  • He is an auction guy through and through.
  • He sources his products at an auction. He attends one auction a week and felt blessed on the market because there are no less than 5 to 10 auctions a day. He could choose what day and the auction site is only 50 miles from their home.
  • For Dan, an auction is a very good market to buy in. He buys in bulk; buys low and sells low.
  • At auction, the higher the quantity of the goods, the lower the quality.
  • The secret to their success: when they go to the auction, they look for where that value, the quality and quantity meet.
  • Every item in their listing uses a unique SKU. If you buy it today, it is gone tomorrow and you won't see it again unless Dan would go and find it again.
  • All their auctions start on Sunday and end on Sunday because it's the highest traffic day.
  • The best thing he ever sold in an auction that came in a box lot is an old Christmas book. They paid for $2 or $3 for that box lot and sold it for over $500.
  • His vast experience on eBay enabled him to create and adopt a systematic process, increasing his efficiency and productivity.
  • He uses a software which enables him to scale. He takes pictures and process items in a row. He weighs and measures when it is time to do titles and descriptions. He captures all the information into a spreadsheet and import the spreadsheet in a listing software which automates the listing process for him.
  • To create amazing titles that would draw people, Dan puts his username as the 1st 10 characters on every title so when people go to the search field and type in ThriftCHI, only his listings would appear.
  • Dan has his own specific sales cycle philosophy wherein he has stuff going up and coming down every day of the week except on his day of rest, and which really drives an awareness because it brings people in search.
  • They start everything at auction and they have a specific pricing philosophy. If they see an item selling for a $100, they will put it up for $80 just to try to get some bids going because it is on the bids that you are making money. And whatever does not sell at auction, they throw up a bait in their store and drop the price by 10%. They would run it for 30 days and if it does not sell again, they would drop the price again by 10%. They keep doing that and run it for a 6-month cycle. At the end of the cycle, and the item has been on eBay for 180 days, effectively it will be priced half from it's original price.
  • Sunday is an auction day. Everything that does not sell on Sunday, goes up on Monday with a 10% off and it goes for 30 days. When it still does not sell, on Tuesday it will be 20% off, on Wednesday, 30% off, on Thursday, 40% off and Friday, 50% off. All movements are tracked in the spreadsheets so he knows in any given day. The only day he does not put something off is Saturday because it is his day of rest.
  • Dan ensures that everything he buys is tracked on how much he paid for it and how much it sold for, so he can see clearly the return of his investment.
  • He feels so blessed with an environment that he can buy every single day at a strong margin return.
  • In cases when he is not sure how to price an item, he uses completed results to see exactly what things are selling for.
  • For his pictures, he adopted a no-frills approach. He only has a collapsible photo set, black sheet backdrop, and another sheet for contrast.
  • For those on a budget and are starting on eBay, he advised to spend on the lights; to get a good bulb and place it on the camera itself.
  • Dan admits that auctions can be intimidating. But what got him and opened his eyes, is what a smart guy with a lot of experience says to him one day, that is, “the long run average when you sell things at an auction is 20 cents on a retail dollar”. So, it would always be an auction for him.
  • He believes strongly in making a good impression and shipping as it's the only physical representation of themselves that they get to make.
  • He advised taking pictures of your items in a way that people are baited on it and describe it a little less than it is so people won't feel that it is overly described. Then put the items in a nice box and make sure that it won't arrive in pieces.
  • Dan plans to expand their operation and grow a little bit. They will be doing multiple stores out of the same place. He also plans to help some of the folks who are looking to take advantage of the auctions in Pennsylvania.

Quotes

  • “Being systematic is really the key!”
  • “It is always important to get your stuff out as quickly as possible.”
  • “It's all about your bait, and your bait is your products.”
  • “Whatever you have out there, if it is compelling and if the price is right, people are going to buy it.”
  • “The distinguishing characteristic from a good dealer and a bad dealer is how they source and how they buy.”
  • “You've got to buy low; sell quick, and keep your money moving.”
  • “Computers are keywords driven!”
  • “It is very important to look at the items you are selling, find every possible keyword and massage it into 80 characters that would give you a title”.
  • “When you sell so many things at an auction in one day, there is only so much money in the road.”
  • “The harder you work, the more fruits you will have on the tree.”
  • “The way to maintain positive feedback is to treat people right.”

Tools

  • Spreadsheet
  • SixBit

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