What I Really Learned From Selling Online

Selling isn’t hard, right? Like, there are so many people on e-commerce and they seem to be doing fine.

We also heard many success stories from people and they conduct courses. It seems really easy.

But is it really so easy? I mean, these stories come from people who are already successful.

Some of the trainers have never ever started an e-commerce on the platforms before.

Just read carefully into their profiles… what kind of trainers don’t mention their success stories on the platform if they have already made some good bucks?

When these people sell their success stories to you, they have to make it in a way that it is easy if you follow their footsteps.

That’s perfectly reasonable because that’s part and parcel of packaging and marketing.

What do we really know about the hardship that they have gone through before reaching that stage of life?

I believe in actions more than hearing from other people. I take actions when I want to know the actual results and gain the actual experience.

Sometimes some people really don’t have a clue about what they say. No, don’t buy the stock because it’s bad! When you ask what’s the insight, they will say they heard it from other people. 

The only way to know what’s really going on is to take actions.

Here, I’m going to share with you some of the things I have really learned from doing e-commerce.

1. Customers Are Not Always Right But…

You heard that right.

I am just going to be upfront about this. Some people are really self-entitled and nasty in nature.

Let me share with you my true encounter.

A customer told me that the delivery is too slow. But the customer forgot that…

  • The order was made on Friday 11 p.m.
  • The order was requested to be delivered by a local non-registered mail.

Now, everyone who has used the local company should know that it takes around 1-3 business days to collect from the Postbox and deliver to the recipient. Moreover, they only work on weekdays.

It is already a miracle that the customer will receive the parcel on Tuesday (the complaint came on Tuesday). Yet, the customer complained that it is slow…

BUT, you must hold your fort when dealing with nasty customers.You don’t want them to jeopardize your business even further.

Positive remarks can be overwhelmed easily
Positive remarks can be overwhelmed easily (Source: “Understanding Customers” by Ruby Newell-Legner)

It really takes more than 10 positive reviews to make up 1 negative remark.

You and I also know that satisfied customers don’t always leave you a positive feedback at the end of a transaction but a negative rating comes almost immediately after an unsatisfied transaction.

好事不出门,恶事传千里

This Chinese proverb describes that “good news is usually not known, but bad news will spread a thousand mile”. It applies to business.

You really don’t want that one single comment to make you lost a potential customer.

It may take time, effort and ego to take care of nasty customers but in the end, it may really help you in your business.

2. Planning Is Important But…

Starting a business requires careful planning. Do you agree with this statement?

Now, I don’t disagree that planning is important but I feel that overplanning might not be good at all.

Why?

Overplanning makes you overthink and you will never get to your goal.

You have too many variables to consider and it will never kick you started.

If 89% of the Americans can stress over planning family vacation, you can imagine how stressful it is to plan your business.

At the end of the day, the intention of the plan is very crucial to your journey.

I have done both kinds of planning – detailed planning (e.g. with specific dates to complete certain goals) and roadmap planning.

What I realized is… I don’t stick to the specific dates. In fact, it is very stressful to keep up with the dates when you are still holding a full-time job.

Instead, I decided to draw out the goals on a monthly basis. This means that I will be given the entire month to complete the goal.

To complete a goal, there might be many tasks to complete. But that’s okay because I can do whenever I am free and I don’t have to keep up with the schedule. If I managed to complete a goal earlier, I might push forward one of the goals

My rough roadmap to guide me through the month
Example of my rough roadmap to guide me through the month (eliminated most words…)

When you draw a roadmap, it will also come clear that what are the priorities for the future. This really helps keep it clean and clear.

The key is don’t ever overplan your tasks. Take a step back and look forward to fulfill a bigger goal.

3. Management of Cash Is Really Important

As what is stated in “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” (by the way, it is a very good book), cash-flow management is very important for a business to be successful.

It helps you to have an overview of how much you have spent, where you have spent and how can you push up your income.

This gives a clear visual if your sales have taken off and your revenue has covered all your cost.

When I started selling for the first time, I didn’t think that accounts are important. In fact, I find it mundane and boring.

Since there are only two of us in the business, how bad it is to keep track the cash?

Turned out I was really very wrong.

Our accounts are so messy that we have no concrete idea how much money we have earned as we get into the later stage of the business.

We used our personal credit accounts to purchase goods. Sometimes, we might forget and don’t take it back from our business credit account.

Everything is so messy that there is no clear sense if we should continue, stop or change our strategy.

When we realized the messiness, it is already too late to keep track of our past transactions. We have no choice but to write off the transactions that we paid using our personal credit accounts.

To improve the situation, we decided that to build cash-flow sheets that give us an overview of this:

Overview - Cash Flow Management
Overview – Cash Flow Management (Numbers are for illustration purpose.)

Monthly Cash Flow Chart gives us a quick view of how much we earn and spend per month. Monthly Netflow Chart let us know if we are losing money at a glance. The individual charts at the bottom of the sheets will tell us what is the total revenue and expenditure in each category.

This is nothing like a rocket science. These charts are generated with data like this:

Cash Inflow in details
Cash Inflow in details (Numbers are for illustration purpose)

All I have to do… is to be more hardworking and spend sometimes to record our earnings and expenses every week. Then, all the charts will be automatically updated.

Awesome right?

Sharing is caring. I will be sharing my cashflow sheets with you.



4. Exploring All Platforms Is A Real Hassle But…

I sell on Carousell, Lazada, Qoo10 and Shopee.

Every time I start to sell on a new platform, I will need at least a week to generate my sales strategy.

You can see from my post on Qoo10 and Shopee that I have different promotion strategies for each platform.

If a trainer tells you that you can re-use your strategy from one platform to another, you better ask for a refund.

Each platform operates differently:

  • Different transaction fees
  • Different ways to list products
  • Different tools to promote your products
  • Different audience

It is very crucial to understand a platform well before you can sell well.

For example, if you know that Lazada has more audience who are interested in Electronics, are you still going to waste your time selling floral dresses on the platform?

Or if you know that Carousell has no transaction fee, you can attempt to lower your price to attract more people.

These are some of the questions I will ask.

  • Before I sign up:
    • How much does the setup cost?
    • Is there any transaction fee? If so, how much?
    • Is there any hidden cost (e.g. GST)?
    • Are there any shipping conditions we have to fulfill?
    • Where can I find an official guide?
    • Is there a customer service office for seller?
    • What will happen if there is a dispute? Does the platform sides buyers or sellers?
    • Who is the audience?
    • How’s the traffic on the platform?
  • After I sign up:
    • How to list a product?
    • How to promote a product?
    • Do I have to pay to promote a product?
    • Is it worth to pay for the promotion?
    • How can I track my inventory?
    • Can I upload an excel sheet to the system? Is there a format?

You can have more depending on the nature of your business. These are some of the fundamental knowledge you need to have for the platforms.

Once I’m able to formulate most of the questions, I will be able to formulate a strategy tailored for the platform.

Conclusion

Sometimes it is really difficult to learn if you only choose to listen and not making it actionable. Even if you are able to get some idea from my writings, I will encourage you to start acting and sell.

Then, you will be able to get better insight and iterate your strategy.

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