Jim: It’s truly a pleasure to have you on here, and I want to dive right into your story, man. Let’s hear what brings you to the podcast episode today.
Jeff: Okay, all right, so it started back December last year. My wife and I have been married 20 years. We have four kiddos. Our oldest is a high schooler. Like most high schoolers, he spends too much time on his phone, but he was watching YouTube and saw videos of people making money drop shipping and doing things like that. He asked some questions, so reluctantly, I decided to look into it a little bit. I reached out to an alumni group from where I went to school. I graduated from West Point and reached out to some folks.
Jim: Oh, wow! That’s impressive, dude. You just blew right past that, man.
Jim: That’s quite an accomplishment.
Jeff: Yeah, no worries. Yeah, so reached out and got several responses back. One of them pointed us to the Silent Sales Machine Facebook group.
Jim: Really, so let me get this right. There’s a West Point chat group for graduates?
Jeff: Yeah, so it’s just – there’s a lot of Facebook groups for different interests or what have you.
Jim: Sure, got you, okay.
Jeff: There’s an alumni group for West Point.
Jim: Alumni group for West Point. How cool is that?
Jeff: Yeah, that someone had started back in the day, mm-hmm, yeah.
Jim: I love it. Someone in there was a fan of this community. I got you, okay.
Jeff: Yeah, his wife actually has been selling on Amazon for several years at that point. I joined the Facebook group, and that was December of 2019 and spent a few months just reading the goings on, success stories, failures, whatever the case may be, watched some of the podcast episodes. Then, of course, everyone knows COVID came around and threw a kink in a lot of people’s plans, and my company decided that they needed to reduce everyone’s salaries across the board. Completely understand that. It’s a business decision, doesn’t help pay the mortgage, so my wife and I talked about it and decided we need to try this selling on Amazon thing. Not only that, but we also decided, hey, let’s jump right in with coaching. I know people have different philosophies on when to get coaching, but we were going from 100% of our normal income to 70. I decided, if we can get into coaching, it’ll help reduce the learning curve and hopefully eliminate costly mistakes that you usually experience when you first start an endeavor, business, whatever the case may be.
Jim: The timeline, I don’t know. I’m learning as we go right with the listener here, unfortunately. I already confessed to Jeff. Typically, I have a bit of a bio to read before the show starts, but I was running behind today. I don’t know anything about Jeff. I just learned he’s a coaching student of ours. That’s awesome, but I’m wondering about when – and for the listeners sake too, you’re about 13 months into your journey. You said you started December 2019. Here we are January, February, 14 months into your journey. At what point did you get coaching? How long ago?
Jeff: We got coaching April 1 of last year. We’re right now February of 2021. April 1 of 2020 we signed up for coaching, and between signing up for coaching and to have our first coaching call, I went entirely through the PAC, almost probably 75% of the coursework just trying to…
Jim: Wow, the Replens course or the entire Proven Amazon Course?
Jeff: Almost the entire Proven Amazon Course. I did 100% of the Replens course.
Jim: That’s that West Point discipline, man. I don’t know that I’ve been through 80% of the Proven Amazon Course.
Jeff: I skipped a few of them. I knew I wasn’t going to try and start off private label. There are a few others. Like the Replens course, I didn’t watch the part where he’s talking about 100K and higher based on starting off.
Jim: Sure, you went through the stuff that was applicable to where you were.
Jeff: Yes, yeah, and to just try to absorb it, take notes. That way, once we started the official coaching process, I knew more than just being completely brand new, even though up to that point hadn’t sold anything on Amazon at all.
Jim: I love it. Just because we hit a point – I’m trying to listen to this episode, Jeff, as I do most episodes of just, if I’m brand new to all of this, what did I just hear? I want to make it clear. The Proven Amazon Course by design isn’t a go through the whole course kind of experience. It’s more of a library of everything you’ll ever need regardless of what level you’re at in your Amazon business growth and which strategy of the numerous strategies you could pursue. It’s got in-depth content on virtually every way you can tackle the Amazon monster.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: Regardless of your experience level. When I say I myself haven’t even been through some of the content, I truly haven’t because there are modules – there’s business modules in there that some great leaders in our community are tackling with excellence that I’ve never tackled myself. We got great coaches teaching people how to do it all day, every day around here. Yeah, that hopefully explains the comment there. It sounds like you consumed a lot of content, then jumped in with both feet into coaching, and your spouse was onboard.
Jim: Let me just commend you as well too. At the point where a lot of people are taking a 30% cut in pay, that first initial reaction that I’m sure you had to wrestle to the ground is I can’t afford to spend on anything. It’s time to batten down the hatches. It’s time to circle the wagons. It’s time to cut the cable bill and cut this and cut that and figure out a way without spending any money to get out of this.
Jeff: Of course, yeah.
Jim: You had to battle that fear. How big a battle was that for you?
Jeff: I think it actually was the day we found out that the salaries were getting cut my wife had a neighborhood photographer was coming over. Photography business was hurting like a lot of things, so she was doing front porch pictures. She’d come up and stand socially distanced away and get you family photos, and you can see the stress on my face in those photos. Literally, an hour before that, we had found out about the salary cut, but in all honesty, it was truly a blessing. If the cut was less, we would’ve done what you said. We would’ve, okay, cut everything to the bone, borrow from your 401(k) if you need to, take small jobs, drive for Uber. Things like that. Since the cut was so substantial, it really forced us to look for other avenues that could actually really replace that as opposed to just scrimping by until something changed.
Jim: Yeah, it was a – it wasn’t a nice gradual ease out of your comfort zone. It was a drop kicked into a new reality.
Jim: Even though we’re blessed, man. I mean, 70% of salary, no matter what your salary is in the US, that’s still a lot more than a lot of people have.
Jeff: Oh, yeah.
Jim: When it’s a gift in reality and you got kids and you got a spouse and a mortgage and you’ve got things happening, that 30% shift is big. I was curious how you guys had managed that, and kudos to you, man, for embracing the change and jumping in.
Jeff: I did the math first. I had just pressure washed our driveway. I’m thinking, okay, how many driveways would I have to pressure wash? There’s not enough time it the day to do that, so then I started thinking about other jobs. Really, there was nothing short of this or maybe a second full-time job, which, of course, that’s almost impossible to do to make up that difference. I tell people a lot that have learned that we’re selling on Amazon and they ask questions, it’s like a lot of things. If you want to get in shape, you start an exercise program. Most exercise programs will help you get towards your goal, but you actually have to do them, right?
Jeff: The Amazon, it’s a process, and if you stick with it and follow the rules and steps, you can get to where you need to go. None of the other options we were looking at back April last year were really going to get us close enough to where we wanted to be to be worth even trying.
Jim: Right, yeah, I mean, you – I love a guy who’s willing to get out there and hustle, put in the hours, do the work, work hard, but what are you actually building? Like the power washing driveways example, you get up at 4 a.m. every day and do your morning routine. You’re out there working by 6 a.m., and you work hard ‘til dark. You put some extra money in the bank, but you’re going to be exhausted. You’re going to be away from your family, and it’s not a whole lot of money for the hustle.
Jeff: Right, that’s right.
Jim: You’re not building an asset.
Jim: You’re not building something that can be necessarily sustained by somebody else coming in. They’re not going to do it with the same excellence, right?
Jim: Yeah, the Amazon business is – was a solution for a lot of people in our community who have faced very similar circumstances. I’m glad we’re spending significant amount of time here. I think people can really relate to that little blast that comes along and knocks them sideways. What do we do now? Face the fear. Do the math. Think it through with your spouse. Now we get to the good part of the story, I’m hoping.
Jeff: Yeah, so we started in April, like I said, started our coaching. Our coach, yeah, he’s been on your podcast a few times, Rich Potter. He’s a fabulous coach, does a great job. We started doing courses with him. We’d have a Zoom call, and we’d go over a few things, more than a few things. We’d have our discussions and he’d give us a list of homework. Then I’d email him the next day or two. Hey, all this is done. What do I do now so – still just trying to consume just as much information as possible in those first steps? We sent our first products into Amazon the end of April last year and then had our first sale in May, May 5. I remember that because my birthday is May 4, so it’s easy for me to remember.
Jim: Star Wars birthday, it’s my dad’s birthday too.
Jeff: That’s right. May the Fourth be with you.
Jim: That’s right.
Jeff: Our first month we sold – it was right around $8600 on Amazon.
Jim: That’s a nice start. Do you happen to remember your margin?
Jeff: Overall, throughout this entire thing our margins averaged between 20 and 25% when you figure all your expenses and everything. Our ROI averages around 90% when you look at all the products. We have some, of course, that greatly exceed that, and then we have others that based on the throughput we’re willing to accept a lower ROI for a higher monthly amount.
Jim: That’s phenomenal. Yeah, 90% ROI is beautiful. Yeah, so that’s pretty much dollar in. Get a dollar out. Pretty close to it.
Jeff: That’s right. That’s right, yeah.
Jim: A dollar in, get two out, I should say. You’re doing great, man. That’s beautiful.
Jeff: Yeah, so we did – so May was great. Then June was better, and July was even better. It was like, holy smokes, and for the first little while, we didn’t even tell anyone we were trying this or diving in the deep end, I guess. Once we started seeing – okay, we’re seeing sales. We’re seeing our account build up on Amazon, and once we started getting checks back from Amazon, we’re like, okay, this actually is legitimate. I always thought of Amazon’s a place you go to price match. In reality, people are paying Amazon for the convenience of pulling up their smartphone, buying now and the doorbell rings, and it shows up.
Jim: They’re not even price shopping.
Jeff: No, they’re not.
Jim: The vast majority of them are not price shopping at all.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: As evidenced by how easy it is to find these 90% ROI items everywhere.
Jeff: That’s right. That’s right.
Jim: How many different listings – how many different ASINs – for those who don’t know, let’s keep it simple. How many different products are you selling?
Jeff: If you add everything up including the ones I’ve closed, we’re only at about 150. About 25 of those we’ve sold and I’ve decided for whatever reason to not continue selling those. Some of them maybe the demand falls off or people may tank the price, or in some cases, my suppliers, maybe they don’t have them anymore, and I haven’t had a lot of luck finding them. About 25 products we’ve shifted off to the side for a while.
Jim: Well over 100 products. I’m assuming the 80/20 rule applies. There’s 20% of your ASINs that you’re pretty excited about.
Jeff: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
Jim: The rest, they pay the bills, but they might drop off at some point. Who knows?
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: You’re doing what? Now you told us about your first month, 8600, 90% ROI.
Jim: Let’s go from here. How’d you progress from there?
Jeff: Obviously, even if you pay for coaching like we did, you’re always going to have learnings as you go through. In August timeframe, we had some check in delays with some of our Amazon shipments, so we had some dip in sales for a little while there, learned a couple things in the process. Now what I try to do, especially if it’s one of our top selling ASINs, I try not to send too many in a single shipment. That way, if that shipment sits on Amazon’s shelves for too long before they check it in or it gets lost, it doesn’t eat up inventory space, and I can spread it out.
Jim: That’s a great tip. Yeah, I love that. That is a brilliant strategy to keep it – it’s better to ship a little bit every day than to ship it all once every two weeks is another way of saying what you just said as far as from maintaining a nice level inventory and if something’s taking a while to get checked in. We all know there’s different distribution centers that perform very well.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: Others are like, oh, no, it’s going there again.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: Actually, the one right up the road from us was notoriously terrible for a while. I mean, I know people around here considered just going to get a job just to speed them up. I’ll work here for free, guys. Can we please just check the inventory in?
Jeff: Right, nice. Yeah, and if you think about it, you’re paying per pound to ship your stuff to Amazon or a dimensional weight if you use big boxes for lighter things. You’re not getting penalized by sending in smaller shipments. Instead of sending in 500 once a week, you could think about sending – splitting that into 2 or 3 shipments. The only thing to caution is, of course, if you get too low on any one particular item or several items, they may try to split your shipments, and then that can negate some of those advantages.
Jim: Exactly, good tip, man. You’ve been doing this. You know what you’re doing.
Jeff: I’m trying. I’m trying. Fast forward, 8 months to the day from starting our first sale we hit 100K in sales. January 5, we hit 100,000 sales, which was exciting. I was hoping to hit it – I’m a numbers guy. I was hoping to hit it by December 31, but it was nice it hit right on the eight month mark. It was a good feeling to see that number.
Jim: 100K in your first 8 months. That’s phenomenal; that’s a beautiful business – at 90% ROI.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: I mean, how many opportunities out there? That’s a lot of power washing driveways to put that much money in the bank.
Jeff: It is. It is. That’s right.
Jim: You’re away from your family.
Jeff: One thing we didn’t cover too is the economy actually came back. I’m in oil and gas. The economy came back a little bit, so we got our salaries back a few months after we started the Amazon thing. One thing I did is I let my foot off the gas a little bit. We hit that 100K, but in reality, actively sourcing products, I don’t – haven’t spent near as much time as I could or should have to hit the 100K. When I see people that have numbers that just blow mine out of the water, I completely understand it. If you’re just keeping your foot on that pedal – it’s out there. The products are out there. The returns are out there.
Jim: Yeah, absolutely. To me, the visual is how much time do you have to spend chucking starfish into the ocean on the beach, each one of them a $100 bill? How much time do you have? I mean, you only have so much time in the day, so much energy in the day. How much time do you have to get out there and hit it to make it happen and then to build systems eventually as well, which is probably distinctive growth for you guys? Do you plan on leaving your career at any point, or do you have any plan?
Jeff: No, my company’s been good to me. I like what I do. We’ve been working from home this whole time. The next step really is to continue to build processes in place to where eventually if we do and when we return to the office the company can continue to function. The Amazon portion can continue to function when I’m at the office all day. That’s the next step.
Jim: How have you guys divided up the responsibilities in the house? Tell me who does what.
Jeff: In the perfect 1960s or 50s sitcom, everyone helps along and is real cheery.
Jim: Dinner’s on the table at 6, right, yeah.
Jeff: That’s right. There’s moments like that, so we have – especially when we first started because the kids were super interested in it. We would get stuff, and we’d have, basically, a packing party. We have four kids. Everyone would have a job, and we’d help pack stuff up. They’d learn what we’re selling, and we’d talk about, hey, this costs us this much. It sells on Amazon for this much, and this is our profit. They get a lot of economics classes around the kitchen island. Most of the responsibilities fall on me but mostly because we do have four kiddos, so my wife’s super busy 99.9% of the time doing that kind of stuff.
Jim: Yeah, good for her. Good for you too, man. Yeah, I mean, that was our reality. I’ve got 5 kids, 24 down to my youngest, which just turned 14. Back the clock up ten years and there’s a lot of chaos in the day. Now it’s are we going to see our kids today? I don’t know. Have you seen any of them today? No. Do they still live here? I think so, right?
Jim: Whereas back then, it was crawling all over us all day, every day. Divide and conquer kind of mentality.
Jeff: Right, that’s right. I will say, though, we don’t do – most of our stuff is wholesale. The majority of it is, probably about 80%. Then 20% is products you can find in retail stores, and that’s something my wife actually has a really good eye for. She’ll see something, and she’ll want it for us. Then she’ll say, hey, you need to check this. Nine times out of ten, if she’s telling me to check it, it usually makes sense, has a good return on investment, and sells frequently enough. Then, instead of buying one for us, we’re buying 12 or 24 to send in.
Jim: Right, clearing the shelf, yeah, beautiful.
Jim: How many different stores do you guys source from locally when you source?
Jeff: There’s really just about a handful, and we’re outside Houston so large metropolitan area. You have your typical stores out there. You have your big-box stores, your Dollar stores. Really, there’s a grocery store that’s big in Texas that we love. Every time we go to the grocery store we have a handful of things we know we pick up to sell on Amazon. Every time we’re at a couple of the big-box stores we know what we’re looking for.
Jim: That’s great, yeah, and beside the point that you don’t need a network of 40 stores to do this business. Actually, when you first start out, you’re thinking, oh, I better – what’s all the closest stores? You got one, two, three reliable stores you can use. If there’s barcodes and shelves in the store, there’s profitable product there, tons of it, actually.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: In many cases, the same product, the same can or a bag of whatever it is you’re holding, multiple different listings on Amazon that can be used. You said wholesale. I’m curious how you got off into – that heavy into wholesale that fast. That’s an interesting twist that I don’t hear that often. Eighty percent wholesale just a few months in. Talk me through that.
Jeff: Part of it was COVID related. Depending on where you live – in Texas, we tend to be a little freer than some other places. You couldn’t really go as many places as you would pre-COVID, even down here in Texas. Really, you can do a lot of your wholesale sourcing and finding your suppliers, evaluating their products all through the computer. You’re not limited to doing it during certain hours. If you’re at work or you’re working from home, you don’t – you have to focus on that, but after that, kids are in bed, or early in the morning you can fire up the computer. You can search your wholesale providers for their catalog to see what sells and what doesn’t sell.
The benefit I found for us personally – everyone has their own metrics on what they’re willing to sell. Some people won’t sell anything if they don’t make more than $5 on a particular item, for example. We don’t put any limit on a dollar figure. We put limits more on our ROI and our profit margin. There’s tons of low-hanging fruit out there. Really, we’ve gotten to some sales in January. All we’ve done so far really is a lot of that low-hanging fruit. The wholesale part for us just made sense. I really try to look for things that sell 50 to 100 to 400 times a month. Maybe they make a little less than some of the other products, but if I can turn them over and over, then to me that’s worth my time.
Jim: One of the benefits about – of playing in those, that arena – I take it you studied the Replens approach, correct?
Jeff: Mm-hmm, yeah.
Jim: Those fast moving items where you’re thinking, oh, someone’s going to tank the price eventually, if you hang in there, it swings back pretty fast. The other advantage of this business model is – Jeff, I just want to point out for the listeners is – I was explaining this to my team a little bit today. This is a beautiful business model. Even when you make a mistake – you buy a little bit too many of something. It’s not like you’ve lost all that money. You just dropped the price down. Maybe you take a little hit, and you sell those 20 that are sitting there. It cost us 25 bucks, but we’ve already made 3 or $5,000 off of that product leading up to that point.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: If we’re just testing it and it doesn’t work, all right, we lost 10 or $20 on that test. Vast majority of the time you’re going to make 5 to – 5%, or 10%, or 90% ROI. You’re going to make $2 a sale, $5, $20 a sale the vast majority of the time, so you can afford to make those little mistakes.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: Have those occasions where the product flames out. It’s interesting to me. It sounds like you’re playing around quite a bit in that arena where there’s a lot of other sellers on the same listing as you are on.
Jeff: There can be, yeah. Two things, I know there’s the Replens, and a lot of people tend to think of Replens as either online arbitrage or retail arbitrage. I apply the Replens model to the wholesale side. Typically, your wholesale, you’re not going to have clearances and that kind of stuff. It’s still going to be the regular price. The price is the price, and so I apply the same kind of metrics that I would if I’m looking in – whenever we’re at the grocery store and I pick up a couple items. The only difference that I’ve seen for me applying the Replens model to the wholesale side of things is when you go to test a product. You may have a minimum of one case or two cases. Instead of doing, okay, I’m going to test four items, I maybe have to test 12, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s really not that much money depending on the product. I try to use – no matter what I do, I try to approach it from the Replens mindset as in, okay, it has to be certain requirements, and I just want to be able to sell it repeatedly over and over, month after month. I don’t care if I find it at my grocery store or if I find it at the wholesaler.
What you had asked about with the number of sellers, very few times have I shied away from a product because it has too many sellers. What I mostly look at if it has a lot of sellers is what’s the selling frequency, and then what’s the price stability? If the seller count goes up and down but the price stays pretty rock solid, then typically I’m okay with that.
Jim: That’s right. That’s beautiful. What tool do you use? I know your answer, but I’m just wanting you to say it.
Jeff: I might throw you a curveball a little bit. We use Keepa, right? It’s highly recommended, and it’s great. It’s phenomenal for a lot of things. Typically I find, for the most part, Keepa may be a little conservative on the sales frequency.
Jim: Oh, they are. Yeah, I tend to double or triple. Whatever they’re telling me the monthly sales are, I double or triple it.
Jeff: I’m glad to hear you say that. What I do is I also use – we use a software called Jungle Scout. I’m not trying to pitch anyone to go buy that. The full version costs a fair amount of money, but there’s a free estimator tool out there. You can put in a ranking and the marketplace and a category, and they’ll give you an estimate. Now, having said that, they tend to be a little aggressive in how many products they…
Jim: On the high.
Jeff: Yeah, they’re high, and Keepa tends to be low. A lot of times through trial and error I’ll come to my own conclusion. If Keepa says 20 and Jungle Scout says 400, I have my own decision I make based on those 2 values and history of similar type products to gauge what I want to start with to test some.
Jim: The only way to know for sure is to send some in and see what happens.
Jeff: That’s right. That’s right, absolutely.
Jim: That’s really at the end of the day because Amazon truly isn’t sharing with anyone how many units of any given product is actually selling.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: The only way to know for sure how much is selling is if you’re the only seller and you’re selling it yourself. You look back over your shoulder and go how many did we sell last month? That’s the only way to get that accurate data. That’s literally the only way to know.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: Amazon does not share enough data. Anyone who’s telling you they know how many based – hey, give me a keyword, and I’ll tell you how many times it’s going to sell, or tell me the product rank, and I’ll tell you exactly how many times – no, there’s algorithms that fail miserably in all directions trying to guess those things. They’re terrible, but a little Keepa commercial since we talked a little bit about Keepa, the thing that makes it as reliable from my vantage point as anything else is we know that every time the rank drops and it goes from ranked 400th – 400,000 most popular ASIN in whatever category to 200. You went from 400,000 to 200,000 let’s say. We know that at least one sale was made.
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: There’s no other way to drop the rank. To improve the rank is – means a sale was made. It could’ve been five sales. It could’ve been 15 sales. We know it was at least one sale…
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: …that helped that rank drop. Keepa tracks the drops. It looks like a heartbeat. If it’s not selling, it goes up, up, up. That’s bad. If you keep going up, that means no one’s buying your stuff. If it comes back down, okay, there was at least one sale made.
You look at the past few months, and you can tell, wow, there’s some good sales activity here. You can estimate. Keepa takes a shot based on the up and down cardiogram of the rank and says – this sells about 15, 20 times a month. Typically, they’re under-guessing, like you just said. That’s where you want to be to be safe because if you’re in there with five or ten other sellers, how many times a month am I going to get the buy box and sell if my price is right in there?
I love that you identified price stability too because one of the things we don’t like to see, as you well know, I’m educating the listeners right now, but if that price is slowly tanking down to the right over time, that means there’s probably a lot of sellers jumping, finding, doing the same thing. Pretty soon, that’s going to be a zero-margin product for the vast majority of sellers. Maybe come back and check it in a few months. Right now, it’s probably a bad idea to get on it.
Jeff: One other tip I like I’ll share is, especially if maybe I’m checking my listings, I haven’t sold a particular product as frequently as I’m used to, I’ll check the price. I’ll go and look within Keepa. It tells you the stock count usually for most buyers, too. I’ll look. Yeah, Amazon’s like, hey, you should lower your price. If you look, you may find, okay, there’s one FBA seller that dropped their price. They have two left.
Depending on how many times a month it sells that you should know if you’ve had it in stock for a while, you can decide, why would I lower my price? He’s going to be sold out today. I can wait a day to make the money that I feel like I should for that product.
Jim: Yeah, the tool that I love for that because you can bounce around on Amazon and see right there. Maybe you’re using Keepa in a way that I haven’t actually because it’s got a lot of features, a lot of new features coming on. I’ve been using RevSeller, R-E-V, Seller for that.
Jeff: We use that as well.
Jim: Yeah, it tells you – I love it because it tells you your margin on every product regardless of whether you sell it FBM, which means you’re shipping it yourself, or FBA, which means you’re sending it to Amazon and they ship. Typically, your margins are way better with FBA and you’re going to win the buy box more often. Selling FBA makes a lot more sense, I’d say 90% of the time.
I still meet a lot of sellers who are all FBM, ship it out of their own garage. I say, hey, you’ve got to try FBA. It really is phenomenal because you – let’s say you’re the only FBA seller and there’s 20 FBM sellers. You’re going to get the buy box most of the time as the only FBA seller.
You’re going to be that – it doesn’t matter what price points those other guys are at; you’re going to get the buy box. The customers by default are going to grab it. They want it on their porch two hours from now. You’re the one that’s getting the sale.
Jeff: Yep, I’m glad you mentioned RevSellers. When I talked to other people, whether it’s family or friends that are interested in it, two of the softwares I make sure I mention are Keepa, of course, and then RevSeller because it’s so nice to no matter what you pull up on Amazon, you have the RevSeller box there. You can immediately see, okay, it already has Amazon fees; it has the price in there. You don’t even have to put your price in yet to know if it’s probably going to be worth your while.
Jim: Yeah, you can see it right in front of you. It tells you how many units all the other sellers have in stock right now at Amazon, how many they say they have. It’s a beautiful tool. Actually, the guy that created RevSeller is from our community.
Jeff: Oh, wow. I didn’t know that.
Jim: He approached me when he first launched the tool. I said, hey, I’ll tell you what, man. If you’ll give me the best price that anyone can ever have on your product, I’ll help you sell it because I think it’s beautiful. Ran it past our whole leadership team; everyone loved it. This is a winner.
If you go to ProvenAmazonCourse.com/RevSeller, that’s the best deal you’re going to get anywhere on that course – or excuse me, on that tool. It plugs right in. Anytime you’re on amazon.com, you can see; winning ASINs will just jump off the page at you, basically. You can just scroll through. You’re going to see them jump off the page at you. It’s a beautiful thing.
Yeah, Keepa and RevSeller, that’s all I use as far as for research tools. I’m good at finding ASINs. Give me an hour, I’ll find 15 at the store, on my computer, whatever. That’s become the – one of the easier aspects of our business is finding these new profitable, winning ASINs.
Where else can we go on your story? You’ve been very useful. You’ve got a great story. You ramped up very quickly. You’re working full-time. It sounds to me like you’re doing most of the work yourself.
Jeff: Yeah, a fair amount. Some of our friends have kids that are a little older, graduated high school, off to college and stuff. When they’re back here, we’ve hired a few of them off and on to help pack. If we continue to ramp up, that’s probably something we’ll continue to do because when I’m not packing something up, I could be looking for additional products, which is going to really help generate more income and revenue because anyone that you train for a few minutes really can pack and prep stuff the way you want to. If I can free up some time from doing that, it will help me be able to source a little bit more. That’s one thing.
The other thing is I really need to – we’re not maxed out, but we’re at a plateau a little bit on our wholesale accounts that we have. I told my wife we need to – I’ve committed to getting more into the traditional replens model as per Jimmy’s course just to continue to add those 20 to $50 bills every month from products you can just go find off the shelf. They’re out there; it’s just a matter of you’ve got to be willing to commit the time required. I don’t want to scare anyone off because it’s not a lot of time; it’s just a little bit of time to find some of those products. Those products are repeatable over and over.
I like doing stuff on the computer. Online arbitrage, that stuff is easy for me. Going to the stores, I’m liking it more and more, but when I first started out, this definitely was not necessarily my cup of tea was spending time in the stores.
Jim: You probably weren’t as good at it then either. It can be a little frustrating to go out and not find a whole lot. Once you’re good at it, I can hardly keep myself from going out and doing it. Last night, I was finding replens.
Anytime I’m out, it’s just so hard not to go in because I can pull up our team’s shopping list any time I want, the stuff that we need right now. I’ll run in here real quick, grab a few things, test a couple ASINs, find three or four new income streams. Here’s another $20 a month for my business; here’s another $50 a month for my business. It’s right there in plain sight once you know how to research.
Jeff: My mother-in-law is a retired schoolteacher. She helps tutor our youngest. I dropped her off at her house and ran to the grocery store to pick up some stuff for dinner. Saw a particular condiment that had a buy one, get one free on it. Usually, I stay away from looking for stuff that’s on clearance or big sales, but I’m like, let’s just look. I’ve got some time to kill. Not only does it make a ridiculous ROI with the buy one, get one free; when you don’t have the buy one, get one free, it still makes 100% ROI. It’s like okay, easy-peasy. I grabbed 10 or 20 of those with all the coupons attached and continued on my day and found the rest of our grocery list.
Jim: I found one of those. It’s been about six weeks or so ago where I’m leaving the store, stuff we needed, plus grabbed a few replens, plus found a few that – I’m always doing this combined shopping, these two transaction trips: personal, business. They’ve got this huge bin of if I said it, you’d recognize it. Ninety percent of the people listening to this, if you live in the US, you’ve probably used this product. I’m thinking, there’s no way that’s a good replen; there is just no way, but let’s just check it real quick. They’ve got this huge bin of them. They’re marked down 60% off what they’re normally, so I checked it. At 100% full price, basically what you just described: a great, fast selling replen as I think it was a three-pack.
They had it marked way down. Then the challenge is, okay, how big of a fool do I want to make out of myself right now because I’ve got two cartloads already going out to my car. I’m getting ready to go put those in my car, come back. How many of these do I put in a cart? Where’s that line where I’m a little embarrassed right now to be that guy with 80 units because I know this thing is going to fly, and it has.
There’s about 30 or 40 other sellers on it, but the price is nice and steady. Even if that price drops, I don’t care because I just cleaned up. I just got a whole bunch of basically buy one, get two free. Let’s go to town, man. I ended up grabbing – I think I stayed conservative, maybe grabbed 30 or 40 that first round. Still, it’s weird checking out 40 of the exact same item in your cart.
Jeff: Yeah, you get a few looks. My wife’s over there shaking her head yes. You get a few looks when you buy a whole bunch of the same thing over and over.
Jim: Yeah, and it’s pretty easy if you see someone else who’s doing the business. I don’t know how often you run into one of those guys, but it’s happened a few times. You’re like, replens seller, right? It doesn’t happen all that often, but when you do.
It’s great because once you really understand the business, it’s not like you’re, oh, don’t look at my cart, because you don’t know what ASIN they’re selling on; you don’t know if it’s a 6-pack or a 12-pack or if they’re testing out a new loser. You don’t know these things. It’s not like you have to be protective of, oh, this is what I sell. I love that aspect of this business is you can be super chummy and friendly if you run into other people who are selling and doing retail flips or whatever. You see people who are scanning barcodes and you feel bad for them. That’s kindergarten-level stuff there; you don’t have to scan barcodes.
Jeff: That’s what I love with the seller app. You scan the image, the item. That’s fabulous because you can scan the barcode, but it’s only going to pull up something if that UPC matches the UPC that is assigned to the product in Amazon. It’s only going to bring up a single usually. You scan that picture, you’re immediately going to see a whole ton of options because we have a lot of – several products, several of our really good sellers even that we just order more of it from the wholesaler, but we just have to remember which listing we’re selling it on for that particular shipment because for those that haven’t done it before, you can sell the same thing on multiple listings if it’s listed differently, if it’s the single versus a three-pack or a six-pack.
Jim: That’s right, the bundle.
Jeff: There’s a lot of opportunities.
Jim: You can very realistically end up with selling the same product on 10, 12 different listings. We’ve got some that we’re probably pushing that many.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Jim: A single, three-pack, six-pack, some kind of creative bundle. Quite often, it’s not the ones that show up if you scan the barcode. None of those would have shown up if you just scanned the barcode into whatever app you’re using. You want to type in the name of the product into amazon.com and scroll through and see what listings there are.
Cool, what tips do you have, Jeff, for the listeners who are out here? I’ve heard every episode of this show. I’m thinking there’s something repetitive about it. It reminds at times of – are you a Dave Ramsey fan by any chance?
Jim: Go ahead.
Jeff: Yeah, he always teaches courses at our church when we were growing up.
Jim: Yeah, sure. If you listen to his radio show and after a while, it’s like, heard that story before, but you’re struck by the consistency, and the frequency, and just sheer volume of people that are applying these strategies, and they work. Every time, there’s at least – there’s a handful of new things that you pick up. There’s a reason that you listen to the show, for example. I’m sure you’ve picked up on this.
It’s like, oh, great, another success story, people selling on Amazon. That’s because there’s a whole bunch of us doing it and there’s a whole bunch of other things out there that just don’t work. I love just pounding away at the same old, same old like, yeah, this is predictable. It works. Do the work. I’m curious, are there any little tidbits that may be out of your story, things that you haven’t had a chance to share yet that we could pull some lessons maybe that you haven’t heard on this show or something that struck you that stood out in your journey?
Jeff: One general comment is anytime there’s a barrier to entry for a given market means the competition’s going to be lower. Even if we’re all selling on Amazon, there’s different things within Amazon that they place barriers to entry. The rudimentary ones people know are gated. If you’re gated in grocery or topical, you want to get into those because it opens up more that you can sell, but also, there’s less competition. That also applies for pesticides, a few other things as well, HAZMAT.
Jim: We do quite a bit in HAZMAT, yeah.
Jeff: We signed up. We’re on the waiting list for HAZMAT, so just hoping someday our number comes up and we get in that program. Anytime Amazon puts some kind of fence or gate in front of people, if you can get through that, then your competition’s going to be less on the other side for those products. It opens up a whole number of additional profit streams for your business. Another thing –
Jim: Yeah, for sure because –
Jeff: Oh, go ahead.
Jim: Before you jump to your next point – hold onto it, don’t forget it. Because one of the things, human nature listening to this. You’re a disciplined guy. Come on, you graduated from West Point. I’ve got a fair amount of discipline myself, but sometimes people are listening to this conversation, looking for those excuses not to jump. He didn’t just say until you’re ungated, there’s limited opportunity; that’s not what he just said.
Jim: We’ve got plenty of students who are just going into those basic first few categories for millions of products and millions of different listings that you can get on and do the models that we’re talking about. If you never get ungated, if you never get HAZMAT approval, if you never get into grocery, this is still a massive opportunity. I was corresponding just last night and then this morning with someone who they’re nervous to sell grocery because, for whatever reasons, they’re just not into it. They could be, but they’re not. They got away from it. They’re only doing clothing now, which is very easy to get approved in. They’re spending 3 to $4,000 a day on inventory that they’re flipping at a great ROI just on clothing.
Jeff: Wow, that’s awesome.
Jim: Not creating any of their own listings; just using the replens strategy. They’re in clothing.
Jeff: That’s awesome.
Jim: We always associate replens with grocery items or stuff you buy off of a big box store’s shelf. No, those racks of clothes that you’re walking past every time you go in, yeah, there’s gold there, too. The category is irrelevant.
Jeff: To build on what you said, our first month, we sold, like I said, $8,600. None of that was in anything that we were gated in. We were still relatively new sellers. It’s not like we’d been doing it a long time. That’s a number you can get to if really you try hard. That was our very first month out of the gate. We were still gated in everything, everything a new seller was.
Another tip is learn your software. Keepa, a lot of people – Keepa does so many things that a lot of people may not know about or haven’t taken the time to, oh, let’s click on that little hyperlink in the Keepa window and see where it takes me because you can go and drill down with Keepa. They have a tab for data, you can look at offers, you can look at buy box statistics. You can really exploit that and gain a whole lot of information about your listings and maybe what’s selling, for example, things like that, from software you already have.
Sometimes, what can help your business is not another piece of software, or another trip, or tool; it’s maybe I need to look a little closely at what I’m already paying for. Keepa, the price is whatever, $17, $18 a month I think. It does a lot that I don’t feel most sellers actually dive into.
Jim: I’m not maybe as technically knowledgeable as I should be to say what I’m about to say, but I’m pretty sure this is accurate that Keepa does a better job of scraping Amazon than anyone else. That’s why they’re able to do what they do. They’re literally scraping across the millions and millions of listings at any given time on Amazon and watching the product rank, for example, watching it drop, rise and fall, better than anyone else. That’s where they get that data.
I’m going to make an analogy. Hopefully, this rings true with you, Jeff. One of the rules that we learn in business, if you take any business classes at all, they’re going to tell you, hey, that customer that you already have is worth ten times more than any customer you’re going to go out and try to find and sell to later because you mine – dig the gold out of the mine that you already got open versus going out and constantly – you’re going to make more money that way. The equivalent in this business is those Top 20% of your ASINs. We’ve all got the 80/20 rule, the Pareto Principle it’s called, where 80% of your results are coming from 20% of your effort. Eighty percent of your ROI is coming from 20% of your ASINs if you sell on Amazon. That Top 20%, that’s your gold.
You look at Keepa. Have I really dug into Keepa for those Top 5, 10, 15 ASINs that are really hot sellers for me? Do I really know them? Have I really explored Amazon to see how many listings I could open up if I just dug in versus the churn of constantly trying to add to the bottom of the stack? Focus in and really hone and polish the top of the stack.
Are there any certain label opportunities in there, for example? That’s where your private label opportunities are going to pop to the top, stuff that’s really selling. Those weird ones you’re like, people really buy this much of that item at that margin? Maybe I should put my own name on a label and sell this thing. That’s how you organically find these great finds. I love that you mentioned that, digging into the tools that you already have. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this job.
Jeff: That’s right. To build on that too, when’s the last time you went back and looked at your Top 20% because I don’t sell on any listings that I’ve created myself. Every listing I’m on is something someone else created. People are always creating new listings. If you haven’t looked in a while, I would suggest go back and look at your Top 20% because, inevitably, someone since the last time you looked has created one, or two, or five additional listings or variations for products that you already source. You already know they make you a lot of money presumably and have good ROI. There’s low-hanging fruit that pops up.
Jim: It didn’t used to be a four-pack, but now, there’s a four-pack. Wow, and look at that ROI. Those jump off the page to you too as you’re scrolling around on Amazon.com, just typing in some of the brands that you sell a lot of. You look for the ones – not the one that has 3,500 reviews, but for the listing that has 12 reviews. There might be something there. That’s new.
Is this thing popping yet? Wow, look, it’s selling 30 a month. That’s gold. It’s selling 20, 30, 50 a month. There’s only 12, 15 reviews. That’s a hot one almost every single time, at least it’s going to be for the next several months. Jump on that one, right, when the math works?
Jeff: That’s right.
Jim: I can almost assure you that the math is going to work on those because it’s a newer listing that someone set up with the intention of profiting. Apparently, it’s taken off well. There’s only a few sellers because there’s only a few reviews and just got started. Yeah, that’s a great tip.
To me, it’s almost the same analogy of if you’ve got four hours to chop down a tree, sharpen your ax the first three hours. That to me is replen sellers, hey, spend some time making sure the top of your list is taken well care of. It feels boring compared to going out and finding new ASINs and new listings, but there’s a lot of money there to be churned. I don’t think we’ve ever really focused in on that much, but I like that that we drifted in that direction. That’s challenging me. Rather than going out on a snow day and looking for new ASINs, I might stay home and look at our Top 20% and do a little homework to see where we’re at.
Jeff: Especially because you already know where you buy it from. You already know if it’s successful on the listings you have that you sell on. If you find those, it’s just so easy.
Jim: Yeah, beautiful. Any other tips as we start to wrap this one up, man? I think this was a really helpful episode for a lot of people.
Jeff: No, not really. The biggest thing is consistency and effort. I tell a lot of people it’s not rocket science. You are on Amazon’s platform, so you have to play by Amazon’s rules. If you follow the rules and you use your software to help you make objective decisions and not emotional decisions on what you’re going to try to sell and what makes money, what doesn’t, pretty much anyone can be successful if you follow the steps that make sense.
One thing early on, our coach asked us, what do you want to sell. We’re like, anything that makes us money. He’s like, that’s right. You don’t care why people want it, or where they live, and well, someone out there wouldn’t like it. It doesn’t matter.
Jim: Or why would they sell so much for that?
Jeff: That’s right; it doesn’t matter.
Jim: Because they will. Look at the data; it says they do.
Jeff: Yeah, that’s the biggest thing. If you’re just starting out or you’re thinking about starting out, use the tools at your disposal. Trust those tools. You can start small and reinvest. You don’t have to start with a big bankroll for those people that are listening and wanting to get started.
Jim: That’s right. It’s not a pricey business to start; that’s right. Great episode, man. Really appreciate it. Thank your family for loaning you to us.
Jeff: Yeah, absolutely.
Jim: You shared some cool stuff with us today. I think I’ll wrap this one up, man. I think we just put in a nice episode for the listeners. If you have any questions for us, there’s links in the show notes. You can go to silentjim.com and follow up.
Be sure to tell Jeff thank you if in the show notes – or sorry, in the comment section below if you’re watching on YouTube, for example. Thank our guest if you would because it really is a big sacrifice to take an hour plus out of your day and do these things. Hopefully, it’s spoken to you and challenged you on what’s possible. Here’s yet another incredible success story. Someone who got in, did the work, built a great business.
I think you’re very matter-of-fact, Jeff, in the way that you present like, yeah, get in and do it. It’s not complicated. I don’t think it’s anything that you learned from your college education. This is just basic stuff. It’s not like you need to have a business degree to do this stuff.
Jeff: No, you don’t. Yeah, and actually, I made the comment, my kids are learning probably more economics through helping us with this business than they would in school.
Jim: You hit the nail on the head there, man. I could go off on a tangent very easily there, but just exposing your kids to the reality of buying products, buying low, selling high, serving well, you explaining these toys aren’t for you guys; these are for other mommies who are having birthday parties tomorrow. They’re going to be unable to go out shopping tonight. They want this present for their little girl. That’s why we’re doing this right now is to help that mom.
You connect the dot to the customer, that end person who’s benefiting from your work. Man, you’ll light a fire, which is my wife and I’s definition of a good education. It’s not filling a bucket with just in case information they might need someday; it’s lighting a fire and teaching them that hey, you can get the information you need when you need it just in time. That’s a great education teaching them to learn what they need as they go.
Great hanging out with you today, man. To the listeners, all the business building warriors out there, God bless you guys. Thanks for spending some time with Jeff and I today. Hopefully, you enjoyed this episode. Give us your feedback. Share it with a friend.
Just send them to silentjim.com. Tell them to check out the podcast and who knows, you might change someone’s life like it did for Jeff and his family. They’ve got a whole new different economic outlook now and for their future, financial outlook. We love seeing that happen. We’ll have another great episode for you just like this one again real soon. Looking forward to joining you then.
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