Know What Sells Before You Start

shopping-cartThe biggest stress about going into business is the cost. After a huge upfront investment, will people even want to buy what you have to sell? Garage Profits is all about reducing risk in starting your venture, so here are three strategies to make the going a bit easier as you get started. I use these time and again to decide what to sell. In my experience, I might look up dozens of products before I find a “winner”.

1. Free Research Tools

There are many resources available right at your fingertips, and one of my favorite is eBay’s search tool.  Start by searching what is available for sale today.
Are there dozens or hundreds of vendors, or are there just a handful?
What prices are they charging?
Does that include shipping?
What format are the lisings, Auction or Buy It Now?
Are the sellers in the USA, or in China or another part of the world?

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The next step is often overlooked, but in my mind it is the most powerful.  The “Completed Items” search criteria.  Modify your current search to only show both completed listings, both sold and unsold.

How many listings are successfully completed?
What is the average price for auction style listings?

Armed with the answers to those questions, it’s easy to see where you stack up against the existing competition.


2. Paid Research Tools

For a more robust look at eBay and Amazon’s sales history, the tool of choice is Terapeak.  Terapeak ingests the public APIs for these marketplaces, and overlays them with robust analytics tools. This allows you to quickly see what is selling, grade the quality of your listings, and more.  Terapeak recently changed their pricing model from an annual to a monthly subscription, making it more affordable for many users. Pricing is now $14.95/mo, or $89.95/year.  There is also a 7 day free trial* available so you can get your feet wet.  The free trial isn’t a scaled down version, it includes the complete feature set.

If you are looking for multiple product lines to sell, Terapeak is an invaluable resource to get your there.

3. Product Samples

A few years ago, I started noticing ukuleles everywhere.  I checked the completed listings on eBay, and sure enough, they were selling strong.  I told my wife who immediately looked at me like I was nuts.  “Ukuleles?”  was her only response.

I contacted a factory in China, and they offered to sell me some samples to show the high quality of their build.  A few weeks later I had them in hand, inspected them, and I was impressed.  Especially at the price they were offering them.  After inspecting them, I gave one to my daughter and put the other two up on eBay.  A couple hours later they had both sold.  I told my lovely wife, and this time her response was “How fast can you get 100?”

By selling a sample of your product first, you can gain a great deal of confidence in your product line.  Here are a few ideas to make that happen:

Pay Retail – Selling samples isn’t about making money.  It’s about making sure you can make money if you buy a bunch of them.  As an example: If you can get a product for $10 and you think it will sell for $18, thats a pretty good margin.  If that product is available for $20 from a local retailer, go ahead and buy one or two and list them.  Sure you lose a few bucks on each product, but it will make sure your listing is being seen and that it converts before you buy them in bulk.

Factory Samples – Similar to the Ukulele example, if you are considering buying your product from a factory (whether overseas or domestic), ask for some product samples.  Expect to pay 25-75% more for a sample, but remember it’s about making sure you can make money at the final price, not the sample price.

Chinese Retail Sites – One of my favorite new ways to get samples of Chinese products is on   As the little brother to, AliExpress sells single products at low retail prices to customers all over the world.  Some products might be too heavy or large to make it worthwhile to send a single item over, but for smaller or lighter goods, its a great way to get a product within a week or two, and see if it sells.  Once you find it does, contact the vendor for a lower price, or find the original factory on Alibaba.  AliExpress isn’t the only option, but it’s the largest and I’ve almost never had any issues with sellers.

Dip Your Toe in the Water

No need to plop down thousands of dollars before you know if something is going to work. Do the research, test the waters, then buy with confidence and start selling.

Any other tips that have worked for you?  Let’s hear them! Comment below.

*Disclosure: I receive an affiliate incentive for customers that sign up after clicking on my links for this product.

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