How to Source Must-Have Products

Bolster your eBay business by being the first to find the products everyone wants.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the June 2006 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

You're ready to start a business on eBay. But what do you sell? One of the best pieces of advice I ever received about sourcing was "sell the buyers what they already want." Simple, but brilliant. Platinum Power-Seller Julie Johnson (eBay User ID: feelgooddeals) rejects about 80 percent of the inventory offered to her to get to the 20 percent she knows the eBay buying public wants. She brings in about $35,000 a month selling "a little bit of everything," including office products, housewares and apparel. You can find out what buyers want by first going to checking out the following resources:

  • What's Hot: "Hot Items By Category" is a monthly report of items ranked "Super Hot," "Very Hot" and "Hot," based on the items' demand vs. supply. Also under the "What's Hot" heading is "eBay Pulse". This section provides you with the words searched most in specific categories, allowing you to easily know what buyers are searching for as well as how to market those items to them.
  • Category Tips: Click on "In Demand" to find out the top-selling products in specific categories as well as the most-searched-for words.
  • Research Tools: Third-party companies such as Mpireand Terapeakoffer research tools to help you define what buyers are looking for--and what's selling--on eBay.

Once you figure out what buyers want, you'll need to locate those items. Type "wholesale" into Google, and you'll find more than 300 million sites. Unfortunately, most of them aren't truly wholesale, yet this is one of the first places a new eBay entrepreneur starts. "You make your profit when you purchase your inventory, not when you sell it," says Johnson, so finding good sources is essential. Here are a few good inventory sources to try:

  • eBay wholesale lots: This portal gives you the opportunity to purchase items wholesale.
  • eBay reseller marketplace: This portal allows PowerSellers to bid on wholesale lots offered for resale.
  • eBay Solutions Directory: From eBay's main page, under "Categories," click on "Solutions Directory." From there, click on "Sourcing" for a list of legitimate companies, including WhatDoISell.comand Worldwide Brands Inc., to help you find wholesale sources.

When you find a niche on eBay where the buyer demand is high, use trade shows to locate all your suppliers in one place. A good site to help you find the right trade show is

"Developing and building relationships [with suppliers] doesn't happen overnight," Johnson says. "But after working hard at those relationships, the companies now call us first when they have inventory available."

Johnson, 37, shares a final secret to her sourcing success: "It is truly about networking. Tell everyone about your business. You never know who might know someone who has inventory they want to sell."

Janelle Elms, eBay University instructor and online business consultant, specializes in coaching individuals and companies to build successful eBay businesses. She is the bestselling author of eBay Your Business.
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