Are your eBay descriptions waffly and woolly, wordy and weak?

And if they are too long, with lots of ambiguity and contradictions, if they pretty much say the same things two or three times, if they’re vague and long-winded, then you are probably boring the pants off people who visit your listings and forcing them to exit a.s.a.p. and buy from somebody else!

Don’t think it doesn’t happen that:

i) People will give up on reading your descriptions, and;

ii) Move on to buy the same product from someone who isn’t quite so verbose.

The reason I know your potential bidders and buyers will do one or both of those things is because I did (i) and (ii) just the other day.

Case in point: I was looking for pictures mounts for displaying a few dozen antique watercolour paintings I bought at a flea market last week. They cost just £1 each and they could easily fetch £30 apiece or a great deal more. If they’re mounted or even framed that will improve their appearance, and their perceived value, and can add significantly to their resale value on eBay.

So there I was, searching for mounts – sometimes called ‘matts’- when I chanced upon a very attractive image on eBay and decided to study the description. What I need to know about those mounts is size and colour, material they’re made from, also the price!

But that’s about all I want to know, I don’t want a potted history of the seller’s business, or how this person learned to cut his own mounts, or even where the paper used for the cardboard mounts was made, I do not want to see two dozen images of these mounts on pictures I didn’t like anyway, and so on, and so on, and so on.

But that is in fact what I got and it took me several minutes to find just a few bits of essential information. So I moved away from the listing and bought my mounts somewhere else.

And very nice they are too!

How to improve your listings and sell more on eBay UK

I got to thinking about a conversation I had more than ten years ago, with a well-known London-based business opportunity books dealer. The conversation, about sales letters, focused on what this man called ‘telegraphese’.

‘Telegraphese’ is jargon for ‘cut your wordcount and save money on getting your message across’.

As an example of how telegraphese works in practice, back in the day when telegrams were the main way to send urgent messages, the sender was charged for every word used in his message. So instead of saying ‘Dear Mother. Meet me at Durham Railway Station Tomorrow 18th May 2011 between 9.30 and 10am’, he or she might say ‘Arriving Durham Station Tomorrow 9.30am-ish’. So instead of using sixteen words, he used just five words’. And paid for just five!

My publisher friend used that example to explain how to make sales letters more interesting and to make people more likely to read the letter in its entirety, compared to boring them to death with ambiguities, duplications, contradictions, distractions, etc., along the way.

This man is one of the most successful publishers of our time, and he believed telegraphese lay at the heart of writing really great sales letters – and today that applies to eBay listings also.

He told me to change my own – then very wordy – sales letters like this:

– Print them out, then get a highlighter pen.

– Go through the letter, highlighting words and phrases, also sentences you consider essential to your sales letter. Do not highlight the same thing twice unless you really are reinforcing an earlier message.

– Now retype your sales letter from scratch based on highlighted words and phrases and sentences only.

– Read it and ask yourself: ‘Does this make sense? Does the letter flow, are there any wordy phrases or unnecessary words that make me stop reading or which slow me down?’

This man used telegraphese to turn my long-winded sentences into short and snappy and extremely powerful bullet points down the page of a much shorter sales letter. And that increased my sales rate by more than 200%.

Yes, I know what they say about ‘The more you tell, the more you sell’, inferring that long sales letters are usually more effective than short, but that’s only if everything you write deserves a place in your sales letter. It does not mean making your sales message waffly and woolly, wordy and weak merely to make it longer.

Naturally, this idea may not we worthwhile using for one off products, where you might take half an hour rewriting a sales letter that makes you a few pounds at most for a product you may never come by again. But it is worth trying telegraphese on products you sell on a regular basis, either from separate listings, or from one listing with multiple products.

Give it a go and see how much your profit grows once you allow potential buyers to find the information they need while they’re still in the mood to buy. Bore them and they may take their business elsewhere.

Where is my product? Go find it yourself!

Nothing upsets buyers more and encourages them to leave negative feedback faster than they might otherwise do, than delay in receiving their product. So days after they win, they’ll email asking ‘Where is my product? If it doesn’t arrive by this afternoon I’ll be leaving negative feedback!’

Then you wipe the sweat off your brow, you go check why there’s a delay, you find the Recorded Delivery slip or other proof of posting for the product. You go online, you find the delivery company’s website, you key the tracking number for the product into the search box, then you copy the message, go to your email box, and finally you send the details in another email back to the buyer. You end with ‘If it doesn’t arrive within a few days, feel free to email me again.’ And they probably will email you again, maybe several times!

How long did that take? Five minutes, or maybe more!

How much easier then to give buyers a tracking number immediately after their product gets posted or handed to a delivery company. In that case you key the tracking number into the same email thanking the buyer for his payment and telling him the product is on its way.

Easy, and it takes seconds, not minutes. And you can do it manually or via eBay’s new buyer-seller communications process.

And more importantly, that puts the job of searching for their product firmly in your customers’ court. No, I’m not being sarcastic, or nasty to customers, the ones I am talking about are those who expect next day delivery in every case!

Here’s what eBay says about the new system – as well as other important changes:

“In the first Seller News of 2011, we announced changes to make it easier to manage emails sent to buyers and keep them better informed about their purchases.

During the week of 23 May, eBay will start sending the new order confirmation and order update emails to your buyers. At this point you’ll still be able to send (either automatically or manually) Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro emails.

During the week starting 29 May 2011, the new seller to buyer communications homepage goes live and you’ll be able to see what emails are being sent to your buyers by eBay and when they are sent. You can also personalise the new order confirmation and update emails from here.

Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro emails will no longer be available.

Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro: save a copy of your custom templates

Selling Manager and Selling Manager Pro emails including custom templates will be removed the week starting 29 May 2011. Save the content of your templates now so that you don’t lose it.

Mark items as dispatched and we’ll update your buyer

If you don’t already, we recommend you mark items as dispatched and, where relevant, add a tracking number. When you do, we’ll notify your buyer that the item is on its way.


The eBay Team

Well done eBay, we love you all!