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Wondering What (or What Else) to Sell?

Here's how to activate your product sourcing radar.

Are you stuck in a product line rut? Are you selling the same things over and over again, but seeing little growth or expansion in your business? Are your product offerings stale and ho-hum?

Perhaps it’s time to inject some life back into your business! After all, there are thousands of new products coming into the marketplace each year, yet all too often people find themselves at a loss for how to expand their business.

And without having the products buyers want, all the marketing, selling strategies and customer service in the world won’t sell items people aren’t interested in. Without enough inventory to sell, you won’t see the revenue growth you desire.

So how do you figure out what to sell, or what else to sell?

It all starts with getting into the Product Sourcing Mindset™. When you are in this frame of mind, you always have your radar turned on, looking outward, scanning the landscape for the next products you’ll sell. The Product Sourcing Mindset™ is a process I’ve taught to thousands of sellers over the past decade, and one that has radically changed the course of online businesses in every niche.

Many sellers see their customers as ‘buyers’ rather than people who have a reason behind every purchase they make

The key benefit to mastering this technique is that it automates the process of product selection and sourcing. It’s conscious product sourcing that you do as you go through your normal daily activities. And when you do that, you’ll find yourself becoming aware of new products to sell every day.

There’s an art and a science that go into this, and it’s one that I teach in my exclusive Power of 10 Product Sourcing™ course. The great thing about this is that anyone can use and benefit from this process—from beginning sellers to established e-tailers.

1. Understand your customer first; then look at what they want to buy

When you understand who your customer is, answering the question of what to sell, or what else to sell, becomes much easier. Unfortunately, many sellers see their customers as “buyers” rather than people who have a reason behind every purchase they make. Taking the time to know your customer will go a long way in helping you figure out what else to sell.

Here are some questions to ask that will help you with that process:

  • Who are your customers?
  • What are their wants?
  • What are their needs?
  • What else are they buying?
  • Where else do they shop?
  • What are the top products they purchased from you and others last year?

For example, are your customers moms who are snapping up everything they can for their newborns? What are their favorite brands? What colors do they like? What new products are they reading about in parenting magazines? What are they talking about? It’s the answers to these questions that will help you decide what to sell next.

Keep in mind that these questions apply to every market! Whether you sell baby products or bongos, you need to know who your customers are.

2. Live in the world your buyers live in

Read what they’re reading; hang out where they hang out online. I call these Idea Hotspots™. Can you name the top consumer publications in your industry? Online or offline, your customers read magazines, Web sites and blogs on a daily basis. Are you there, too? This is where shoppers are getting ideas about products to buy next. Can you list the top blogs or discussion groups that cover your niche market? That’s where your customers are talking about their problems, wants and needs, and where they’re discussing the latest gadgets and gizmos they want to buy. A client of mine who sells in the boating niche gets 80 percent of his business and his ideas for products to sell by participating in a top recreational boating Yahoo group.

3. What products are they searching for?

Aim to have at least 10 new products in the pipeline at any given time

As online retailers, we live in a search-driven world. Fortunately, the answer to what products your customers are searching for can be found for free, and is as close as the Google Keywords Tool. Do a search using Broad Match and Phrase Match for your primary keywords and watch as hundreds of related keywords come up. Products you have never thought about selling will suddenly be displayed right before your eyes!

You can also leverage the marketplaces. Spend some time looking on eBay and Amazon when you’re in the Product Sourcing Mindset™ and you’ll find yourself with more ideas for products to sell than time to sell them!

4. Make it your business to be on top of industry trends

Staying on top of industry trends is a fun and exciting process and will infuse your business with ideas for products to sell. Unfortunately, it’s one that I find e-tailers often neglect. Do you know about the latest and greatest new products in your market? Are you on top of what’s new before your customer is? Do you spend time each week reading industry publications and consumer magazines, and talking to your suppliers about what’s hot? Do you attend industry trade shows? It’s in these places that you’ll get a plethora of ideas or products to sell and find out what’s destined to be the next hot product!

5. Listen to your customers

How often have you received an e-mail from your customer asking if you carry a particular product? Many people might just say, “No, sorry, we don’t carry that,” and move on. But paying attention to what customers are asking for can be a clue into what you should carry next. WhatDoISell member and eBay seller E.J. Bantz gets some of his best product ideas from his customers.

“They often tell me what they want to buy,” he says. “It’s my job to then go and source it for them.”

6. Get insights from Google Insights

One of my favorite tools for figuring out what to sell next is Google Insights. This is a free tool that shows you what products are trending upward, and which are trending down. Making the decision of what to sell, or what not to sell, is making an informed business decision. If you are an eBay seller, you’ll want to add Terapeak to your seller’s toolkit. Terapeak’s trending module will lead you to many different opportunities for new products to sell.

7. Test, test, test!

Before you invest your inventory capital in unproven products, you’ll want to test-market new inventory in small quantities. This will allow you to quickly distinguish the winners from the losers. A lot of people source products seasonally. But product sourcing isn’t something you can do once a month.

One of the most important steps to being in the Product Sourcing Mindset™ is to have at least 10 new products in the pipeline at any given time. What you focus on expands, and being in the mindset will ensure you’ll have a constant stream of new products flowing into your business.

About the author

Lisa Suttora
Lisa Suttora is an internationally known e-commerce expert, internet marketing strategist and veteran trend spotter. As founder and CEO of, Suttora has helped thousands of enterprising entrepreneurs build successful, niche-based online businesses. Since 2004, has provided premier education and a global community for online retailers. To get the latest on hot product niches and trends, subscribe to Suttora's free trend sheet Hot Trend Alerts. Suttora also has a 15-day e-course to help sellers make money on today's eBay. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

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