An Ever-Expanding Circle of Knowledge




When I tell people that I can walk into a Big Lots without a scanner and buy $900 worth of products in 45 minutes and walk out, there are either two thoughts:

  1. Incredulity.  They just don’t believe me.
  2. Amazement.  This is the *WOW* factor.  Mike must be some sort of genius with a photographic memory.

Both are incorrect.  The reason that I can pull this off is a technique I’ve shared before, but I want to delve into a little deeper today.


drinking-from-firehoseWhen people first start selling on Amazon, it can often feel like drinking from a fire hose. There is so much information.  There’s a whole new vocabulary to learn (What ROI should I look for on MF items during Q4 for HPC items with a BSR of 20k?).  There are dozens of rules and regulations from Amazon (Quick, how thick must a polybag be?  If a toy designed for a 36 month year old has an exposed surface of 3″ x 3″, must it be bagged?  What percentage of MF items need to have tracking info?  If you ship in a master carton, what size font does the expiration date need to be written in?)  Sometimes, just figuring out how to pay for something can be a mystery (Wait, so I’m suppose to use my Discover Card to purchase Raise discounted gift cards before signing into Ebates and purchasing my item using a discount code?)

Easing that learning curve is one of the prime motivators for us at FBAMaster.  Our simplest distillation of everything is the Newcomers series.  We also answer dozens of questions every day on the Facebook page. Even still, it can be overwhelming.

The technique that I share with many new sellers is to focus on one category and learn it.  If you walk into a WalMart, there will be tens of thousands of items.  You can’t possibly hope to scan them all.  There are countless sellers who just walk into WalMart once per weekend, scan for an hour or two, find little to nothing worth reselling, and declare that they just can’t do this.  Given that plan, they’re probably right.  They’re either going to get lucky and happen upon something, or they’re going to spend a lot of time with very few results and get discouraged.

In my opinion, this is not a strategy.  On the contrary, I advise people to pick a category that they’d like to sell in and then to break that category down into manageable chunks.  Maybe you want to sell in health and personal care.  You can’t hope to scan every health and personal care item.  However, you probably could manage a trip to scan every antacid.  Do this!  If you find a brand or product that is good, you now know exactly what you’re looking for on your next trip.  Next time, walk into the store, grab the antacid that is profitable and move to cold medications.  Next time, grab your profitable antacid and cold medicines, and scan the allergy pills.  Next time scan the diet pills.

Pretty soon, you’ll have a really good idea of what’s profitable and what isn’t.  Maybe you start realizing that regardless of the aisle, Robitussin products are always bad.  Maybe you discover that another brand is often profitable.  Maybe you’ll learn that the price point for a hair regrowth treatment is $18.76 and then one day it’s selling at $12 and it might be worth scanning.  Your eyes will start gravitating toward the products that work.  With even more time, you’ll be able to run to the store to grab dinner for your family and just a 30 second walk through the Health section will show you whether there is money on the shelves.

Don’t get me wrong.  This is a lengthy process.  You aren’t going to learn a huge category like Health over night.  On the other hand, I’m not saying that you can’t ALSO scan the clearance aisles or endcaps while you’re in a store.  What I AM saying is that if you want to grow as a seller, you need to have  plan to expand your expertise.  Wandering aimlessly in a store of 100,000 items is not a plan to develop expertise.

Once you learn one category, say health, then you aren’t going to need to spend a lot of time in the health aisles.  You’ll walk in, see a few items that are probably profitable, double check, put the items in your cart, and scan the aisles for any price changes, new products, etc.  But, you won’t need to rescan every item in the health aisle.  Now you can expand.  Maybe now you want to sell in beauty.  Maybe you start with toothpastes.  Then floss.  Then whiteners.  Then chapstick.  Etc.


Tampon_Run_Picture1_8555-300x225This is what I mean by an ever-expanding circle of knowledge.  Nobody becomes an expert overnight.  But, you can slowly grow the areas in which you have expertise.  Maybe at first you are terrible at EVERY OTHER CATEGORY except for Health & Personal Care : Personal Care : Feminine Care.  Fine, but be an expert in feminine care.  I want you to know the price points for Kotex, Tampax, Playtex, Poise, Always, Seventh Generation, o.b., Equate, etc. You might not know a single thing about any other product, but if there is a price discrepancy between U by Kotex at WalMart and Amazon, I want you to find it every single time.  Then, go grab them at every single WM.  If Big Lots is clearancing Tampax Pearl, I want you to know that it is profitable before you scan it.  Then go grab every box at every Big Lots.

If I could just convince people to employ this method, I’m convinced that many newer sellers (particularly those who are struggling) would see rapid growth in their development as a seller.  For some of you, this needs to be your New Year’s Resolution.


For those who do have more experience, it’s important to figure out where your blind spots are.  There’s a reason that Chris Wilkey and Jason Wilkey can walk into the same store and come out with different items.  Part of it might be a difference in strategy, but that isn’t the only reason.  Because of the sheer number of products that assault our eyes when we walk into a store, our brain develops a type of blindness.  You couldn’t hope to process every detail of everything in your field of vision, so your brain decides what is important and focuses there.  This can be good, but it can also hurt you.  You will miss out on opportunities that others will find because of this blindness.

blindersIt’s important to ask yourself where your blinders are.  For me, I know that one of my weak areas is Video Games.  I’ve made a commitment to learn this category in 2016.  I’m talking to friends about video games.  I’m joining groups that specialize in video games.  I’m making habits of scanning a certain amount of video games every time I walk into a store.  Etc.  For some of you, like me, you need to figure out where your areas of weakness are and make a New Year’s Resolution to improve it.


Wherever you are, though, now is a great time of year to take stock of your position and develop a plan of attack for the coming year.  Where do you need to grow as a seller?  How are you going to accomplish that?  What means of accountability are you going to build into your plan to make sure it actually happens?  These are the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves.  It’s not enough to simply spin your wheels as fast as they’ll go working IN your business.  If you want to be truly successful, you need to work ON your business.


As Always, Best Wishes


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  1. Wish I had read this when I started a year ago. I might have actually realized a good profit, instead of struggling for a few dollars. In the past 3 months I have read and studied a lot and I can see improvements. I intend to apply the strategy from this article in addition to this and I plan to definately increase my profits. Thanks for all your help.

  2. I have shiny thing syndrome..i think i have purchased every shiny thing, to an overwhelmed many months.. And nothing has worked and I’m not saying it’s not me laugh..i think i need to read your site more, buy shiny things less (unless I’m sending them to Amazon)

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