Season 1, Episode 13
Stop Making Excuses
Chris: [00:00:07] Hello Amazon sellers and podcast listeners. Thanks for joining us for another edition of seller performance solutions. I’m Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris. I’m a former longtime Amazonian, and now long time Amazon seller consultant. And I’m here today. Speaking with Leah McHugh, who is also an Amazon consultant and expert in many areas, listing compliance, and I guess, at this point, we’re both really good experts in seller psychology, which is a frequent topic on this podcast. Today we’re going to focus on newness and newbies and in particular, how new sellers, new brands, new businesses on Amazon, try to use their newness as either an excuse for something that goes wrong or hoping for, I guess, leniency in the appeals process. And sometimes they’re only sharing the newness of their business or their account with us when we do their initial intake and they discuss their problems with us. But I’m concerned that I’m starting to see more of that showing up in their actual plan of action or in their messaging to Amazon. So this is something you’ve seen too, right? I’m not crazy. This isn’t just me.
Leah: [00:01:16] Yeah. And it’s something that I see new sellers doing. It’s also something that I see more better in sellers doing, but maybe with a new listing, like we only just started selling this product, therefore, please go easy on us. I guess I can sort of understand where the seller is coming from, but Amazon doesn’t care.
Chris: [00:01:34] Right, in normal business conversation. You’re on the phone with us. You’re emailing with us. We understand what you mean, but you have to keep that mental separation of what you tell us in terms of your newness or your ignorance levels on a particular product line, a particular appeal or suspension process. You can’t go to Amazon and say, we don’t know how to appeal. You need to help us. So you need to tell us more, or we don’t know these products so well, so give us a break. Give us time to learn up. Amazon expects you to learn up whatever you’re going to self-educate on before you list it.
Leah: [00:02:07] I do kind of blame Amazon for this. They’re marketing to encourage people to sell on Amazon is pretty much the direct opposite of how they handle sellers once they start selling. So the whole, you know, you can start selling any product today and then you do that, and it turns out that, that is not the case.
Chris: [00:02:25] Oh, right they encourage. They’re trying to get as many sellers on as many listings as possible.
Leah: [00:02:29] There’s nothing about like, make sure you read all of the policies before you do it.
Chris: [00:02:33] I mean, there is a little, but it’s kind of mixed in and jumbled up with lots of other wonderful stuff. And when you’re new. Yeah. I mean, and just so everyone knows that’s listening to this episode, we don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing, we just want to be realistic about what they are, how they do view this, what their perspective is and how you need to approach it from a proactive standpoint, as a seller who gets stuck in a listing take-down process, or even an account suspension. We’re not saying that we think this is all wonderful detailed, well explained, comprehensive approach by Amazon. It’s not. At all. So, the problem is we’re seeing this creep into too many appeals. Like, Hey, we’re new, we’re sorry. People tend to apologize a lot. If you’re going to apologize as part of the taking responsibility section of your plan of action, make that one sentence, do not make that a full paragraph. Don’t put it in the intro and the conclusion and in the root causes and in the body of the POA, you get limited mileage. If that. By saying.
Leah: [00:03:34] I don’t think I’ve ever put an apology.
Chris: [00:03:36] Well, people want to, they see that as taking responsibility. I think like, we’re sorry that this happened. We made a mistake. We’re not against that acknowledgement in your appeal, but make it short, make it sweet. Make it quick. Get to the guts of what you’re going to say. And don’t emphasize, maybe this is kind of a psychological crutch that people are using because they don’t know what to say, but don’t emphasize your newness or your level of ignorance. Because that makes them disinclined to reinstate you. I believe not inclined to give you a break.
Leah: [00:04:07] If you’re going to talk about ignorance, you have to talk about it in the context of it failing. So don’t just say, we didn’t know that this was a policy. It needs to be like we failed to ensure that we were adequately informed about whatever the issue may be in that case. It really needs to be again, it’s sort of a difference between an excuse and a root cause. An excuse just being, we didn’t know. A root cause being, we didn’t ensure that we knew.
Chris: [00:04:39] It’s not just that it’s an excuse. You’re not saying anything. When you say we’re new, we didn’t know. I mean, we’ve seen how many root causes in a POA that say we’re new. We didn’t know. And that’s really all they say. And then they’re surprised when the appeals rejected. I mean, the root causes aren’t root causes. That’s the starting point for maybe there’s other things wrong with the POA, but if that’s all you say we’re new, we didn’t know. Number one, they’re never going to accept it because it’s not root causes. Number two, you’re discouraging them from giving you a chance. You’re not encouraging them to give you a second chance unless you show them how you’ve completely turned the tide. Maybe you didn’t know before, but now, you know now, and you know, all these wonderful things here they are, and you’re incorporating them into your operations and your processes into your team training, your tools, whatever. But, trying to rest back on the fact that you didn’t know things simply because you’re new means they don’t trust you with their buyers. They have no track record to use to trust you. Right.
Leah: [00:05:39] Right. And then the other side of that is I do see new sellers use the excuse that they didn’t know. As well, you know, it’s not even that we’re new. We didn’t know. It’s just, we didn’t know. Which I would say is possibly even a worse excuse.
Chris: [00:05:53] It’s not that it’s worse. It’s just that they like Amazon can judge you on two years of sales where you obviously showed that, you know, other things and you’ve been around and you’re somewhat established. Maybe you’ve been around four years or five. So you’ve got a track record to judge you by if you’re new. I mean, how many sellers or brands contact us two weeks in, or one week in they’re already suspended. Like you did their full account or their top selling ASIN , and then, of course, because they’re new, they think that it’s okay to say you’re new because they don’t know any better. But you also have no track record behind you to point to and say, look, we flubbed this one up, but we have done this right in the past, if you’re brand new you can’t say that.
Leah: [00:06:34] So at this point, I kind of feel that I sound like a broken record because I’ve been saying this to sellers for four years, that I’ve been doing this now. Six, but whether you’re new or old, it’s ultimately your responsibility and Amazon views it as your responsibility to know all of the rules around what you are doing. Regardless if somebody else is managing the account for you or you’re doing it yourself and you are new to it. It’s your responsibility to know the rules and regulations around selling on Amazon and around selling the products that you’re specifically selling in whatever marketplace that you’re selling.
Chris: [00:07:12] Preferably before you begin, that’s the part that keeps you going.
Leah: [00:07:15] Yeah. And that’s another area where we see this, where somebody lists a product, they haven’t even sold it yet and they get in trouble. And then their response to Amazon is we haven’t even sold it yet. It’s like, yes, that’s great. But if you, if you haven’t even sold it yet and you’re already can’t comply with the requirements, then they don’t care that you haven’t sold it yet. They want to see that you’re able to follow.
Chris: [00:07:34] Yeah. The best way to kind of dumb this down is, we understand that they might acknowledge what you’re saying. You didn’t know. The problem is that doesn’t matter to them. And that’s what new sellers don’t understand, because maybe nobody wants to start a new business on Amazon, if they feel like what they think or feel or what their situation is, doesn’t matter to Amazon. But the reality is for a lot of new accounts, amazon doesn’t necessarily miss you if you leave. So you have to kind of prove to sellers and private labelers alike, that’s becoming the new normal. But you have to think of it from their point of view, which is you have to kind of prove that you belong. When I was working there, managers were always running around saying, remember, selling on Amazon is not a right. It’s a privilege. That is the way they look at it. We could debate whether or not it’s fair. Whether or not they’re consistent or just in how they investigate accounts. Obviously you’ve seen our videos, heard this podcast before probably, and you know, that we don’t agree with the way they look at it. But in terms of enforcement, we know what their perspective is. Which is if you’re new, they’re not losing much. You haven’t proven yourself. You haven’t shown a lot of revenue to them yet. So they don’t feel like they’re losing anything by not even letting you start. So that’s why you have to prepare in advance and make sure that you’ve got all your ducks in a row before you begin and you know, you and I are going to be interviewing agency heads, right? I mean, some people just start with an agency and we’re going to be talking to people like Jason Boyce in the future who I’m sure work with these companies before they start selling the right way and help them learn how this stuff works.
Leah: [00:09:07] Right. And that’s, again, you know, it comes down to hiring the right person and getting started with the stuff, before you start selling. I think often people put the cart before the horse. And I’m not saying that everybody has to work with an agency to get started, but just, I’m just going to throw something up on Amazon and see what happens. And that’s not always the best strategy with this, again, depending on the product that you’re selling and also the knowledge base that you have before you get started. But despite Amazon’s messaging that anybody can sell anything on Amazon. It’s really just not that easy. And it isn’t passive income.
Chris: [00:09:43] Right.
Leah: [00:09:43] And you’re better off knowing this stuff before you get started rather than finding out later when your account gets shut down.
Chris: [00:09:49] Right. Every business needs some foresight before they start selling a product, right? You can’t manufacture a product after you start selling it. I mean, think about other parts of the, you know, supply chain and logistics. Like you’re manufacturing a product. Well, you probably need a design first before you start approaching factories to figure out who’s going to make it for you at what costs. Isn’t this kind of similar? Like, this is preparation too. It’s just that you’re not preparing to manufacture something. You’re preparing to launch an Amazon business. Different set of steps perhaps, but the same perspective and process, right?
Leah: [00:10:21] Yeah, and I think we see this similarly and we talk about this a little bit in the seller psychology episode. There’s just a lot of emphasis on the sales and marketing side. And yes, that’s really important, but there are other important parts of this that I feel like aren’t as sexy, maybe. So they tend to not get talked about. And I guess it’s harder to sell as a course. So maybe people don’t really hear about it as much. But I mean, operations and compliance and quality control are all really important parts of this mix. And they just don’t get the same attention as sales and marketing in this little space.
Chris: [00:10:59] Because I think people want to think about getting revenue and think about money coming back in when they’re investing all this money and time and energy, and they already see money going down.
Leah: [00:11:09] Right, and I would argue knowing this stuff will help improve your revenue. I mean, quality control for sure. If people keep getting bad products for you, your revenue is only going to make it so far. If you have good quality products, successful operations that don’t have massive headaches and issues all of the time, you’re going to make more revenue. If your account doesn’t get suspended, you’re going to have more revenue. If your ASIN’s don’t get blocked, you’re going to have more revenue. It’s just, maybe it’s not revenue generating in the same way that sales and marketing is, but it’s still needed to generate revenue.
Chris: [00:11:43] Things like this, I mean, it’s the same as account suspensions, right? You don’t know you need it until it happens necessarily. So sometimes people don’t want to invest. And we’ve gone down that road before. We don’t have to fold that into this episode per se, but a lot of people react instead of being proactive. And the thing is when you’re starting a new business on Amazon, if you get suspended right out of the gate, you can’t just open up another account. It’ll be blocked for related to the previous suspensions. And you’ll waste a lot of time and money dealing with that as well. So, any questions on this, we definitely implore you to tell us that you’re knew more than you tell Amazon that you’re new in an appeal. So if you’re scrubbing that out of an appeal you’re writing today, and you want to show us the rest of it, that’s fine. Thanks for listening. And thanks again, Leah, for joining me for another scintillating conversation on the Amazon seller experience.
Hosts & Guests
Category Listing Reports are one of the more useful tools available to sellers, and most don’t know what it is! We use these reports to vet cases, identify abuse, all the way through to strengthening plans of action. Sellers should be using these to protect their accounts. BONUS: they can simplify your listing management.
Dealing with an account suspension is difficult for most sellers. Even more difficult is getting suspended for the same reason twice. Amazon only gives you so many changes, and that second reinstatement is hard to achieve. How do you prove to Amazon that you’ve REALLY implemented a plan of action to prevent future issues when you already failed to follow through on your previous appeal?