Selling Successfully (Your One-Stop Resource for Setting Up, Managing and Marketing)

Feel the Burn:A Pre-Holiday Shop Fitness Program

His physical and mental resources already depleted from a recent and longer run of 140 miles to seek help from Sparta, followed by a morning on the battle field in heavy armor, the Athenian Pheidippides then ran 26 miles to Athens to take news of victory against the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 B.C.

Two and a half thousand years later, this heroic feat, after which the exhausted runner died, continues to be commemorated annually in Athens and in marathons run in major cities around the world. While modern athletes are not required to undergo the extreme demands placed on Pheidippides, each of the many tens of thousands of entrants who now take part recognizes that they will need stamina and iron discipline if they are to have any chance of staying the distance. Training will begin months in advance and top athletes maintain year-round strict regimes in order to remain in peak, competitive condition.

For long-term success, an online shop should be viewed as a distance event, not a sprint. For those shops not already in prime condition, ready for the rapidly approaching seasonal increase in shoppers' online activity, it is still not too late to get in some training in preparation for 'match fitness.'

* That 'thingummyjig' you picked up in a yard sale - you didn't know what it was exactly or what it might be worth, if anything? Now is the time to put in a little leg, or mouse-click work and find out. If it is an unsuspected treasure, research it fully, examine it, photograph it and have the listing information saved on your computer ready to add to your shop at the right time. Turns out it is not a rare Napoleonic campaign chest but a small water tank? You win some, you lose a the scrap-metal yard!

* Scour the local ads for sales and auctions – mark out those which are the most promising and map out the week's itinerary for those events you are able to attend. What are the hottest collecting trends right now? If your shop offers a broad range of antiques and collectibles, you might consider including a few of these among your new acquisitions. Attracting these collectors to your shop has the potential to expand your customer base and increase sales across all your inventory.

* Prepare new items as they are acquired: examine them forensically, document any and all flaws, set up photography sessions for each new batch, then file each listing in named folders on your computer ready, 'oven-ready' to add to the shop. Keeping on top of new items as you go along means the task never becomes overwhelming; copying and pasting the prepared text and details and uploading the pictures from file makes light work of feeding in new items throughout the coming season.

* Shop your own shop and pick out any items which look less than fresh or sellable, if maybe the market has changed since they were first added. Remove and either 'rest' them for six months, or pack them up and offload them at the local auction house. The dollars realized are a new acquisition opportunity – fresh stock, and enough of it, should be part of the business plan for the next two quarters.

Inventory that is good to carry over:

* Do you know where each item actually is? Losing a good sale because you realize, too late, that you can't find the item (or worse, only now do you remember you sold it at a Fair in early summer) – the consequent disappointment this can cause is often expressed by the shopper in the form of a complaint to Customer Support, meaning the shop needs to divert time and attention to rectifying an avoidable situation, all for want of an hour's preparation for the season ahead.

* View your shop with a critical shopper's eye: are the items shown off at their best, are the pictures crisply focused and showing clear detail or might one or two benefit from replacement with new and better photographs? While on the item page, spend a moment to read over the description – there's that typo which you never noticed until today!

* Think ahead: that unexpected but rather fabulous once-in-a-lifetime customer that purchases your top ticket item but needs it Fedexed overnight; that sudden rush of six purchases from different customers, all prompt same-day payers. Are all the packaging materials to hand? Is there a sorted range of clean strong boxes, pristine fresh tissue, bubble and cushioning filler? You won't want to be scrabbling around for the basics just as sales are heating up.

Time spent now to get your shop honed, toned and in prime condition will be time saved which can be better used in the future. The exciting Autumn to Spring online shop Marathon is almost on the starting blocks.

The starter's pistol will soon be raised - – it's time to start feeling the burn!