We see them during all the pivotal dates this time of year. We saw them on Black Friday, we saw them on Cyber Monday, and we’ll see them again over the next couple of weeks. Posts on Facebook groups that include screenshots of huge sales numbers or pictures of 10 shopping carts loaded with toys from a retail arbitrage haul.
We can be inspired by these posts and feel excited for what is to come in our businesses — or we can have another response and ruin our Q4 sales.
We can start comparing ourselves to other sellers.
Comparing yourself with other sellers can be the fastest way to ruin your Q4 sales.
Falling victim to the comparison trap might not cause you to lose sales today or tomorrow, but it will definitely have an impact on your psyche and your business over the long run.
When we compare ourselves to other people and start feeling negative emotions, that negativity can snowball. Pretty soon we’ll find that our entire mindset has shifted. We could become so dejected over not feeling good enough as a seller that we are tempted to quit. Or even worse, we could start making bad buying decisions for our business.
It’s crucial throughout the year but especially in Q4 to keep in mind what you don’t know when you see posts on Facebook about amazing sales or massive RA hauls:
We don’t know how much profit other sellers are making.
If someone says “I made 6 figures in sales!” we can’t assume anything from that number. After that seller takes out the cost of inventory, supplies, or other fees, they might only be taking home in their pocket $15,000 of that $100k. And we don’t know how much time they spent to buy and prep their inventory. For all we know they really are only making minimum wage for their time.
We don’t know how other sellers are paying for their inventory.
We don’t know if they run a cash-only business or if they go into debt to make huge purchases. We never know if someone is making horrible decisions, taking out ginormous loans, and maxing out multiple credit cards to finance their Q4 inventory. This kind of behavior is very dangerous. At any moment Amazon could shut someone’s account down for something they did or did not do, and that seller would be stuck with the debt without getting a disbursement from Amazon. They could be making bad buying decisions thinking they have to blow a ton of money on inventory before December 10 in order to maximize Q4 — but what if their inventory doesn’t sell as expected? Or maybe they pay for everything with cash, make a ton of sales, and buy a new car in January. It could be either scenario when you see those posts online. The point is we just don’t know.
I’m not trying to suggest that everyone who makes these types of posts on Facebook is giving an inaccurate portrayal. On the contrary, many sellers make these posts in order to inspire others or as a way of celebrating within a community, neither of which is a bad thing. What I want us all to think about is how am I personally receiving this post? If I’m receiving it in a negative manner and comparing myself to others, then I have a problem.
When we get caught up in comparing ourselves with other sellers, we can have two types of negative results:
- We can begin to feel discouraged.
If I’m comparing my Chapter 2 to someone else’s Chapter 12, I fail to take into account all the years of experiences (some successful, some otherwise) the other seller has had. When we compare ourselves this way, we can completely lose the steam in our engines and lose the motivation to excel as a seller. Worst case scenario, we could decide to quit.
- We could look at other people’s sales and start getting puffed up.
If I’m comparing my Chapter 12 to someone else’s Chapter 2, I can get arrogant, be filled with pride, and make reckless decisions. “Pride comes before the fall,” says the wisdom of Proverbs. Again, the comparisons have the potential to lead to incorrect thinking.
So then, what should we be comparing?
We should be comparing our outcomes with our goals
Q4 is an excellent time for us to begin looking back to see if we met our goals — for Q4 and for the year. I really hope you’re setting goals every year, if not every quarter. Goal setting is the best way for me to challenge myself in my business. Rather than comparing my sales to someone else’s, I want to look at my own goals and see how I fared this year. Did I meet my goals? If not, what can I do to tweak those goals for next year? What am I planning to do to make next year’s sales even better?
Don’t get weighed down by looking at other people’s sales numbers. Don’t fall victim to the trap of comparison. Focus on where you are personally and how you can meet your own goals.
So, how are your sales going this Q4? I don’t want to know specific numbers — remember, we don’t need to compare those to anyone else’s. But did you meet your goals? Did you exceed them? Do you see now that you need to tweak something for next year? Let us know in the comments! We’d love to know how your Q4 is going, in general terms rather than specific numbers.
* This post was updated for 2022
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Great post, Stephen! And so true! Thank you for this very rational post!
Bill Schimpf says
Spot on it is human nature to compare. The group I belong to had several superstars early on and naturally we all wanted to know what they were doing that we were not. They went into depth on how they achieved their success. What we found is there was no magic sauce, they all traveled down a different path, worked hard on their strategies all being different and all got to the end line sticking to it. Stick to what is working for your situation, tweak it as you go and you will get there. Forget about what everyone else is doing other. Enjoy your successes achieving the goals you set for you.
Elizabeth Brinkley says
Great post! It’s an important reminder that I need to re-read daily, especially this time of year with so many posts about huge sales.
But I will share with you that I passed my sales goal for the YEAR back in October, and I’ve already passed the monthly goal that I had set for my December sales. So I’m looking forward to watching the video course on goal setting. This year was my first full year in the FBA business so I’ll have a little better picture for setting up goals for 2016.
Thanks for all of your helpful information!
I need the reminder just as much as anyone.. and it’s one of the reasons I wrote this post. And congrats on passing your goals for the year! Well done!
Sarah dugo says
What goal setting course are you offering, Stephen?
I am 6 mo into FBA and compared to my FBM selling last year I am up!
Stephen Smotherman says
I don’t have a goal setting course, but really recommend this book to understand how to set the right goals to lead to results: https://amzn.to/2zL8W55
And, of course, The Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA will help you make next year your best year ever: https://www.fulltimefba.com/yearinfba
Robert Sword says
Thank you for your post! I can’t believe your timing! I was just sitting here this morning, as a first year member on Amazon, doing the numbers, reading the posts, hearing the stories and doing the ‘comparisons’ and yes….getting very discouraged and upset.
My wife had me post your term “FOCUS” on a piece of paper, and taped it in front of me to stay focused.
I’m a very positive guy, and very motivated. I feel like most, that if I don’t join a FB group, listen to a webinar, join this program or that one, then I missed something. I do believe that getting the highlights of many of them – that each of them have a piece of the pie that I can use to bring my personal goals to a pinnacle to be successful – but I also know that in any business approach, its baby steps. If no one has said it, “Thank You” for what you are doing and helping us to stay true to ourselves.
My goal this Q4 was actually a blessing to me and my wife, for the sole fact that I started into this business in late January, and listed to my father whom got me involved based on his ability to sell part-time on line and making good money. I work the full time job, small side business (but soon to close) and then looking at this one as my hope to do it full time. Ironically, my full time job is cleaning house and i was almost let go in early October, the start of Q4: thus, so that I did not lose my benefits or opportunity, I had a very needed surgery on my neck and my goal was to take the time (while out of leave) and grow this business – as I would if I did not have the full time job, to see if I could really do it. And I am starting to make my gross income (replacement), just no benefits (any suggestions??).
I have been listening, following and doing over what I can do and truly appreciate your blogs and posts. Any further help or comments are always welcome.
I’m glad the post was timely and helpful. I also am usually a positive person, but sometimes can still get down when I look at my numbers on some days… so I wrote this post as a reminder to myself. I wish you all the best with your goals! The transition from a “normal” job to working full-time on your own is huge, and I’m starting to work on a course to help others do this, but it’s still a long way off. The biggest suggestion I have is to save up 3 to 6 months worth of living expenses in a savings account before you even start the transition to working full-time at home with Amazon. This is a safety net that will help you (and your spouse) feel more secure as you make the transition. From there, you can look into insurance packages that make the best sense for your family. For us, we are on a medical bill sharing plan called, Medishare. It’s a Christian based bill sharing program, and my wife and I love it. There are other bill sharing plans out there that are not religious focused, so you definitely have options. I wish you all the best!
David Meyer says
My Q4 is going awful! But, my overall business this year is doing at least 4 times better than last year when I look at the year as a whole, so I cant really complain. I am making as much doing FBA part time as I make at my day job. Very exciting. But the ups and downs of FBA can be a little stressful sometimes.
Sorry to hear the your Q4 is not going as expected, but I’m encouraged by your perspective of seeing your overall growth this year. Yes, the FBA roller coaster can be filled with lots of ups and downs, but it’s a really fun ride. The more you learn, then the more ups you’ll see.
I was prepared this year for Q4… I bought many items last January on sale and kept them in my home, i have a room over a three car garage where i work..i had the space for it..WELLLLL! i send my first shipments to amazon…and for some reason all the items are on reserve..It is December 8th and no luck with seller central help getting those listings live..now I leery about sending the rest..if it does not go live in time..I will wind up with storage fees…Amazon…thanks for the mess up..
Sometimes the items are on reserve because Amazon is moving the items to another warehouse. Also, December is actually kind of late to sending the items in for Q4. Next year, if you’re holding on to any items to send to Amazon for Q4, it’s best to send in around September.
Also, it’s ok to send more items in to Amazon now, because people still buy a lot of stuff in January. People have Amazon gift cards to use from Christmas, and also customers go to Amazon to get what they actually wanted for Christmas, but didn’t get… so get that stuff to Amazon. The storage fees are pennies per month. That’s worth it in my opinion.
Thank you for this reminder. I was raised with “attitude of gratitude” ingrained but still sometimes get caught in the comparison game… For me, it’s not even about wishing that were me (it WILL be me!) I just get impatient with myself about timing. I’ve been doing this since 10/1/2015 and we blew past our goals and then some. In making 2016 plans, it really just comes down to the goal of quitting my job to do this full time. But there is a place for temperance too. And learning, and some caution…. Anyway thank you!
Glad this post was helpful! I wish you all the best in your goals to do FBA full-time!
Bryan Earley says
Great Post Stephen!
Another thing to keep in mind is that not everything you read online is true……just watch the show Catfish…..LOL Jealousy is a very dangerous and damaging emotion. In all aspects of life, there are those that will do better than you in some areas, and those that don’t do as well as you. As a small business owner/sole proprietorship, I only have one person to answer to and that’s ME (and God)!!! Thank you for the reminder!!!!!!!
For me envy is the root of more evil than pride…while I am happy for the big number makers. I am happy for want I make with FBA. It also makes me happy to give a good deal to people or help them get something they want that might not be available near them…
Thanks for your comments, Bryan!
I’ve definitely had a change of mindset this year. I changed from doing mostly RA to all OA and it has done wonders for me! Last year I was out on Black Friday and filling up carts and sending in huge shipments of toys. Most of the prices tanked because everyone was trying to sell them quickly and I got caught up in it too. I just broke even on a lot of items even though my sales were higher than they had ever been! This year I’m concentrating more on what I know works for me, with some select toys here and there. The biggest thing I learned was that I am not cut out for doing RA! Not to mention that I’m about 9 weeks pregnant and have no energy at all. I’m so grateful that I made that switch over the summer!
I’m really glad you have found what works best for you! There are so many different ways to make a good income with Amazon, and it’s usually best to focus on a few and become an expert. I’m glad that Online Arbitrage is working out so well for you!
Speaking about arrogant people filled with pride I saw one of “higher-ups” discouraging someone who appeared as a new seller because he asked basic question associated with risk which may have had “stupid” sounding to it. But what this higher-up forgotten is that once he too was taking baby steps that new seller does. Comparing this way is what is wrong with this world as we divide ourselves from others feeling that we are superior while we are all humen.
I so agree..I always try and answer the best I can..People have helped me when I was a newbie…I believe we should Pay It Forward. I cannot tell you how much I value answers…but even questions that may seem dumb to others..yield some highly needed answers..I do not feel any question is dumb…
What would be definition of stupid question? Question that is too simple asked over and over again?
Seeing all the posts of big numbers gets me motivated! Q4 is awesome, I’m sending in shipments everyday and can’t keep up with the huge demand.
I’m glad you see it as a motivation. I know many do… but still wanted to remind those who might see it as a discouragement instead. It’s all about perspective, and I pray that God gives me better perspective daily.
Eric Lindner says
Great post! Reminds me of the principal found at Galatians 6:4 “But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” I like your advice, it’s very practical, thanks.
I fall prey to the feeling of discouragement sometimes. There is one gal on my Facebook group who started after me and has already done $50K in sales since June. I don’t feel jealous, just wondering what I’m not doing enough of, because I work very hard at this every day. I’m pleased with what I have accomplished thus far, but I’m just competitive enough that it makes me crazy when other people are outdoing me. 🙂 This Q4 thing has been a little crazy, but not nearly the insanity it was hyped to be from everywhere I turned. Maybe because I used to work in brick and mortar retail I know what real combat looks like. 🙂
Just because she has $50,000 in sales doesn’t mean that she’s taking home that amount. She might be taking home $5,000 of that. It’s too much of a drain on our emotions and energy to try and understand things that we don’t have the full picture of. Focus on what’s going right. You’re working hard. You’re pleased with your accomplishments. Just remember, it’s not a race. There is no finish line. Think of the tortoise and the hare. Many times, slow and steady wins the race, not the person who shoots out fast from the starting line. Keep pressing on, working hard, learning more, and improving your craft. Growth will continue. 🙂
I cannot believe that someone else’s success would discourage anyone..FBA you get what you put into it…make it work for you…learn the ins and outs and remember this is not a competition…just enjoy and appreciate the opportunity
Some people are just wired differently, and that’s ok. Some people see things as obstacles, while others see opportunities. Some people see things as discouragement, while others see encouragement. My goal with this post was to help some see things from a different perspective.
I agree Stephen…I discuss perspective and optimism quite often
..some of us have been through the seven hells, in my case i was in accident and developed a deadly arrhythmia…I healed from my busted spine and hip and wounds had two heart surgeries…I am cured…life is beautiful and hey I beat it! Then there are people that have minor, and do mean minor ailments and think it is the end of the world..trying to shift that perspective by making them see less fortunate but is kicking butt and fighting back sometimes works…
But there are those that like being in defeatist mode, they like having an excuse…it becomes their identity…THIS to me is the greatest set up for failure…seeing yourself as unable to do better…pessimism is poison…
Stop making excuses, start realizing someone’s success as something that can happen to you if you work hard..those people sacrifice, it may sound easy…and it may be easy for them because they are wired that way…but achieving YOUR goals is all that matters..
Rahul Gaba says
A little worried seeing that ” buyers think they have to have a ton of inventory by December 10th” , lol … as I am new to this business and this is my first Q4
My question is , did I not need to put a ton of inventory in before December 10th? .. 🙂
I do my purchases on a 0 APR credit card. Yes there is a risk if I get shut down , I’ll be in debt of that inventory. So this Q4 is a little stressful right now. I have a lot of inventory in, and I am hoping for sales .
Any way, is there a diffferent way to do it , by not having a lot of inventory in before December 10th? 🙂
Ree Klein says
A timely post, Stephen, and very well stated. I set a pretty hefty goal for myself to do $77k in revenue for 2016 and I’m going to miss the mark by a long shot.
But, more importantly, as you point out revenue numbers are meaningless. It’s the actual profit that counts. I see so many people calculate profit at the individual product level and only factor in the cost of the item and Amazon’s fees. There are a lot of other costs to running a business that affect the overall profitability of the business and what you can actually use as income for yourself and your family.
I’m still working for free…
Not one thin dime has been removed from the business accounts to pay myself after more than two years selling on Amazon. But that’s okay because I’ve used the business income to test other niches and private-label products. I know I’ll succeed at some point but it’s a very slow process!
Thanks for the reminder to not compare AND the warning about the risks of using credit to buy inventory.
I too appreciate the post. I just started FBA the end of 3rd Quarter. I have been only using cash for purchases and therefore my sales for Q4 have been small due to lack of build up of cash. I have had some good ROI and some rookie mistakes resulting in little ROI. So while I won’t make much money this Q4, your post did confirm to me I’m still doing ok and learning a lot going into 2017. I learn a lot from your posts and some products I have purchased. I wonder if you offer private coaching services? Thanks for all you do!
I do offer coaching. Here’s a link for more info: https://www.fulltimefba.com/coaching
William E. Raab says
Just payed a visit to my local big box retailer. I am brand new to retail arbitrage, and this was my very first visit. Just wanted to get a feel for how it all worked. Well, I got there, and the first thing I noticed was they had blocked access to everything but their own website. I figured, no problem, I’ll just turn off the wifi in my settings and bi-pass their filters. That also did not work. So, it was a wasted trip. Is there a trick you can tell me of that I don’t know about, to access the Amazon Sellers ap inside their store?
What did I do wrong?
Some stores just don’t have good cell receptions depending on the store and the carrier.
What do you mean blocked? Were you using your cellphone network and it still did no work? How can they even do that..unless maybe you did not have good signal there? I would be so annoyed..
Kenya Kingsbury says
We are doing more Merchant Fulfilled shipping this year. We have many items returned that were sitting at Amazon warehouse that could have been assessed the long term storage fees. It has absolutely AMAZED us how many of those items have sold recently!! I have to brag – my husband has shipped out 57 packages in the last 7 days. He is truly the rock star! These were not very expensive items, so our profit isn’t huge, but it’s been quite encouraging to pack and ship so much.
Thanks for all the great information and insights, Stephen!!
We are happy with our sales numbers so far, but also wondering how our numbers stack up. This is our first Q4 and we kept reading abut how Q4 sales will be 2-3 times bigger than other months. Our sales have continued to improve every month since we started, and that was on a shoestring. I will have to check September numbers again (my wife keeps the records) but don’t think we are doing double what we did in September, and surely not triple. We do know we need to expand our inventory categories, we tend to keep buying the same type of things over and over because we are comfortable in those buying decisions and have had success with them. Looking forward to getting into wholesale and hopefully PL in the coming year.
Stacy Covitz says
So true Stephen!!! Your wisdom is always appreciated. 🙂
Thanks again for a great post!
Thanks for the post. It is very timely, as I sit here and wonder how this is going to work out. I have been doing fba for several months, but seem to be stuck, and not making progress. Glad to see others are doing it, well enough to replace an income. That’s what I need.
One question, Does this book only apply to the USA, or does it apply to Canada as well
Are you referring to the Reseller’s Guide to a Year in FBA? It’s centered around selling on Amazon.com, so if you are in Canada and selling on Amazon.com then it’s a good fit. If you are selling on Amazon.ca, then there will be plenty of things that will overlap, but since I’m not selling on .ca then I can’t be for sure how much. You can always ask for a refund if you’re not happy with your purchase. More info here: https://www.fulltimefba.com/yearinfba
Thanks, Stephen. Another thing I see from some of those “big numbers” Facebook posters is that they have disappeared. There were a couple of gals in a group I’m in that kept posting pictures of their trunks overflowing with shopping bags and posting huge numbers a couple of years ago. We haven’t heard from them since. Either they are just too busy now to post or they’ve fizzled out. I’m more slow and steady. I will say from looking at my numbers that I have already surpassed last year’s sales, with still most of December to go, and I did it selling 300 less items than last year. So I feel like I’m buying smarter and at higher price points. In the beginning I was hesitant to spend more than I was willing to lose. I didn’t want to go into debt to make purchases, so I use my profits to keep buying more inventory. I learn new things all the time in this business, which is exciting to me.
Catherine Purcell says
Thanks for this encouraging post, easy to fall in to the comparison trap. I appreciate your honesty–I recently heard a “six-figure” seller on a respected podcast say he had almost never lost money on a product. I find this hard to believe.