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Selling like Hotcakes: 8 Pro Tips for a Compelling Auction Listing

Selling like Hotcakes: 8 Pro Tips for a Compelling Auction Listing

Auctions can be a convenient and lucrative way to sell large items, precious items, and vast groups of things. The participation and bids for those auctions all begin with the auction listing, from how it is written to how the images are presented. Those who list well, sell well. Those who do not, well, the sales are not so hot. What can you do to list your items well to make sure they have the best opportunity at auction?

Avoid Using All Caps or Symbols

One of the common mistakes made in listings written by new sellers for auctions is that they use capital letters excessively. This is often done with good intentions, as you want to get the attention of the reader. However, it usually backfires. Visual characters have a kind of mental “sound” to them. Words written in all capital letters “sound” like the writer is shouting at you. While the writer may think that capital letters make a listing look more exciting, it instead usually comes off as more desperate, which means you can expect lower bids.

Use of symbols ([email protected]#&*) may again seem like a quick way to get attention. However, they are best to be avoided unless they are specifically part of a brand name you need to mention. Additionally, when you put strings of symbols together, they can be misread as censored swear words, giving the potential buyer the impression that you are vulgar or unprofessional and they will often pass you over without reading further.

Use Spelling and Grammar Checks

Check both your spelling and grammar before submitting an auction listing. Everyone makes mistakes: fingers slip on the keyboard, computers glitch and misspell words, or you can be momentarily distracted and type in the wrong word altogether. Spelling typos almost always give the reader the impression that the seller does not know what they are doing. Take the time to check your work.

Proper grammar is just as important. Even if you only use the grammar check in MS Word, it will pay off, often in real dollars. Proper grammar is associated with professionalism and professionals make more money than amateurs. Rather than using capital letters or symbols to get the reader’s attention, excellent grammar helps reassure potential buyers that you are serious, professional, and worth their time and money.

Quality Presentation

Quality, not quantity of words is the goal with auction listings. This may be the most significant “rule” to consider when creating auction listings overall. The purpose of an auction listing is to quickly grab the reader’s attention and give them a coherent word picture that accurately portrays the item(s) for sale.

In many cases, the readers will already be looking for something specific or at least looking in a general categories of items. If you spend lots of words trying to sell them something they don’t want or need, you may end up missing a potential buyer who is looking for your item but did not get enough information on it due to too much sales pitch.

Because you are often limited in space and word count, it is important to be concise. The more words you use, the more your essential information can be hidden in the text. Make sure your words are informative. Accuracy is crucial because buyers often refer back to the listing if there are any discrepancies in how the item was listed and how it was delivered.


False advertising is a significant issue for all sales listings, and auction listings are not excluded. The best way to avoid complaints of false advertising is to be completely honest in your listing in the first place. While it may seem a tempting idea to try to put the sale item in a more optimistic light or to omit some of the wear and tear it may have suffered, honesty is always the best policy. You don’t have to embellish the good or bad, but be sure to tell the whole truth.

The easiest way to balance brevity of words with full-transparency is to put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyer. What would you want to know about this item?

List All Terms and Conditions

In the spirit of being upfront and honest with potential buyers, an auction listing is an important place to list any terms or conditions of the sale. Will there be any opportunity for returns? Are there any limitations on reselling the item? Are there any guarantees for the buyer that are offered? Are there any exclusions or disqualifications for potential buyers? Are there any certifications of value or functionality that your item has obtained from expert evaluation? These may all be critical questions that should be put concisely into the listing to help support the value of your item. Here are some examples of item conditions across various categories.

Invite Potential Buyers to Contact You

Another way to show increased transparency is to invite potential buyers to contact you with any questions they may have about your auction items.

Sharing your contact info has two main benefits for you. First, it increases trust between the seller and the potential buyer because it offers the initiation of the relationship. Offers of contact info allow the communication between buyer and seller to become a two-way street, which means the reader can ask questions that were not brought up in the listing itself and expect to get answers for them.

Second, it gives the potential buyer and seller the opportunity, through that newly established relationship, to filter through potential problems with potential buyers before the sale is made. If the seller realizes through this two-way communication that there is going to be problems with a potential buyer, they can either block that person from buying their item or pull the item from the auction and try again later.

Include Any Packaging, Tags, and Instruction Books

Looking for a way to help boost the value of your auction items? Instead of embellishing with words, add to their real value by including any of the original packaging you can find. Including original packaging, tags, or instruction books gives the impression – often rightly so – that the item is not well-used and that the seller has taken good care of it.

Certain types of items may be looked at suspiciously if they are not in original packaging. Items that fit poorly or do not have packaging at all are often signs of fake products. Anything that came with the item at its original purchase will help put the reader’s minds at ease that the item for sale is genuine. 

Make Sure You List Your Items in the Right Category

The last thing you need to be aware of is the proper category for your auction items. This is more of a technical detail than anything that requires writing ability, but unfortunately, it can be a deal-breaker for many auction items.

Categories serve to filter out unwanted items for buyers and the uninterested buyers for sellers. For instance, if a buyer was looking to buy a used car engine and a seller had one to sell, but instead of putting it in the category of car parts, the seller put it in the category of cars, the car part buyer would probably miss the listing altogether. Even worse, all the buyers looking for cars would be confused or disappointed in the seller’s listing because it was only an engine and not the whole vehicle they were hoping to buy. Improperly categorizing a listing is like putting merchandise in the wrong kind of store. It won’t sell, and if it does, it will do poorly.

Since categories may be set up differently for different auctions, it is good to check with those in charge of the auction to determine where it fits best. If you come across items that you are unsure how to categorize at all, you can check with for more information on how to best categorize your auction listing.

No matter what you are selling at auction, your listing is the first and best way to get buyers. Once the auction starts, there is very little you can do to change the bidding process. It is imperative that your listings represent the value of your items well, gives an accurate account of their conditions, and does so in a concise, informative way. To avoid problems after the sale is completed, any applicable terms should be mentioned in the listing and contact information should be provided if possible. Spelling and grammar should be double checked. Finally, the listing needs to be put in the correct category.

If you do all these things you can expect to get the most out of your auction selling experience and the most return on the investment in your listed items. Your items will indeed sell like hotcakes. If you fail on one or more of these points, you may find yourself at the auction, feeling like you are trying to sell ice to Eskimos. Follow these eight steps to create a listing that sells today.

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by Rebecca Jones // Contributor to Businessing Magazine.

Opinions expressed by contributors are their own.