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What Makes Successful Amazon Sellers?

Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen Author

Unfortunately, the last year was one with a bit of complacency. As we were stuck at home and potentially stuck with our businesses, it was hard to stay focused on success. Hey, we all want to do and be better, but it takes more than wanting to make it happen. I’ve been thinking about that a lot more and also what makes successful Amazon sellers.

The challenge that we as Amazon sellers face (or should I say, one of the many challenges that we face) is that our world is filled with noise, which makes it hard to discern who’s saying what and what’s worth listening to. This noise comes from the many Internet marketers, software companies, advertisers, and self-proclaimed gurus who are always telling us what we should do, why we should do it, and how working with them will make us a more successful seller. 

What about the people who hustle hard and still fail? 

We never hear their stories, what happened, what they learned, what they would have done differently. They come and go without anyone ever noticing. 

What makes the difference between success and failure in an Amazon seller?

I’ve been doing some heavy thinking about the topic and I think I can boil it down to two main questions.

  1. Do you have the chops to be an entrepreneur?
  2. Can you take action when the moment arises?

Successful Amazon Sellers Have the Chops

Call it what you will: guts, spine, fortitude, grit, skill, talent, courage . . . for me, having the chops means having all of those things plus being organized, taking risks, and putting it all out there. 

Quick story: I attended a tradeshow and spent time with Carlos Alvarez (Blue Bird Marketing and Wizards of Amazon). Carlos and I have known each other in the industry for years but this was the first time we got to really sit down and talk. Carlos is a seriously interesting dude. When I asked him about his business, he told me about his 12 plus years of online selling, then about his car wash, his dance studio, and his other business (10+, if I recall correctly). Not too shabby, right? But when I asked Carlos what made him a successful entrepreneur, he didn’t have a concrete answer. He suggested that it was due to his ability to market himself and his endeavors, but I think it’s more than that.

My theory is that Carlos is successful because he has the chops. He was able to:

  • see the potential in a market
  • organize and operate a business
  • take the financial risk in order to do so
  • overcome the challenges he faced without getting distracted by the noise. 

Carlos is the classic definition of an entrepreneur.

Filter the Noise

Many times when we hear noise from the industry, we get distracted and confused. We’re bombarded with so many messages that we lose focus on the problem we’re trying to solve. Other times the noise gives us an excuse to step away from that problem and direct our attention elsewhere. That makes sense. I mean, who really likes to deal with their biggest problems? 

Successful people/amazon sellers/entrepreneurs — those who stand out from the crowd — have to steady our gaze and meet them head on. That’s what will set you apart.

When overwhelmed by the noise and unsure what to work on next, stop and ask yourself these questions before you tackle that next project: 

  • Is this what is best for me and my business? 
  • Will doing it solve my biggest problem today?

How do you know what should be driving your next action? As an entrepreneur, you can’t rely on “I think” and “I feel” to drive you. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t if you want to be better than your competitors — and I don’t need to remind you of how many there are, right? You have to cut through the noise and other distractions and look to the data to guide your actions. Every business decision you make and every business action you take should be based on a unique metric or combination of metrics. 

For instance, if you’re not tracking performance (because you don’t have a metric in place or you do and you’re just not watching it closely), how can you know if you’re succeeding? You can’t, and all of the products and services in the world aren’t going to help your business if you can’t identify and address — through data — your most-pressing problems.

Take Action

Time for another anecdote: 

I’ve known Scott Voelker (catch our webinar with the Amazing Seller himself) for more than four years. Seller Labs has been a long-time supporter and sponsor of Scott and his efforts. At his September 2019 event, Brand Accelerator Live, Scott shared his journey from high-school to the present. He identified what he called his “take-action moments.” In fact, Scott had just had one of those very moments when he had taken action and released his latest book, The Take Action Effect.

Right now, you may not publish books or host conferences like Scott does, but I think you’ll see that Scott’s journey mirrors the journey of many entrepreneurs. There are highs and lows, but it’s the take-action moments that define who and what one becomes. And yes, deciding not to take action is indeed taking action. #DeepThoughtsWithJeff

Scott, a self-described “simple guy,” is an inspiration and role model to many eCommerce sellers. You can look at him and his journey and say “I want to be like that” or you can say “I can’t possibly be like that.” It’s really easy to see a person like Carlos or Scott and come up with reasons (also known as excuses) not to do something, to be complacent. But we wouldn’t be here talking about their success stories if they did, right?


If you’re unfamiliar, Seller Labs has hosted an annual conference for Amazon sellers called Resonate. As our team prepares for future events, I was thinking back to the first Resonate and I recalled the group of successful Amazon sellers present. One of the first Resonate attendees (not to mention the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year for Emerging Business in New York) was Mike Brown from Death Wish Coffee. If he were on stage telling his story today, it would be easy to write it off and say “Well, that’s a one-in-a-zillion story. I mean, of course Death Wish is successful. It’s the biggest coffee seller on Amazon, the brand has a social media following in the 100K+ range, and they won a Super Bowl ad.” But those things aren’t why Mike and Death Wish are successful, they are merely byproducts of Mike’s and Death Wish’s success. What about all of the take-action moments that got them there?

Think about Mike deciding to open his first coffee shop, or when he chose to spend big on a new bean roaster in anticipation of increased sales that the data projected. Consider when Death Wish took the risk of getting back into cold-brew coffee (which hadn’t gone well for them the first time), or Mike’s decision to expand the Death Wish brand from a devoted online cult following to the risky space of the retail shelf. These are just some of the take-action moments when Mike had to make a decision that impacted the future of his business.

In my life, I always called this type of crossroads “pivot or persevere,” but Carlos’, Scott’s, and Mike’s stories have changed the way I see things and now I’m sold on calling these points in time what they are, “take-action moments.” 

I’ll leave you with a few questions to help you focus back on your business: 

  • What’s your motivation? 
  • What does your data tell you? 
  • What will you make your next “take-action moment”?

Need help identifying take-action moments and deciding how to proceed at critical junctures in your business in order to become a successful Amazon seller? Turn to Seller Labs PRO, the ultimate Amazon Seller platform, or get expert help from the Seller Labs Managed Services team.

Jeff Cohen
Jeff Cohen Principal Evangelist of Advertising API at Amazon

Jeff has more than 15 years of eCommerce experience. He is the Principal Evangelist of Advertising API at Amazon and a frequent keynote speaker at various business related conferences. He's widely regarded as an industry expert who is asked to share actionable intelligence on how Amazon works and how sellers can improve their business.


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