Amazon is a powerhouse platform for sellers, but issues like product delistings and account suspensions can pose a serious threat to your bottom line. On this 113th episode of The E-Comm Show, Andrew Maff interviews Ben Smith, Head of Sales, Partnerships, and Marketing at Seller Candy, a unique firm that helps Amazon sellers navigate some of Amazon's murkier policies.
In this episode, Ben will discuss how Seller Candy uses a four-step system to get sellers over everyday hurdles when the helpline isn’t cutting it. If you’re too busy to spend hours on the phone with Seller Support, Seller Candy — which currently offers free consultations — might be just the service you’re looking for.
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Andrew Maff and Ben Smith
Ben started working in the e-commerce space in 2016 and was hooked ever since. In the years since then, he learned the ins and outs of what it takes to build a successful Amazon brand. With his past experience as an Amazon Account Manager and 6-figure Seller, he has become passionate about helping Amazon Sellers and Agencies scale their business and achieve their goals. Today, he leads the Seller Candy partnership team and he spends his days chatting with businesses of all sizes to solve their Seller Central woes so that they can get back to growing their business.
Amazon doesn't always tell you the exact reason something happened
and I wanted to show the break show you an awesome Yes. Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of The E-Comm Show. I'm your host Andrew Maff and today I am joined by the amazing Ben Smith who was head of heart partnerships over at Seller Candy Ben, how you doing right for good show. Doing great. Ready to Roll. Thanks for having me on. Yeah, thanks for ppreciate preachy today, I'm gonna get it. How to start off an episode, right? Yeah, I'm so excited. Because I know,
Thanksgiving and Black Friday. So I was gonna say, you know, like, if we can give each other a
break exactly how everything go on your end. For that was good to know. I feel like everyone who's working in the e Commerce Industry, it's kind of this weird time where you're like, equally, very stressed out and excited, because it's also like sales are booming, obviously in q4. So that was good. Yeah. So let's do let's do the usual pretend no one knows anything about you and tell us a little bit about yourself obviously about sour candy and we'll take it from there. Okay, cool. Sounds good to me. So yeah, my name is Ben Smith. So I'm currently partnerships manager over sour candy, but kind of take you back a little bit. I you know, I got a marketing degree from University. And I liked most of my friends I did not really have a clear path after that. So I ended up kind of going to the route that I think a lot of people without a clear path go into, which was door to door sales, or some kind of sales role. Maybe not door to door but and that was good, but it kind of got me thinking as I was out there, like knocking doors in different places all over the US, like, you know, how can I make the selling process more efficient. And one thing kind of led to the next in my mind is just, you know, always works like this. And I started just kind of looking around and and stumbled across I think it was like an e book maybe from like Scott Volker or something like that. The garlic press guy, one of many Coronavirus, guys, but that talked about, you know, private labeling in this world of Amazon FBA. And that was just kind of like blew my mind open and I just could not stop after that. So as I'm like knocking doors in 2015, and selling ALARM SYSTEMS during the day, I'm listening to podcasts and then going home and reading like audio books. And that kind of put me in the trajectory of getting into Amazon in the E commerce world. So that's kind of like how I got into it. And then I guess since since then, in 2016, I ended up getting a job through one of my my sales buddies, his brother worked for a guy who had a really fast growing Amazon FBA kind of liquidation reselling business so we buy lots of goods and then resell them on Amazon, a lot of brand name stuff and then stuff that you couldn't sell on there, you know, he would just kind of pile up and I ended up kind of helping him also move some of that on eBay. But I for my first few years really just was picking and packing and kind of learning the basics of like shipments how to use Seller Central, and then kind of migrated up, I guess the chain from there. So I ended up going on to work for a guy that had a pretty sizable Amazon business selling kind of some it and electronic equipment that I managed for him for about two years and then worked kind of in the agency world. So our founder, John previously had a full service Amazon agency, I ended up connecting with him. And yeah, for two years, I managed two and a half, three years I managed maybe like 10 different brands. So I got really kind of a cut my teeth in the advertising side and a lot of other things. And then then I guess I wound up here at cellar dandy. So that's kind of the long, the long and short of it. So you've been in pretty much every aspect of Amazon from marketing to inventory to obviously, advertising the agency side in House side, like you've covered the entire gamut of it.
Well yeah, I feel like definitely have kind of that jack of all trades, you know, view of eBay, Amazon and ecommerce space like you know, I also have gotten into like Etsy eBay merch by Amazon KDP. So I've always like been, that's just how I'm wired to is like, I've always wanted to have some some kind of, you know, a hand in everything that I can. But yeah, it's been fun because I can connect with people because I understand like a lot of the different components of the business.
You know, when sometimes someone brings up like a song or a banned or something that like you liked, like way back in high school and you're like, Oh man, I forgot that they existed. As soon as you mentioned the garlic press guy. I was like, Oh man, I forgot like the garlic press guy and anchor. And who was the my wife quit her job. I can't remember the name. DT like yeah, see it all man. Like I remember. Right when I started getting back in the Amazon world, like they were everywhere. It's all anyone to talk about. It was always like, Oh, look at their listing. It's great. Look at what they're doing here. Do that. Just do that. That's a that's a nice little throwback. I appreciate that. Yeah, definitely.
I mean, given me the throwback to.
So cellar candy, the concept of this business is genius, because you guys are the masters at handling stuff that no one really wants to deal with. So tell me a little bit about teller candy, like how it works? And like, what the method behind the madness is? Sure, yeah. Good question. So yeah, I guess kind of, you know, I'll explain kind of first, I guess, what we actually do and how it works. And I guess, Ben, where we kind of originated from which is, you know, now so the way that we describe ourselves is essentially we provide outcome driven support for Amazon sellers. Exactly what you said, which is we deal with kind of all the unsexy things that no one really wants to deal with on Amazon, you know, it's fun to talk about your, your revenue going up and advertising and all these kinds of pieces. It's not so fun to talk about all the listing suppressions you're getting or calling Seller Support for like five hours. You know, we you know, I've personally gone through that it sucks, as I'm sure a lot of your listeners have. But yeah, we provide outcome driven support for those for Amazon sellers. We've got about 70 agents. Now a lot of them are we recruit directly out of Amazon Seller Support staff members, so they were previously agents there. And then essentially, we'll allow our clients to use them for pretty much anything that might come up within their Amazon business. That could be everything from like your day to day operational stuff, like hey, can you build an FBA shipment for me up to my account got suspended, that I need you guys to write a plan of action and get it reinstated? Essentially, you submit that issue to us through like a ticketing portal that we give you. And then you can submit unlimited tickets through there, we're essentially then going to own the process from start to finish to get that issue resolved and give you updates just as we make progress on it. So did I did I answer a poll? I think that kind of got the message across. So that's interesting. So basically, any aspect of I guess he would say, like, more or less like the administrative side of the Amazon, specifically, if you're going back and forth with like, Seller Support and things like that. It's almost like having someone who's fully dedicated to just that aspect of the business, right? Yeah, pretty much. And, you know, I mean, I like to say the only things really we don't do or we don't do advertising, you know, so we're not like a traditional Amazon advertising agency. And we don't do the content creation, like graphic designer writing copy, you know, doing copywriting which now you've got AI to help you there. Yeah, it's but anything else really, that could come up within your seller, Central or vendor Central account were there for but I would say, Yeah, you know, there's definitely a couple like categories that we see our clients use us for the most, which are really going to kind of come back to the most time consuming or frustrating categories to deal with. Those are the things that we'll tackle for you. Okay, so, very interesting concept, because I know that there's a lot of that, what, uh, what would you say are some of like, the top things you're seeing people like, Okay, this is, you know, this is very common that we have to create a support ticket for this, or it's very common that your listing got suppressed for this reason, like, what, what tends to be the biggest mistakes you're seeing being made?
Yeah. Andrew, remind me, when did you get into the Amazon space? I know, it's been a while I think, right? Yeah,
technically, I first kind of dipped my toe in it. Like, I think it was like 12 or 13 years ago, but then I really got into it seven or eight years ago. Okay,
so you're Yeah, you were back in like the wild west. It was like, I thought I was at the tail end of like, the Wild West, like things were just becoming modernized, you know, but you were like, in the wild west days. And so you probably remember, like, how easy it was to like, Oh, if you needed to make an update to a listing, you literally could go in click edit, you know, update the title, and it would go through, and in most cases, not all the cases. You know, that was still doable for me when I was kind of getting into the space and I'd say and the reason I'm kind of leading with that is that we see that the biggest category, just as a broad categorization is certainly anything related to listing issues, whether that's updating something on your product detail page, or that's Hey, I've got a suppressed listing. I think the reason behind that is you know that Amazon's made it quite a bit harder to make changes to listings in you know, there they claim that's kind of all coming from good intention, right. You know, they've had brand registry has become a thing over the last few few years. and to protect maybe the brand owner in that listing, but it also does cause a lot of problems for you, if you're a brand owner, or you have, maybe you're a reseller selling on that listing, and you're whether you're authorized or not. So I'd say as a general category, listing related things are a big pain point, then, you know, from there, we definitely have things like accountant health, you know, and I will say that, you know, take what I say with a grain of salt, because normally, by the time people are coming to us, unless they're planning ahead about building their team, a lot of times they're coming, because they got one or two really big pain points. I always joke, I need to like an Amazon therapist on the calls with me, because people are stressed out when they get on the call with our team.
Yeah, and getting a hold of the Seller Support is not nearly as easy as it once was either. Now, it's jumping through 500 hoops. And if you don't supply all of the information the first time, they just kick the ticket back to you and basically say like, Oh, it didn't really work out. What, um, what about like a fit? Like, is there a specific type of product line that works really well? Is there a specific type that you're like, hey, we don't really work with that, like my immediate thought, when I think of needing to create support tickets, and having listing suppressions. And all that stuff is pretty much every supplement brand that has ever existed, like anything that Amazon's algorithm or their support is reading that can be even remotely close to portrayed as you making a claim, they immediately take the whole thing down. So what do you do? What's the process to be able to solve that kind of stuff? Or at least mitigate those issues before they even happen? Yeah, good question. So first, just to answer kind of the first part of your question, I mean, like, what we're, we will work and do work with people that are selling products, and pretty much every category you could think of? Yeah, I will say, Yeah, I mean, nutrition. You know, I've worked with some weight loss related products and brands, you know, our founder, he actually had a nutrition FBA business in the past, and, you know, we have CBD, CBD products, that those are always ones that, you know, you get, you're gonna get flagged a lot. So yeah, there are I say categories. And toys are another one where, you know, there's just so many more certifications and documents that you have to require there. But there are certainly categories that are going to be more problematic. But, you know, that being said, like, as long as you kind of work with the system, that is Amazon, which we all have to work with, you can still be successful, right. And you can see there's successful people on there. Certainly, there's some weird free cases out there that, you know, we've seen, but I'd say kind of like as a high level, you know, the, like the framework that we kind of share, you know, when we talk to people or to sometimes we will talk to agencies about you know, the framework that we use is, I mean, of course, it's going to first off, I just want to say this, of course, it's going to help if you have someone on your team who's an expert, right, whether that's you or you're going to hire that person, that's going to be a huge piece here. If you want to be that person that's going to go and spend the time and learn how to do flat files, learn how to open support tickets, learn how to do FBA shipments, you know, there's a time and a place for that. But a lot of times me, it's probably not for you, if you're the business owner, you're also trying to sell on like 10 different channels and launch new products, you've got a lot of other important responsibilities. So find someone that's expert or knowledgeable to add to your team if it's not going to be you. But in terms of like a general framework, you know, the things that we would say, you know, I guess kind of a four step process that I like to highlight, which it's going to be remarkably simple. But when you do have issues, what you want to do is, so let's just say you've got to suppress listing or a listing that's been taken down. The first thing you want to do stop, assess what's going on, you need to kind of look at everything, Amazon's telling you, whether that might that might just be that it's showing, it's a suppressed listing that might be that you've received the performance notification, gather whatever that information is read through it meticulously, especially if it's your first time kind of dealing with an issue like this. And I also recommend, like, try to read between the lines, because you know, Andrew, you'll know this, but Amazon doesn't always tell you the exact reason something happened, right? Like I've worked with clients that have products that say one word like antibacterial in the listing, and it took a month to figure out that that was the word causing the listing to be taken out, because Amazon just said, Oh, your listing is you know, not following policies. So stop thinking about what's going on. And that's where it does help to have the experience, gather whatever you think you're going to need to kind of move to the next step, which is troubleshooting. And I'm saying this in a very specific order, because most people their immediate reaction is to jump and go open a support ticket, which is going to start your endless loop of probably a lot of wasted time and a lot of a lot of wasted hours with either Amazon giving a canned responses or telling you the wrong thing, you know, and so we tell you to do this specifically because it's gonna save you time right. So once you've stopped and assessed you troubleshoot, and what I mean by that is depending on the type of issue, that's going to dictate kind of where you go next. So for Example, if it's an issue, like the one I just mentioned, where let's say you've got a product policy violation, that's where you're gonna want to stop and say, I need to sanitize my listing, which just means like, I need to strip it down and figure out what caused it to get, you know, what, where's the claim or the word that Amazon doesn't like in there. And to accomplish that, that might mean that you need to do a flat file upload, you know, you might need to do several of those. And then you might even need to then go and do a full delete realistic listing something like that. So you need to kind of know what the next step is, you know, the, I could give more examples, but I'll just stick with that one for the for brevity, but essentially troubleshoot it. Normally, you're gonna have to troubleshoot it more, oftentimes, that just means you know what I've just said, upload another flat file, upload, you know, do a full delete realist, but do all of that stuff. First, right might be a plan of action, you want to do all that stuff. Once you have that done, that's when you would then go and escalate to Amazon. So it's a four step process, stop and assess, troubleshoot, troubleshoot some more and then escalate. And the reason we want to do this is then once we're at that stage, where we're escalating to Seller Support, we can show them a paper trail of everything that we've done, hey, here's my case, IDs, or sorry, my batch ID upload IDs, here is the plan of action I've submitted, you know, here's all the documentation I need. And then we can essentially tell them kind of what needs to be done next, right, like, Hey, I've done everything you guys normally tell us to do in terms of troubleshooting, I need you to escalate this and investigate it, blah, blah, blah. And that's gonna save you countless hours in terms of just, you know, if you get into that kind of endless loop right from the get go. So I know, it's remarkably simple. But that is a huge kind of framework that I would just anyone can take away from this, watching this or listening to this. You know, I wouldn't, I don't know that. I would say it's remarkably simple. For those of us. So like, to give you a great example, it's one of my favorite stories to tell specific to Amazon because it kind of caters to what I preach, which is the diversification side of it the marketing side, like, what is it 2023. So this was probably like, six, seven years ago, right? When I started getting back to the Amazon space. I joined this seller, I was in the house, eight figure brand. It was like two weeks, I think it was like right before Black Friday, it was right after Black Friday was like, dead center of q4. And we had it was back when you know Amazon was still like, which still kind of is but like a little buggy. And so at the back end, you get flagged for stuff that like just didn't happen. And you know, spend started ramping up as eight figure brands are spending a lot of money in advertising, and credit card hit a limit, we couldn't switch it out fast enough, really, it's fine. Just here's the five other ones we have, let's switch it out. For whatever reason, Amazon thought it was a fraud, fraudulent card, and they completely suspended the entire account for like two weeks. And I remember immediately thinking, I'd only been there for a few months, I remember immediately thinking like, this is 80% of our revenue, I'm I'm gonna get fired, like immediately like this, because we don't have a business anymore. And that's why from a marketing side, I was like, Okay, we should diversify. But the thing that I thought was really interesting was the only way for us to get that resolved was the owner had to basically write like a full book report on what was what we did what was here's proof that it's not fraud, here's this, here's that, like, it was an entire, like, massive document, to supply to support so that they had all of the information. So I know that you know, when you have an issue on Amazon, and it has to get to that that point of escalation. It's not an easy process, by any way, shape or form to actually get it solved unless you want to battle with them for months and months on end, which becomes obnoxiously expensive. Am I right? Yeah. 100%. I mean, if they Yeah, I will echo what you said to like, I definitely think you know, you should like Amazon should be a part of your your business model, whether it's where you start or channel that you add later on. But I'm all in favor of having other channels as well, for that reason, like I've personally been on the brand side and or managing brands and seen a listing that got taken down for months or, you know, I've personally dealt with plans of action for accounts that were down for one to three months where it's like, that account normally does $500,000 in revenue, you know, in that in that any given month, and it's down for two or three months, like that is a game changing event, if that's your only sales channel, right, or if you don't have other plans. So 100% echo that first off, but yeah, I mean, to your point, like, there are those critical incidences that can happen, Amazon's definitely tried to at least frame that they've kind of made some changes, you know, with the kind of some of the things that they've implemented in the account health area with, you know, where you can request a call, or they'll kind of give you supposedly a warning before, you know, suspending you are restricting your account, but certainly there are, you know, critical events like that. And a lot of weird outlier things that still do happen. You know, it's definitely the 8020 rule. I mean, there I'd say the majority of clients that I talk to their they might think their problems unique. It's normally not as unique as they really think it's normally within the kind of normal span. But there are some weird issues that happen, you know. I mean, there's I talked to a guy maybe a year ago who came to us and asked for help, because he sent a pallet of full pallet of goods that was like 1000 pounds in with an Amazon partner carrier. They checked checked it in, and then the weight on the receiving end set showed four pounds. And it showed that was just the pallet, there is no no inventory at all received, like several $100,000 of inventory. And this guy had gone through like, months of battling with it. I don't know what he ended up doing. Because he I don't think he ended up moving forward with us. But yeah, so there are some weird issues like that, right, like they do happen. Yeah. How do you handle account suspensions? differently? Yeah. So yeah, I mean, we'll normally again, just I mean, it's a high level following that framework. But essentially, we're looking through, again, whatever the performance notification is, or whatever, you know, it depends on the reason, right? Like if there's, for example, a section for dropshipping violation or something like that, you know, then there's kind of different protocols that we're going to follow. But at a high level, like, it's kind of the same framework, like we're going to stop and collect all of the evidence or the information that we have. So really reviewing whatever the notifications are we've received, whether it's an email or performance certification, are we fully locked out of the account? Or is it still able to be accessed and we just need to work through the seller central appeal system, that's going to be a big determination, have you received more than one of this same type of issue before, if you receive two or three of these maybe before, you're going to have a lot harder time getting through the appeal process. If this is your first time receiving it, normally, you've got a much better chance. And then it's really just about, again, like you kind of alluded to earlier is just like, hey, here's what we did wrong. You know, here's what we here's the evidence and kind of what we've done to rectify this issue. And here's how we're going to prevent it going forward. That being said, I'm also not saying that you should always admit fault. However, a lot of times in many cases, it's a lot easier than arguing with Amazon. But I do know, there are instances I've heard from people in the industry to that, you know, they have fought the battle with Amazon where it was worth it. So no, I guess when to fight as well. Yeah, I mean, we're working through the process, right? Write up a good plan of action, submit it, and then follow up follow up. It's almost like your team has memorized the TLS, which is nuts. Well, I think, far off. I don't know that there's any one person on our team that's memorized. But maybe our chief delivery officer Arvid, he's pretty knowledgeable. But I would say like one of the advantages, and it's just something like I call out to people, if they're thinking about like, you know, hey, I'm a solo or small, maybe two, three person shop, and we need to kind of think about adding people to our team is, you definitely need to think about, I guess, three factors, which is, you know, having expertise, having scalability, because you're hopefully gonna grow and then having redundancy. And with the expertise slash redundancy piece, you know, and this is definitely benefit of sour candy. But if you go and hire like an individual freelancer, you know, they might be really good at, you know, eight out of 10 things you need them to do on a day to day basis. But it's one person, what happens if they get sick, what happens if they get that serious account suspension issue, that now they don't know how to do it? Now you're as the business owner, or you know, someone in the team there, you're either the one who's now doing it, or you need to now go find someone else. You know, one of the nice things with seller Kane is we've got 70 Plus agents. So when we see those weird outlier cases like that, too, we share that knowledge internally. And so we're able to pull on knowledge that we're getting from other accounts and kind of sometimes our clients even tell us like, hey, every month we have this issue, you know, and it comes up all the time, here's what we've done that's worked really well, to get this resolved. Can you guys just start doing this going forward? So we also learned from processes the clients even give us so I just say that's, we don't know individual has the terms of service, you know, memorize but because we have that kind of collective intelligence, that is a big benefit. And I think you can mimic that either whether you build an in house team, or you go get an agency, you know, like your guys, or you know, there's many different options here. But that is definitely something to consider.
Beautiful. Ben, thank you so much for being on the show. I don't want to take up too much of your time, but I would love to give the opportunity let everyone know where they can find out more about you and obviously more about seller candy. Yeah,
appreciate it. Thanks again for having me. If so, if anyone has questions, feel free to reach out to our team sales at sellercandy.com. What I would tell you Andrew is you know, we do have a cool service called the Ask Seller Candy. And so if you're kind of in that stage where maybe you just need some expert advice, want to talk to someone rather than going and Googling things really Looking at YouTube videos, it's a free service that we have right now might be something we charge for in the future. But if you go to seller kenny.com forward slash ask, could sign up for that. And essentially it's you get the ability then to submit questions and ask our team directly and they'll give you real advice from you know, their experience on how to solve an issue or kind of, you know, whatever you're facing. So that's a really great resource. And then I just say beyond that, you know, you reach out to a sales at sellercandy.com If you want to talk a little bit more. I know right now when we're recording this, it's we do have some Black Friday offers so who knows when people are gonna be watching or listening to this but just put Black Friday and the subject if you do reach out and we'll see what we can do, let's see if I can get into scatters on like
beautiful appreciate it, but everyone who tuned in thank you so much for joining us. As usual, please do everything that I always ask you to do, which is rate review, subscribe on whichever podcast platform you prefer or head over to the E comm show.com to check out all of our previous episodes, but as usual, I appreciate you all joining us and we'll see you all next time.
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