Can You Trust Your Amazon Consultant?

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Editor’s Note: In light of Amazon’s recent indictments against Amazon consultants, eGrowth Partners consultant Roy Miller offers his perspective on how to make sure the company you hire is honest and complies with Amazon’s Business Services Agreement. 

While it may seem self-serving for us to write this blog, there are honest players in our field and we hope that all sellers will find one of them, if not us, to work with. – Cynthia

In Amazon World, the disasters can be one notification, one disgruntled customer, one listing mistake, or even an FBA error that has you cornered for selling “used products.”

Suspended ASINs, deactivated accounts, warnings about late shipments, delayed reimbursements–it’s a minefield.

That’s why consultants like us exist.

We are firefighters and problem solvers. Our aim is to sort out the snafus, navigate through the murky madness of Amazon and – ultimately – get you back to selling.

I know. That’s the same story and same pitch used by numerous firms dubbed as Amazon consultants. So how do you know whom to trust and whom you choose to help you?

A personal note: I have been an Amazon consultant for almost five years. In that time, I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly—the legal and the illegal, criminals and cut-throats and some of the most genuine, sincere, hard-working people on the planet.

There will be no tooting of our horn here. I’ll give you five ways to vet your Amazon consultants BEFORE you hire them.

5 Ways To Choose Your Amazon Consultant

1. Determine Expertise. There are so many “experts.” Start with identifying the type of consultant you need. If you’re looking for ASIN/Account Reinstatement Experts, Google them. View their websites and go to the About Us sections. See who is listed, their backgrounds and how many people work there? See if they share how long they’ve been in business. Watch their videos on YouTube. How visible are they?  How long have they been serving the community?  Do they have published books/blogs/whitepapers you can read? Are they quoted in the media?  Do they speak at conferences?

These aren’t “expertise” guarantees, but transparency and visibility is a good first start. If the website includes NO ADDRESS, run for the hills. Granted, that’s a personal pet peeve. Lack of transparency matters a lot when you’re paying thousands to a service provider.

2. Make the Call. Contact the consultant firms you find interesting. Start with an email. See how they respond – and how long it takes them to respond. Then make a call. Who answers? Do you get to talk to a human the same day?

3. Test the Frontline. You’re on the initial call. What’s happening? Who picks up? Are they friendly, inquiring, personal and knowledgeable? The Frontline often mirrors an entire organization’s personality. If they impress you, it’s likely you will be working with others – consultants and team members – who will impress you too.

4. Ask the Tough Questions. While you want to share your specific crisis or situation, you also need to ask these questions:

  1. Why should I choose your firm?
  2. How do you reinstate your clients? What is the process?
  3. How many reinstatements do you do a month? Here you are looking for signs of disconnect. If they are handling 100+ reinstatements a month, for example, and they have a team of three people, it’s fishy.
  4. Who will be writing the appeal? You want a Western consultant with fluent English.
  5. What does this cost and what deliverables does this include?
  6. Do you write a custom appeal?
  7. How long does it take from date of sign-up to date of first deliverable?
  8. Can you guarantee I will be reinstated?
  9. Are your services compliant with Amazon’s Business Services Agreement? I realize that dishonest players will lie, but how they answer that question may be revealing.
  10. What other compliance services do you offer? If they have compliance services beyond reinstatement, that indicates that they are a compliance shop that helps their clients follow the rules. It’s not definitive.  There are good consultants who only focus on reinstatement work.
  11. How do you train your consultants? While many players in this field are former sellers or former Amazonians, a consultant is trained not born and the founder does not usually handle all the reinstatements.  Does your chosen consulting firm have a training process to ensure consistent results for their clients?

5. Go with Your Instincts & Manage Your Expectations. Choose your consulting firm based on your experience to date and your instincts. It’s also important to manage expectations. Consultants aren’t genies or magicians. They are collaborators, advisers, writers and subject-matter experts (Did I mention firefighters?). We work best when teamed with you to sort out the problems and communicate them to Amazon.

When to Run for the Hills. The alarms should go off ANY TIME you hear the following:

  1. We can guarantee your reinstatement. [No honest consultant can guarantee this.]
  2. We have Amazon insiders who can make it happen. [This is what the recent indictments are all about – bribes to make it happen.]
  3. We can get your account annotations.
  4. We can get you reinstated for less than $1,000. Expect to receive a template appeal – most likely written by an outsourced team. No Western expert can assess your situation, work closely with you, document the findings, write an appeal and/or multiple appeals, and navigate the reinstatement journey at that rate. Ever.
  5. We can help you set up a stealth account (or a “Plan B” account or a hidden second account – there are multiple names). These are forbidden by Amazon and if your provider is offering black hat services, you should assume they will use black hat methods to reinstate you.
  6. It sounds too good to be true. Sometimes instinct is all you have. Listen to yours. Someone who is trying to sell you could be over-marketing or they could be shysters.
  7. Only a lawyer can reinstate you.   This is a tweak against our competitors, but you should know that what you need is experience.  In most suspension cases, a lawyer is not required.  An experienced consultant will tell you if you need to hire a lawyer instead of them.  We refer our clients to lawyers in the cases of patent claims and lawsuits against brands or other sellers, for example.  But if you are being told you need a lawyer for verification, linked accounts or the hundreds of other suspensions for product quality, policy violations or performance issues, that’s just not true.

Additionally, the attorney-client privilege does not apply with most Amazon reinstatements.  This is only useful in the case of lawsuits or criminal acts. Most of our clients are not criminals, and they aren’t being sued.  They are just trying to get their accounts or ASINs back.

So, what consulting firm is for you? Here is what I tell my clients as we launch into the Amazon reinstatement journey:

“Reinstatement is an exercise of persistency, patience, clarity and methodical outreach to Amazon. It can be frustrating and demanding to travel the dry sands of Amazon silence (or stupidity), but we’re in it together. I’ll share my canteen if you’ll share yours. Let’s work together, be honest with each other in trial and triumph, and collaboratively WIN the fight.”

It comes down to trust, partnership and results. From where I sit, these are reinstatement requisites, and what I strive to achieve.

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