What Makes a Good Sales Rep

Josie Leavitt - February 13, 2013

In this day of computer ordering, it’s sometimes hard for booksellers to have a relationship with a sales rep. But there are so many good reps out there, I wanted to make a list of what makes a good one, and why all booksellers should push to have one.
– A good rep stays in touch, even when it’s not buying season. They communicate backlist offers, share interesting book-related tidbits when they come across something they think is interesting. Getting to know your rep is the best way to have a relationship, not just with the rep, but with the publishing company as well.
– Reps are understanding about life getting in the way of business. The last few months have been very distracting for me at the bookstore and my reps have been wonderful about my lack of focus. With the rescheduling I’m doing, no one is making me feel bad, they’ve all been wonderfully understanding.
– Reps can save you. Sometimes, event books don’t arrive when expected. We are having an event with Victoria Kann, the author of the wildly popular Pinkalicious series on Saturday. I noticed that we were missing the newest book that I know I ordered in the fall on Edelweiss. Well, my rep tracked down the problem to an incorrect setting for canceling back orders and the books are on the way, for today. I thought I had done the order, and with Elizabeth’s move it’s been hard to keep all the balls in the air, so I assumed everything was done.
– Reps are your friend. If you take the time to get to know your rep you’ll find they not only are interesting book lovers with strong opinions about titles, they are people who might love the same music as you or share the same hobby. Yesterday, I had an interesting email exchange with a rep about my life changes and her cat’s brain surgery. We both wished each other the best and have followed with each other. I’m actually Facebook friends with several of my reps and I love that. It’s a great way to get to know them as people and they’re such fun.
– Reps can help you not make ordering mistakes. This is a huge one for me. As more and more work gets shifted to computer-ordering only, I find that I miss titles as I scroll through pages and pages of books on the computer at night after work. My reps have often called or emailed and said things like, “Did you mean to skip the new Rick Riordan?” Um, no! Thanks for catching that.
– Reps can lobby for you with the publicity department. This is HUGE. To have an advocate inside the publishing house telling the people booking the tour of the author you’ve been trying to get for years, can be extremely helpful.  While it doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the author, it does mean that you’re now on the publicity radar and that’s an enormous boon.
– Reps can also help you with the credit department. Sometimes, just getting the right name of who to speak to can be enough to clear up any snafu that might be happening.
– Good reps read most as much of their list as they can. Their opinions on the frontlist titles is invaluable. Listening to them can help make you a better buyer.
Thursday’s blog will be about how to be a better buyer, because the rep/buyer relationship really only works if both sides are prepared and ready.

2 thoughts on “What Makes a Good Sales Rep

  1. Ann Kingman

    Thanks, Josie. A reminder to booksellers who value your reps: PW is accepting nominations for the 2013 Rep of the Year until February 20th. My colleague Michael Kindness and I won this award last year, and it was truly a career highlight. In my opinion, there is no greater honor than to be nominated for this award by the people we work with.
    People don’t often realize that these awards are the result of bookseller nominations, so I want to spread the word. If you work with a rep that you find especially helpful to your business, please consider nominating them. More information is here:
    And reps: that deadline holds for PW’s Bookseller of the Year, too….

  2. Carol Chittenden

    Thank you for this post, and thank you to the many, many reps who have guided us from complete novice to continuing bookseller. It took me awhile to learn their value, but their stock has steadily risen, and now we have solid partnerships with most.
    In addition to your truths well stated, I would add that my favorite reps know a bit about my market, they have and share knowledge beyond the catalogue, they have real opinions, discreetly stated. And they have a sense of humor.
    I’m always struck by the sheer volume of knowledge possessed by many reps: well read, well spoken, well traveled. Hats off to the pro’s!


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