Tips for Sales Reps

Josie Leavitt -- February 22nd, 2016

The nature of sales meeting have changed since we opened 20 years ago. Back then, a rep would mail you pounds of catalogs, you’d mark them up, and then meet in person to go over your order. I have lamented before about how much I miss these catalogs. Yes, I know they’re bad for the environment, but they did make sales meeting better. I was better prepared, had more notes and didn’t miss any titles. Now that Edelweiss has proven itself to be the way of the future, things are so different, and meetings have changed. Below is my list of things reps can do in this new age to make meetings more fun and profitable for all. – Be prepared for me not being prepared. I find that spending my free time staring at another computer screen is not something I enjoy, so I avoid it. I don’t like being unprepared for meetings. But there is something very daunting about starting to look at a publisher’s list and seeing that it’s upwards of 1,000 titles that makes me want to tear my hair out, just a little. The illusion of how many books there are was somewhat obscured by the catalogs. They were daunting in a more manageable way. Most of my reps know that I’m not in love with the new system (though wow. it is a massive time saver and that alone is worth it).

– Please be honest about what titles I should just skip. I’m finding that my returns are lower and I’m buying smarter when a trusted rep says, “Skip that, Skip this, in fact skip the next 20 titles.” Good reps, and bless you, there are so many of you!, know my store and know what will sell here. This does beg the question, why are so many books being published? (But that’s a bigger question for another day.)

– Trust me when I skip something. Don’t spend too much time trying to convince me to get the $45 gardening book about Maine. My store is in Vermont and I can’t think of one gardening customer who would pay that much for a gardening book about Maine. And this brings up the larger issue: just because something is about New England doesn’t mean it’s going to sell in Vermont.

– The flip side of the above is a rep who works hard to convince me that a particular debut hardcover adult or young adult novel is totally worth bringing in. This highlights the power of relationships. If I know this rep and have risked bringing in other books with success, I’ll happily try the recommended book.

– It’s also okay to disagree. A book that may well wind up on the bestseller list in most stores might not here. Just hide your disdain. The now-retired Nanci McCracken taught me early and well about sales meetings. She would just pause for a long minute or two when I was about to pass on something, then I would take another look. Sometimes I would get the book, sometimes I wouldn’t. After a few years, she and I developed a very vigorously amusing back and forth. She would pause and I would say, “You know…” and would skip and then we’d laugh about it and would repeat it many times a meeting.

– Please send me an email if there’s a galley you think I need to read. I will read it. Or put post-its on the galleys you send out if there’s a treasure buried in the box. If someone I trust says “You have to read this,” I will.

– Lastly, I need to add that without good sales reps, booksellers would all have a much harder job to do. We rely on their expertise and pure love of books. Nothing is more fun that seeing a rep wax rhapsodic about a beloved book on the list. Their enthusiasm steers us towards galleys that we’ll love and be able to handsell very well. They want us to discover hidden gems and make them bestsellers, just like we do. So, in this changing world of bookselling, I am grateful for my reps, though I might lament the new ways I have to interact with them.

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