Monday, September 22, 2014

Grist for the List

I am a sales rep for Book Country Clearing House, a bargain book wholesaler. My primary sales tool is the list, mostly in Excel. I create them, manipulate them, tweak them, and email them to my customers. Sometimes I print and mail or fax them. That, other than going to trade shows, a little blogging, and visiting customers and my PO box, is life.

My customers are in a niche by themselves. Not every bookseller likes to buy from lists. This is another way of saying my customers are getting books others miss. To be fair, buyers who go to trade shows or visit warehouses get books those who don't do these things miss. But the lists are coming right to you at your desk. You can work in your pajamas as you select from current inventory that other buyers don't see.

My prospects, especially those who will never buy from me, often ask why we don't have a web site. I explain this, from the wholesaler's perspective, elsewhere in this blog, but suffice it to say that I have specialized in lists and if you are going to buy from me, you will have to work with my lists. As a result, I do not have many customers (I only have the best customers in the universe!). 

Other reps nudge me about this, telling me to get out on the road more often, and I do visit customers more than some. But the customers who pay attention and buy from my lists, a very specific set of customers, consistently get the best books.

There are some respectable advantages to lists (mine in particular, of course!), though I admit they take a little getting used to:

  ~ Sort by whatever you want, eliminate what you don't
  ~ Isolate and focus on authors, publishers, quantities available, categories, and price, quickly and easily.
  ~ Enter your order quantities in an easy-to-save form which can be saved as a receiving document when your order arrives.
  ~ Get a fast and clear picture of what is new since you last looked or ordered and what is selling elsewhere.
  ~ With lists you can order from only inventory that you have not ordered before, and you can order from lists of only what you have ordered before, a reorder list, if you wish.

A downside or two are occasionally cited by a few buyers. Some of these are the lists making issues more identifiable, same as they do for the benefits.

One of these is the eye glazing issue. While the same thing happens while you are looking at samples, jackets, or pages on a web site, it does seem that looking at lists for long stretches does test attention spans. The way around this is to tackle a bit at a time. Pick a category or an author and ignore everything else, then move on the the next sort.

Another issue is the perception that inventory figures are less reliable. I can put this one to rest. Almost every time I hear a complaint about this problem it is from customers who order from sites and tell me that the fill rate is about the same or worse than orders generated from my lists. The problem is not the venue or the vendor, it is the finite character of these inventories. If you wait half an hour to place your order, there may have been ten or twenty or one hundred other customers buying what you wanted first. This happens on sites as much, if not more, than it does on lists. The other thing to consider is that, while it is not always true, the lists are often the first iteration of the inventory, which then gets plugged into the web site. You are, in effect, getting a preview. This is not always the case, but it is one of the reasons fill rates are not better on one than the other.

If you are a bookseller and would like to sign up to receive my lists, please read my "how to order" page here:

This is a blog by a book wholesale sales rep and meant for booksellers and buyers working at bookstores. If you are looking for great books at great prices, please ask and I will recommend a great bookstore near you.