Thursday, August 13, 2015

Stack Them and They Will Sell

Before preparing for a customer visit, where either the customer visits me or I visit the customer, I go through a series of scenarios, thinking of what works for that customer's bookstore, what they have bought in the past, categories or authors or formats I think they miss and should buy. 

Part of this preparation is printing a reorder list for my customer, however, unlike the reorder lists I actually send my customers, this one includes everything they've ordered in the past, including sold out titles. This gives me a good picture of what the customer looks for.

The plan all seems so clear and perfectly compartmentalized, all neat and easy. And then I go into the warehouse, look at the customer's sales history, scan our list, looking for books to match my well laid plans. 

Most of my customers buy multiple titles per order in varying quantities, most buy many titles on each order that make sense based on their bookstores and purchasing history. But all customers also buy some titles that make little sense from either perspective. The simplest illustration of this are customers who say they do not buy children's or fiction who then proceed to buy a few titles in children's or fiction in hefty quantities, on every order.

I ask why the exception, and the answer is usually something like "this is a classic," or "this sold so well as a new book." Often the book is neither a classic nor a great seller. What happened is that somehow a stack made it into the bookstore for whatever reason and their customers ate it up. 

Bargain books are particularly well suited to the task of finding out which authors or subjects you think don't sell... do. Even formats. You think you can't sell fiction in trade paper because you tried it in front list, but then you do a table at bargain prices and it becomes the best selling square foot in your bookstore. At bargain costs and prices it's a lot easier to let your customers decide what works.

When I look at samples and lists, deciding what to bring to our meetings, I try not to overdo the tendency to educate my customer. Most have been doing this for years and know exactly what they need, and what they don't need is a lesson from a sales rep. But I can't always resist the urge. There are more than a few titles I bring which I know to be counter to how my customer buys and they almost always take at least one or two of them. Sometimes these ringers do turn out to be lemons, but more often they sell very well.

There's no need to buy junk nobody can sell, but do try something new in every buy. Your customers will thank you.
But first, you have to buy the books...


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