Monday, August 10, 2009

Don't sell me!

I spent a while on the phone this afternoon with someone who will be training sales staff to interact with libraries, librarians and library workers. We covered a lot of territory, but here are some of the ideas I threw out:
  • If a company wants to sell to libraries, then it (and its sales people) need to understand what libraries are, what they value, and how they operate.
  • A great way of understanding libraries is to visit them (lots of them). Just go and walk through them. Look at their layout and materials. Check their web sites. Ask a question at the reference/info desk. Talk to staff about what they do and who they serve.
  • Go to library-related events (e.g., association meetings), not to sell but to interact and listen. Go to local, regional and national events. And don't go just once. Keep going. You're there to learn and to build relationships. Relationships are not built in a day or a week.
  • Keep the same sales staff, if possible, calling on the same libraries. If you're changing sales staff frequently, then you're making it hard on your client. Why should I bring one person up to speed on my needs and then bring another person up to speed six months later?
  • Understand that libraries are about providing access to information for their users. You must know how your products and services are going to help with that.
  • Don't provide just one solution. The more solutions (options) you provide, the better.
  • If you really can't service my needs, can you recommend someone that can? For example, if I don't want to purchase your machine, then tell me about an outsourcing company that has your equipment.
  • Librarians love to share information, so know that I'm going to use my network to find out what others think of you (and know that they will tell me).
  • Understand that in this economy, I want to work with - purchase from or outsource to - companies that are financially viable in addition to have good products and a good reputation. I're not going to tell me if you're in trouble financially, but recognize that I'll be looking for clues.
  • Finally, realize that "selling me" means building a relationship. A hard sell is likely not going to work. I know, relationships take time and you need that sale before the end of the quarter. So maybe you need to build those relationships before you need them?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with you, as a Sales Manager who's product specific, you have to build the relationships. I've been in educational sales for almost 10 years and you hit the nail on the head. If you switch reps, libraries hate it and will leave a company. The more you can spread your message, the better, great info and enjoying the blog.