Tuesday, December 16, 2008

10 Tips from a Former Traveling Sales Rep
...Part 2!

If you missed the first half of AutumnBottom's epic, two part guest column, click here. And shame on you for arriving late to the party.

The Final Five

-Sales Pitch-
We reps think it's wonderful when buyers have looked at the catalogue before we come in and you already have an idea of the titles that interest you and the numbers you might want to order. It's amazingly, wonderful helpful. That said, stay flexible. Or at least give the appearance of flexibility. We've worked hard on our sales pitches and, chances are, the books that we actually HAVE a pitch for are important. It's just nice to have a receptive audience.

Everyone loves to complain. I'd say it's the "great unifier" because nothing brings people together like kvetching. The company I worked for had a very...unique catalogue. It was about 16 inches tall, 10 inches wide, and 200 pages of flimsy newsprint. Putting a positive spin on it, I'd say something like, "It certainly is easy to spot!" But really, it was just a gigantic pain in the ass, and my buyers never hesitated to let me know.
Chances are, if you have to say to your rep, "I don't know if anyone has ever complained about this..." they have heard it a million, billion, trillion times over. At every single meeting I got a complaint about the catalogue. No, wait, I lie. There was one meeting with a design store in Beverly Hills where the buyer loved our catalogue. Silly Californians.
I'm sorry, where was I going? Oh yes. Complain about the catalogue to me all you want. Complain about having to pay freight or how we print our company's name on the cover of every book, but please, don't punish me for it. As a lowly rep I simply do not have the power to change these things. My buyers telling me that they wouldn't order books until we changed the catalogue just made me think they were jerks. But don't tell them I said that.

-Keep Your Appointments-
I toyed with the idea of making this heading "Keep your *fucking* appointments" to drive home the importance of this topic. As a traveling rep I cannot even begin to describe how annoying it is to take the time and effort to fly somewhere 1,000 miles from home and have the person you were supposed to meet cancel on you when you show up at their store. I completely understand cases of sickness or other emergencies, but when it's simply because you forgot to tell the babysitter that you needed her until 4 pm.... I had one guy in LA who would cancel on me almost every time and it was always because he'd already gone home and didn't want to fight traffic to come back "so maybe we can meet next time you're in LA". Gah!!!!

-Pass Along the Kind Words-
There is almost nothing better than praise. I loved, reveled really, in being told by my customers that they loved meeting with me. I loved that they felt taken care of by me and that I cared about them and their businesses. It was even better when I heard from my boss that one of my bookstores had taken the time to call New York to let her know that I was doing a good job. Something like that goes a long way in assuring job security and letting the muckity-mucks know that the people in the field are taking care of the customers.

-Always Use a GPS-
So this one has no bearing on you, the bookstore, whatsoever. But should a new traveling sales rep happen upon this list, this is the most important thing ever. Buy a GPS and take it with you wherever you go. Expense it, write it off on your taxes, or just eat the cost of it, but it is the most valuable tool in your arsenal.
The first three or four trips I went on, I printed out a veritable encyclopedia of MapQuest Maps and spent all my time in the rental car with my head buried in those print-outs and a map provided by the rental car company. I didn't see any of LA, Calgary, or Portland. But on a fateful trip to Denver I was offered a GPS unit at the rental counter and my life changed. I was able to drive around the city admiring the buildings and the mountains and avoiding pedestrians while a pleasant Englishwoman fed me turn by turn directions. I stopped at Best Buy on my way home from the airport and picked up one to take with me wherever I went.
It made my travels so much easier knowing that when I stepped off an airplane in a strange city I could just plug in my little friend (God that sounds dirty) and I could navigate the city like a native. My greatest fear while traveling was not that the planes would crash and burn or my buyers would block the doorways of their stores (that did happen to a fellow rep of mine) but that I would forget my GPS at home and be completely, utterly lost. See what technology hath wrought?! Anyway. GPS is a gift from God. Go buy one.

Again, if you dug what Autumn wrote,
PLEASE CHECK OUT HER LIVEJOURNAL! Homegirl is mad funny and she posts regularly. Oh, and if you work in a bookstore, make sure you print this out and show it to your travelling sales reps. It'll make them feel loved.