Friday, August 18, 2006

Are you sold on personal sales?

I've been on vacation this week, which is why posts here have been few and far between, but I have a lot of pent-up marketing thoughts to share next week so I hope to have more content soon.

In the meantime, I encourage you to check out the latest addition to the Principles of Marketing Tutorial, Personal Selling. This module covers advantages and disadvantages of personal sales as well as trends in the field.

Personal sales in the library setting is a particular interest of mine, because I often find myself taking on a sales-like role in meetings, at fairs and in classes and presentations. I'm often tailoring persuasive messages to fit the needs of my audiences and convincing them that the library and its resources can be great assets to the specific work they're doing. In fact, the ability to customize messages to the individual patron is one big advantage of personal sales. Here are some situations in which personal sales techniques are appropriate:

  • Unsought products/services: Library services may be unsought because they're new or just not well-known or widely used. Personal sales is a great way to get the word out about these resources.
  • Complicated products/services: Personal sales may be a necessary part of the promotion mix when what you're selling is difficult for patrons to understand. Consider our databases. I doubt it's very clear to most patrons what they are, what they can do, and what benefits they offer. Personal selling gives librarians an opportunity to communicate large amounts of information in a way that makes sense to the individual patron.
  • Building relationships: If you want to build and maintain relationships with patrons, nothing beats a bit of face time.
  • High-risk products/services: This situation my not apply to many library services since our offerings tend to carry no or little direct cost to patrons, but some patrons may harbor anxiety when it comes to asking for help, for example. Personal sales can help to alleviate those fears and persuade patrons to consult with library staff for their information needs.
Sales opportunities are everywhere you look. At the reference desk, for instance, I try to not only address patrons' current needs, but I also try to anticipate their future needs by recommending a service that could help them that they may not be familiar with. I'm certainly not a salesman at heart, but I've found that it's important to make the most of personal interactions with patrons by introducing them to services and possibilities they've never considered before. Even if they don't take advantage of my recommendations, at least they're aware of the breadth of what we can offer in the context of their particular needs, which is a feat that personal selling is well-suited to accomplish.

Categories: tips_to_try | train_yourself

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