What I Learned as a Vendorbrarian
What I Learned as a Vendorbrarian; or
my written apology to every vendor I dissed when I was a librarian
After ALA Annual, while preparing for the influx of state and regional conferences, I am reminded of how different it is on this side of the exhibits. All of my library friends visit or go out with me, “even though you are in the exhibits/a vendor,” they say.
You know the drill, librarians.
You go to the exhibits, walk down the center of the aisle, check out the cool stuff but avoid eye contact with anyone in the booths. THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE ME BUY SOMETHING!
Or the phone call.
“Hi! I’m Melissa Powell from The Library Corporation—”
“We aren’t interested!” *click*
Well, maybe not that dramatic, but it can feel that way. If I get you on the phone at all, anyway.
As a librarian, I know this all too well. The random calls while you are working. The sales person who won’t take no for an answer. The guilty feeling when you say “no.”
Having recently become a sales consultant, I have dreaded making the “cold call” knowing how it feels on the other end. However, I now realize the importance of contact.
Vendors need to know what you are thinking, working on, and needing. They need to know this to create the products and services that you really need we have to get to the heart of what libraries and library staff need. To do that, we need to talk to you.
Here are a few things I said in the past and what I know now:
“I’m too busy!”
Maybe the few minutes spent talking to me will help you be less busy now or in the future. Or let me know a better way to communicate with you, a la email, sending a packet, whatever.
“You act like my schedule isn’t important.”
Then tell me a better time to talk with you. I would MUCH prefer to schedule a time when you can really talk. In fact, I would love to give you the time to think so you are able to really communicate your needs. If I leave a phone number or email please contact me at your convenience. I am going to continue to reach out so you might as well take control of the conversation.
“I don’t make the money/purchasing decisions.”
However, you still use the products and what you can tell me is extremely valuable! We are always in development and we would much rather be developing products and services that you actually need.
“We aren’t interested.”
How do you know what I am going to talk about? And even if you do, as librarians we believe in information and getting some is always useful. As a vendorbrarian I see things very differently from a regular vendor.
“We aren’t looking to buy [insert product name here].”
As the manager of a library, especially a public library, it is part of your job to keep up with what is new in the industry to better serve your community. Let me do the work for you! I can sum it up, give you references, come up with talking points. . .whatever you need to take to your administration, your board, your city government for when you are looking to buy.
During the last years that I spent as a library manager, I realized the importance of the vendor-librarian relationship. Vendors are generally a font of information and the good ones will follow through and get you answers and the information you are interested in. Sales is a long game. We don’t expect you to pull out the credit card and buy on the spot. You may never buy our product; however, we can still work together empowering librarians.
More and more librarians are becoming vendors and it’s time to take advantage of that! You have people on the “inside” now. Help us change the industry to be what you need it to be.
In this age of less funding and tenuous support, vendors can be a strong partner, especially those with vendorbrarians. Our survival depends on your survival. We are here for you. Take advantage of it.
Melissa Powell is a Librarian Sales Consultant eager to learn and share.