Bookstores Versus the Internet

First contestant: brick & mortar bookstores

Do you remember the joy of standing in a bookstore aisle, staring at hundreds of books, trying to find some good books to read?

  • Most of the books were turned sideways such that all you could see was the spine. You weren’t choosing the prettiest covers.
  • There wasn’t a number attached to the book to tell you how well or poorly it had been selling.
  • The only reviews of the book were great quotes about how awesome the book was on the back cover, dust jacket, or first pages. You didn’t see an average star rating right beside the title. There wasn’t anything bad written about any book in the store.
  • If you wanted to find a possibly neutral book review, you had to read a newspaper or magazine article. Not just anybody could express a written opinion about the book in a highly visible place.
  • Books definitely didn’t come with any reviews that spoiled the endings.
  • When you picked a book up, it didn’t come with a list of books that other customers had bought. When you brought a book to the front counter, the cashier didn’t set several other books next to it and say, “Other customers who read that also purchased these.”
  • After you read the book, the bookstore didn’t contact you and ask you to review the book. The bookstore also didn’t contact you to let you know when those authors released new books.
  • There weren’t customers standing around in the aisle trying to sell you their used books for less (or even more!) than the list price (plus shipping!).
  • Most of the books were presented side-by-side without any special treatment. We didn’t see the books stacked in some order determined by the bookstore. We didn’t need to scroll through several pages to find the least popular books.
  • We never bought books with dog-ears, cover wrinkles, ripped pages, or any other visible imperfections without realizing it prior to the purchase.
  • There weren’t twenty million books to choose from. There weren’t nearly as many books in any particular genre.
  • The chance of the bookstore freezing or crashing was fairly remote, and if you picked up a virus, it usually went away after a few days and a little medicine. Even if the system was down, you could still pay cash.
  • When the book was in stock, you didn’t have to wait several days for it to arrive in the mail.
  • Every book in the store met some minimum standards. There was a limit to poor writing, the number of typos, poor formatting, storyline issues, etc.
  • The free sample was 100%, not 10%. Just imagine if all of the books on the shelves only had 10% of the pages, and you only got the rest after you checked out.
  • When you approached the register, you found an assortment of fashionable bookmarks. Sure, you can still buy bookmarks if you search for them, but you don’t see them when you check out. You also don’t need one for your e-reader.
  • If you had a question, or when you checked out, you interacted face-to-face with a person.
  • You probably didn’t have family members, friends, and acquaintances begging you to read and review their books.
  • There was a slim chance of meeting a cute someone in the bookstore (a plus if you preferred to date people who actually read books).
  • Many bookstores allowed you to take a break and drink coffee. The next time you order a book online, see if they will deliver some coffee to you while you’re browsing.

(Why was this written in the past tense? Brick and mortar bookstores haven’t completely died out yet…)

Second contestant: online booksellers

Let us not forget the wonders of technology:

  • In the old days, you wouldn’t buy a book wearing just your underwear or pajamas (or less). If you did, maybe reading would have been much more popular…
  • You don’t need to go to the bookstore on your lunch break. Traffic won’t cause you to get there after the store closes. You can buy books at two o’clock in the morning, if you please.
  • You can have the book delivered right to your doorstep. There is no need to leave the house.
  • If you have an e-reader, you can even purchase an e-book at two o’clock in the morning in your underwear without leaving the house and start reading the e-book right then and there.
  • People who are addicted to cell phones or who love using laptops and PC’s can browse for books on their favorite devices, and even read them that way as e-books.
  • You don’t have to find a dictionary if you read an e-book. It’s right there on the device. (Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone will take a moment to find out what the word means…)
  • Millions of books are in stock or will be available in just a few days. There are now print-on-demand books that are always available.
  • With twenty million books on the market, there is a much improved chance that the book you’re really looking for actually exists. If it doesn’t exist, nothing at all prevents you from becoming the author to write and publish it.
  • Through self-publishing, authors have much more freedom in what to write and how to write it, which provides greater selection to the reader.
  • You may be able to buy the book for less used. Some books sell for just a penny plus shipping and handling.
  • You can resell your used book after you read it to recover some of the cost.
  • All e-books mark themselves; you don’t need a bookmark. The e-readers will even let you highlight text.
  • It’s very easy to find the top-selling books, and to see how well or poorly a book has been selling, in case you wish to judge how popular a book is.
  • Read customer reviews to see what other customers had to say about the book. Some opinions may contradict one another, some may be helpful and others not, some might not even be pleasant, and it might be entertaining. You can even vote on how helpful the review is (or you can ignore the wording and just vote on whether or not you like what was said).
  • It’s very easy to ship a book anywhere in the world; e-books can be gifted.
  • You don’t need to find your receipt to return the book.
  • Adults books can be read with greater discretion as e-books.

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volumes 1 and 2)

$$ The Effect of Attitude on Sales $$

AttitudeAttitude plays a profound role in all aspects of sales, including:

  • The salesman in the store or on the phone. Attitude is most significant for the salesman, who often interacts thoroughly with the customer at the point-of-sale and may also deal with the customer again as a follow-up or regarding complaints.
  • Managers who most often interact with customers who have a complaint. It’s important to resolve the problem efficiently. An irate customer in the store can influence other buyers. An upset customer even has influence online. It can also be the difference between word-of-mouth sales and word-of-mouth negative advertising.
  • The cashier who writes up the sale or checks something on the register. Even when a different salesman has already convinced a customer to make a purchase, the deal isn’t sealed until the cashier completes the paperwork.
  • People like inventors and authors who have a product to sell, but who may not be selling the product directly. They personally interact with many of their potential customers through marketing techniques. These people must also deal with complaints through product reviews much like managers must deal with customer complaints.
  • Even an employee greeting people at the door, for example, can influence sales through attitude.

The ways that a poor attitude can spoil a sale are pretty obvious. Here are a few ways that attitudes can help facilitate sales:

  • Charm. The reality is that people don’t just look at price, value, and the quality of the product. Even though customers may only interact with a representative for a few minutes, while using the product for months or more, people prefer good service. When the customer receives good service at the point-of-sale, that bodes well for good service if the product has problems. When inventors or authors, for example, charms potential customers during personal interactions, the fact that they care about the customer suggests that the same care may have been put into the product. Buyers also tend to be impulsive, for which charm can make the difference.
  • Confidence. Representatives who show confidence sound knowledgeable. A customers is more apt to trust a confident salesperson. Lack of confidence leads to hesitation; doubt causes mistakes. Confidence helps to visualize and attain a positive outcome. The confidence of a representative can carry over to the customer, who wishes to be confident in the purchase decision. Bragging, on the other hand, tends to deter sales. It’s important to show confidence without seeming boastful.
  • Courtesy. People generally respond well to courtesy, and poorly to the lack thereof. Even small things, like holding a door open, can make a significant difference. Put the customer in a good frame of mind. All representatives need to show customers that they want their business. Without the customers, there would be no business.
  • Care. Customers like to feel special. Does it sound like a sales pitch? Was this rehearsed? Was the greeting or compliment mechanical, or did the representative really mean it? Going the extra mile shows the customer that the representative truly cares about the person, not just the sale. Inventors and authors, for example, are more likely to be successful in their interpersonal marketing endeavors when prospective buyers see their passion for the product and gauge that they care about their customers. Look the customer in the eye, address the customer by first name, and smile. Listen to what the customer says.
  • Calm. Stay calm, cool, and collected. Customer service and public relations frequently present new and difficult situations that challenge representatives to remain calm and in control of their emotions. Customers expect representatives to behave professionally. It just takes one individual, even in a minor capacity before or after a sale, with one unprofessional outburst to blow a deal.

Smile!

Be charming, confident, courteous, caring, and calm. Have a winning attitude. It’s almost like trying to get a date. 🙂

Chris McMullen, self-published author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers (Volumes 1 and 2)