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7 Handselling Do’s & 3 Handselling Don’ts

Independent booksellers have one powerful weapon in the battle to survive in a marketplace dominated by online retailers–good old fashioned handselling.

At a special American Booksellers Association (ABA) presentation at BEA, we collected tips for handselling from veteran booksellers Suzanna Hermans and Dan Cullen. These seven do’s and three don’ts will help indie booksellers, publishers and writers sell more books in real life.

1. Ask your customers lots of questions–handselling is fundamentally about listening.

2.Practice handselling often. That’s the only way you will get comfortable talking to customers about books.

3. Don’t overwhelm customers with choices. For instance, you shouldn’t send a grieving customer to a psychology section with 400 books–help them find titles focused on grief instead.

4. Watch older employees as they handsell and learn by example.

5. Designate in-store experts and make them the designated hand seller for that area (travel, yoga, or philosophy, for instance).

6. In popular genres like children’s literature, have employees read a few books in each age group. Out of those five, pick two or three books you would be able to handsell.

7. Save five titles that you can always recommend in any situation–fun and easy reading books.

The panel discussion also offered three tips of what NOT to do, sharing illustrative web videos as well.

1- DON’T focus on all the books and genres you like. Find out what your customer likes to read first.

2. DON’T be pushy. If they don’t want your help, let them browse privately.

3. DON’T judge your customer when they share the kind of books they enjoy.

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