As ABC’s owner, Lynn knows a lot about bookselling and all its processes. These days, she trains her booksellers instead of selling books herself. I asked her what she considers the trademarks of a good bookseller. Her answer might surprise you, but, as always, is right on the mark.
The most important characteristics of a good bookseller, says Lynn, are contact, willingness to listen to what customers want and allowing them to make their own choices. “You need to look the person in the eye, show them that you’re engaged and listening to their questions. Pay attention to their body language and what they’re looking at. Offer help without imposing it. For example, ask them something engaging like: ‘Is there anything I can help you with, or would you rather look around on your own?’ instead of just the usual ‘Can I help you?’ Eye contact is usually a really good start to show customers you’re paying attention to both them and your surroundings, that you’re alert and willing to spring to help whenever they come with a question.”
Lynn says you can also help conversations along by posing a two-pronged question rather than an open question or a question that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Some examples:
“Are you looking for something for yourself or for someone else?“
“Does this person prefer to read fiction or nonfiction?”
“Would a new political biography or a classic crime novel be more appealing to you?”
All these kinds of questions show interest without being pushy, and they help booksellers gather information on what a customer would like so you can home in on just the right title.
“We also always teach booksellers to touch the books,” says Lynn. “Straighten them, turn them face-out, even just take them out and look at the cover again. Not only will you remember the title better, but books that are touched take on more glow and are more appealing. Really. Try it!”