My boss drew my attention to this articles in “In the library with a led pipe”(1) today: Liaisons as sales force: using sales techniques to engage academic library users.
The article is about how liaison librarians can use sales techniques to promote library services. The term “sales” often brings forward negative associations about pushy, aggressive people who just try to get you to spend money on things you don`t need. Still, if you try to rid yourself of these negative images, you can see that “selling is about helping people find solutions to their problems and challenges” (under heading “But liaisons don`t learn sales skills”).
The article lists four major elements of selling that can be used for liaison librarians:
- Selling is a positive and necessary part of a liaison librarian`s job: Meaning that we cannot just sit in our offices and think that the users will come to us. We need to promote our services to help our patrons. To sell something is to find out what they need and try to fill that need.
- Effective selling requires goal-focused interactions. This means that we have to have a goal for the conversation. Not something highly idealistic or “big”, but something pragmatic and simple, like “I want this patron to know we have access to a reference manager”.
- Enthusiasm for the library`s resources and services. I think this should probably have been number one on this list. We have to believe (!) in our services and their usefulness to our patrons. If you want a faculty member to book an information skills session, you have to believe that it will be useful to the students. I think this point cannot be emphasised enough.
- Ability to investigate the needs of the customer: meaning, we have to figure out what they really need. I think we could all probably be better at this. It`s not about what we think they should know, but what they themselves think they need.
The authors examine how to use a specific sales method, called SPIN Selling®, to promote library services. Well worth a read, too.
I`ll end here with a quote from the conclusion:
“By approaching every interaction with the mindset that it is a potential “selling” opportunity and dedicating time for effective preparation, liaison librarians can develop a skill-set that adds significant value to their user community by matching existing services, spaces, and collections with users in ways that enhance their success.” (Under heading “conclusions”)
Solis, J. and King, N. (2017). Liaisons as sales force: using sales techniques to engage academic library users” [online] URL: http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2017/liaisons/ (18.01.17)
(1) Note: “In the library with a led pipe” is a blog that I used to follow, but stopped because I was frustrated by all the great content there that I never had time to read:) Now, this peer-reviewed blog has become an open access, open peer-reviewed journal. I highly recommend having a look at it.