This series highlights success stories, tips and tricks, and more from our Penguin Random House reps across the country. Meet Linda Parrent, our PRH rep in San Francisco, nominated this month!! Below she delves into her history as a rep, some really great advice for new reps, her favorite PRH titles, and more!
What is your favorite genre and/or book(s)?
I love to sell gift books that have words! To prove to my customers that even books with words sell really well. For instance, Gift From the Sea, If I Live to Be 100, Tiffany’s Table Manners for Teens, Women Know Everything, Love Poems for Married People — and looking forward to Love Poems for People with Children.
How many dogs do you have and what is their favorite book?
Always two and frequently four. (Co-parent when my ex travels). Their favorite books are; Jeannie – Who’s On First. Jeannie thought this book was delicious–until I discovered her “reading” it. (See photo). Maxine – Crafting with Cat Hair.
What are you currently reading?
Admittedly, I SELL a lot more books than I read… (that desire to make a living has definitely put a dent into the voracious reading that I did as a kid). Working on both People of the Book, by Geraldine Brooks and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (a popular choice (and one of Caroline’s FAVORITES!!) ).
How long have you been a rep?
Coming up on thirty years.
What are your go-to books for an easy sell-in?
Highly customer dependent. Often lead with This is San Francisco, A is for Activist, Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You, How to Love, Great Ideas:Where I Lived What I Live For (Thoreau), An Avocado a Day, Uni the Unicorn (Board).
What tip would you offer to a new rep?
If possible, familiarize yourself with the customer ahead of time. Certainly in the first appointment (but really in ALL appointments) it is much more important to listen than it is to talk. Ask leading questions, listen to the answers and match your knowledge of the line to what will work best for that customer.
What is your favorite resource to use while selling?
I always use your printed catalogs. (Try to post-it-note/highlight ahead of time). I use our Stephen Young bestseller lists that we have turned into Edelweiss sell sheets. Also, PRH sell sheets. Definitely, bring some samples. Customer’s Order History.
How do you prepare for account meetings?
I run reports going back a year both in QTY order and in Alpha order. I print the reports. Look them over and highlight them for bestselling titles. Take them with me to the appointment. This helps me know what samples to bring with me and what titles to concentrate on from the catalogs and samples that I bring. With some customers I may go to their store ahead of time and take an inventory (using my ipad and scanner). I will show up at their appointment with a suggested order already prepared so that back list titles are already covered and we can concentrate on front list.
How do you make sure to get through all the titles you’d like to show them?
That’s almost impossible, but If you get to 80% or so I feel like you’re doing pretty well. Make sure that you are showing the most important titles. You don’t want the customer to feel like you are pushing them to buy titles that are marginal for them. You can always re-present these titles in the future if they are tried and true. Be aware of when they grow weary. It’s ALWAYS about being sensitive to the customer and putting them first.
Do you have a method for visiting your accounts/scheduling appointments so no one is forgotten?
I constantly run Brandwise reports to see in dollars and cents where I am with my customers. I try to look at customers TY vs LY by quarter instead of monthly. Gives a more clear picture of where we’re at. Unfortunately, the number of turns per customer is not what it was many years ago. But try to have an appointment at least four times a year. Once after the beginning of each Spring and Fall Season. And at least once mid way during that Season. I try to send out email blasts to all customers during promotions. Virtually always results in a flurry of orders.
What’s a new store/ existing account you’re really excited about and why?
We just starting selling to Pot Clubs/Dispensaries. This is a whole new category that we’ve never had before. Starting slow — but I see a lot of opportunity here.
Share a success story with us!
Sales with The Gardener (an existing account of thirty years) are up almost 40% this year. This in spite of many challenges in the last two years. Last year The Gardener had buyer turnover. The previous buyer had been buying for twelve years. The new buyer was unfamiliar with buying books. We have flown him into our Los Angeles Showroom four times. We send him suggestions. Sample him gratis copies and we are in touch several times a week. This increase is despite the fact that there is roughly a 40% vacancy rate on their three block long commercial street — AND that an Amazon Four Star Store opened across the street! Some successful books that they have ordered this year (and they had not ordered last year to date) are; Monks Guide to a Clean House, Ottolenghi Simple, U.S. Constitution, Gratitude, The Mini Bar, I Adulted!, Birdnote, Aperitivo Cocktail Culture, and Dreyer’s English.
Featuring Linda’s partners in crime: Maxine (left) and Jeannie (right).
Thank you, Linda, for all of your amazing insights and tips!!
Interested in being highlighted next in this series? Reach out to us or nominate a colleague you would like to hear from and know others would benefit from! We’ll be touching base with reps who go above and beyond for future installments.