Learning to Work with Vendors

Working with book/material vendors can be stressful if you are socially awkward like my co-librarian and me. For the most part, we’ve been navigating the process by working exclusively with one specific vendor, but I can’t help wondering if we’re missing out.

In the summer our library services holds a book/material Vendor Day meet and greet. I attended once, before I realized this type of situation is way outside my comfort zone. Even though vendors are just doing their jobs, they all want something from me (my budget money) that I probably won’t give them. I feel guilty taking their pens and signing up to win gift bags, because I plan on staying with my current vendor.

Typically, our library receives a few calls and emails from regional vendors looking to make contact and potential sales. For a long time my co-librarian and I simply deleted the emails or told the caller we weren’t available. Basically anything to avoid what we perceived would be the awkward moment in a conversation when we most likely declined his/her offer.

Essentially, we were dealing with book/material vendors by ghosting them, and predictably our actions eventually caught up with us. Since we weren’t ever telling anyone “no thanks,” the calls and emails kept increasing. I finally decided to face my fear and awkwardly do the right thing.

I have a few customizable phrases confirming my stance with a firm and polite rejection, because I imagine working in sales feels like working in Glengarry Glen Ross. I really don’t want to be unfriendly, but I really want vendors to understand when I’m not interested. So far, I’ve only had a few negative experiences with extremely pushy vendors.

For anyone who feels anxiety dealing with vendors, I have a few suggestions:

  • Emails and phone inquiries. I always reply with a “no thanks,” but I’ll get in touch if I have a question.
  • Phone calls can be harder. I stick with my phrase, not offering any additional information. This usually ends the conversation, and I can get back to work.
  • Sometimes vendors won’t take the first No. I understand, and I just repeat my original phrase. If I start feeling stuck, I move to end the call.
  • Ending a call. If the vendor moves into hard sell territory, I tell him/her the conversation is making me uncomfortable, and I’m going to end the call now. I pause a moment to see if the vendor wants to make this a mutual decision before I say good bye and hang up the phone.
  • Keep an open mind. Recently, I needed makerspace items not offered by my book/material vendor. I reached out to a new vendor and had a pleasant experience. 

Working with the same book/material vendor for several years now is nice, because when he wants to visit it’s super fast, and there’s no pressure. I’m curious about those who use multiple vendors for books and if there’s an advantage or if it’s simply a preference.

Author: Mica Johnson

I’m a school librarian at Farragut Middle. I like the lib to be loud, messy, and full of student activity. I love tech stuff as much as I love books, and I’m part of an awesome rotating maker space.

Categories: Blog Topics, Collection Development, Professional Development

Tags: , ,

1 reply

  1. Hello Mica,

    You make good points and as a sales rep I appreciate your attempts at the soft approaches to “no thanks”. You’re also the type of customer we all want… loyal and honest. My questions to you would address how your current vendor initially got in your door and became your sole supplier and how you know if there isn’t anyone else equally capable.

    I brokered printing for over 20 years and was very happy with my set of suppliers. I typically had at least 2 vetted and qualified vendors in every print category simply because I’ve seen suppliers with over-capacity issues, storm and even bankruptcy closures with no notice given, leaving the customer in a very difficult position. As a salesperson, I understand and respect my customers who operate this way. They’re simply trying to ensure their company’s long-term viability while possibly receiving more competitive pricing in the process.

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