Wednesday, July 15, 2009
What's it gonna take to put you into contract today?
When looking for an agent, many authors seek out those with big name authors and prestigious literary degrees from ivy league colleges. While that is all well and good, there seems to be one very important criteria missing from that list: The selling gift.
"Huh?" you ask yourself. "I don't want some sleazy car salesman type representing me!
No, you don't. But you do want someone with the selling gift. I'll explain:
Ten years ago I graduated from a dog training academy and landed my first job at a commercial kennel teaching obedience. I was thrilled. Working with animals had always been a dream of mine, and now, at the cusp of said dream, the senior VP introduced himself to me and said something I'll never forget:
"Remember, your job is 5% dog training and 95% sales."
Talk about a jolt. Selling shouldn't have anything to do with dog training. Right? Wrong. Through the years I rose in my career; gaining big name clients such as MLB and NFL players, appearing on the local news and in the papers, and competing in trials covered by ESPN2 and Animal Planet.
"Because you're so good with dogs?" you ask.
I'm better than average;) But a bigger part is because I have the selling gift. I inherited it from my Great Grandpa who could sell bikinis to penguins who waddled away happy to have them. The selling gift should not be confused with the ability to force a product on someone, who in turn, walks away with a tremendous urge to shower off the sleaze left behind. The selling gift is, in all actuality, the ability to understand and relate to people. To get inside their head. A good salesman knows to offer up what their customer needs, even if it isn't always what they want.
Case in point: The Dog Whisperer Cesar Milan - has the selling gift in abundance. He doesn't lie and say he can do things he can't for the sake of the sale. And I'm sure, if you've seen him, you can agree with me that people feel like a friend is leaving their home when he drives away with their check in his pocket.
This, my writer friends, is an important quality that you should seek out in an agent. Sure, I agree they need to love your book, but more importantly they need to be able to sell it. And to do that they need the gift.
So what should you look for?
1. An agent who you instantly feel comfortable with and dialogue flows freely. A "people person" - this is the surest sign of the gift.
2. An agent who actively meets and socializes with others in the biz. Who has built up good relationships and works to keep those relationships strong.
3. An agent who doesn't say things to stroke your ego and make impossible promises, but one who keeps it real and tells you how it is - even if it's not what you want to hear.
4. An agent who responds in a timely manner. Procrastination is the enemy of sales.
5. Some might disagree, but to me, it's important that an agent participates in social networking. It shows me that they're tending to their contacts and always stirring the pot.
Unfortunately, the gift is just that - a gift. It is nothing that can be taught in school or learned through seminars. You got it or you don't. So be careful out there when researching your agents. If you get "the call" and you're left with doubts, listen to them. If an agent can't sell themselves, how can they sell you?
Again, this is just my humble opinion and I'd love to hear your thoughts!