July 21, 2010
Today's Legal Publishing Vendor Reps May Want to Learn from the Best in the Business: Some Advice from Hein's Dick Spinelli (And a Program Suggestion for Philadelphia 2011)
One of the last scenes I witnessed in Denver before catching a cab to the airport was Hein's Dick Spinelli and Steve Roses sitting in a hotel bar enjoying a beverage (won't say what kind), both sans business suits, but working on scheduling trips. In all my years of knowing Dick I don't recall ever seeing him in a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. One reason probably being that 40 years of chain smoking does not make me jump at the opportunity to join the annual Hein Fun Run (canceled this year, I think, because of the altitude). But I'm only a few years away from responding to the Scooter Store ads, so someday he and I might be competing in the bony knees and chicken legs division of the annual Hein Fun Run.
I didn't want to intrude on Dick and Steve's meeting so I didn't take a photo but you will find a similar one at A Life in Law Books: Dick Spinelli [Download the article] (Spring 2010 issue of A Legal Miscellanea produced by the Jacob Burns Law Library, George Washington University Law School). The article is a thoughtful interview with Dick. Whoever conducted it (no attribution, was it Jennie C. Meade, Director of Special Collections, and editor of A Legal Miscellanea?) asked all the right questions. Dick's responses to several unintentionally provide excellent advice on how to conduct business for all vendor reps.
Today's Reps May Should Want to Learn What It Takes to be a Professional Vendor Rep. With the rapid turnover of vendor reps, particularly for larger legal publishers, these days, it's not uncommon for institutional buyers to find themselves in meetings where they know more about the vendor's product line than the vendor rep does, much more about the competition's products, and one hellva lot more about their own institutional information resources and needs than the bright young thing that just handed them their business card. These reps might want to learn what it takes to be a professional legal publishing representative and they can if they study Dick's responses to the following questions in the interview.
Could you describe for us the range of activities performed by a “traditional” law book seller during a typical annual day visit to a large law library?
Those of us who know your work see only its public aspect. What makes up the remaining “behind the scenes” portion of your work?
In today’s book/online database-buying climate where the range of sources and media you offer is more complex than in the days of print-only, how have your methods of serving your law libraries changed, if at all? Has the relationship of law book seller to law library/law librarian changed since the 1960s?
Traditional law book sellers knew their books: the subjects in them, how they were organized, their physical characteristics, cost. They also knew their libraries and the needs of their customers. Has this knowledge-based “advisory” approach faded with the panoply of materials available combined with the relative transience today of publishers’ representatives, and if so, what has replaced it and why?
A snip from Dick's answer to the last listed interview question summarizes what it takes:
I believe that regardless of whether the product is print or electronic, the publisher’s representative must be as knowledgeable as possible, or the buyer, researcher, and publisher all will suffer. The rapid growth of online resources has made it difficult to maintain familiarity with all available databases, but more than minimal knowledge of content is necessary, plus the recognition of the value of that content to a particular library. An understanding of how the product works from the researcher’s perspective is important and can be a valuable selling point. ... A representative must understand a library’s philosophy of collecting and its target subjects.
So young and not so young vendor reps, learn something from the best in the business [Download the article] and maybe someday someone will write something similar about you:
Dick has been a trusted advisor and flexible working partner transacting the business of selling law books (including of course all the evolutionary formats: microform and electronic databases). Dick always has maintained good humor, understanding, and integrity.
A Master Class for Vendor Reps at Philadelphia 2011? The article mentions that the first AALL annual meeting Dick attended was the 1968 meeting in Philadelphia. I doubt the 2011 meeting in Philadelphia will be the last he attends. But let's celebrate the occasion -- perhaps AALL will allow CRIV-Lite to put on a session for vendor rep training moderated by Dick next year. Just Dick and other vendor reps wanting to learn how to conduct business because if the meeting was open to all interested law librarians, including CRIV members, that might be too scary a prospect for our association's leaders. At least such a session would be a step in the right direction for improving the library-vendor relationship.
Sorry Dick, just following up on the Dick Spinnelli for AALL Vendor Liaison! theme. [JH]
Yes, it was Jennie Meade who wrote it!
Posted by: Stacy Etheredge | Jul 22, 2010 10:30:10 PM
Posted by: Mariann | Jul 21, 2010 9:29:28 AM
I have never been less than extremely impressed and satisfied while doing business with W.S. Hein & Co. Dick Spinelli and Steve Roses are a class act. Where do I sign the petition to make Dick AALL Vendor Liaison?
Posted by: Laura Suttell | Jul 21, 2010 6:07:08 AM