How two booksellers with the same tools and same knowledge achieve greatly different results.
There’s a reason I write so loosely about sourcing tactics, and other things a lot of sellers won’t discuss for fear of inviting competition. The reason is: 98% of people are going to do it wrong.
If that wasn’t insulting enough to stop reading, I’ll explain.
You can take two people who know the exact same amount about bookselling. You can put them at the same source at the same time. One of them will come out with much, much more than the other person – every time. Maybe 25% more, maybe 300% more. But it always happens.
When knowledge is equalized, there is one thing left that gives a person the edge: Their perception.
Other words for this might be: Their beliefs, their focus, their expectations.
A small case study to illustrate: Two people, vastly different results
I had a roommate some time ago who I got into selling on
If she got 20 books, I got 30. If she got a box of books, I got two. What was interesting was this: She knew literally everything I knew about the business. She had the same tools. Yet somehow, we’d look at the same shelf of books, and I would always see 25% to 50% more profit that she did.
The lesson here is that two people can look at the same source, have the same tools, and the same knowledge, and one person can find much more than the other. What matters is not the quality of the books, what matters is how much quality you see.
This is getting a little esoteric, but how much you expect to find somewhere will affect how much you do find. It’s as much as the quality of the items as the quality of your beliefs about them.
Your competition isn’t really competition if they’re blind
For example, I was at a thrift store yesterday that I’d never been to, in a town I’d never been to. It was clear the book section was heavily picked over. Literally every single sticker that covered a barcode was scratched off, indicating I was on the turf of a very thorough bookseller. I still came out of there with 40 books, 10 CDs, 5 VHS tapes, 5 DVDs, and two cassette tapes.
Noticing that someone had been there and taken all the “obvious” books, I was forced to look closer at the shelves and find the less obvious books. I.e. books without barcodes, and other books that didn’t exactly jump off the shelf as being profitable. I saw what the last person didn’t, and came out with 40 books – a pretty good trip.
What’s notable is that most of these books I would not have found had I not been aware the store was “picked over.” I had to train my focus on less obvious books that even I would have missed had I been there with different expectations (i.e. believing I was the first bookseller to visit that store.)
What I looked for defined what I found.
Limiting beliefs = limiting profit
Here’s an example of how expectation can shape results:
I was in a thrift store some time ago, and saw evidence that a bookseller has been there before me (again, stickers over every barcode were scratched away). I immediately told myself “This place is picked over. There’s nothing to be found here.” And consequently, I was finding very little.
Until 30 minutes in, when I stumbled upon something worth money. Something clicked, and I was forced to revise my belief that there is “nothing to be found here.” Suddenly, something shifted, and I realize that last person who was here maybe wasn’t that thorough. And as if by magic, I found more books on the next shelf than the 10 before it.
This situation has been repeated hundreds of times.
Why? It’s pretty obvious. I began to expect to find more. And you find what you expect to find.
Its like my friend: She “expected” to average 20 books per trip, and I “expected” to average 40. Consequently, those were our averages. The human mind is fascinatingly easy to hack when you know how it works.
Expectations shape results.
The profits-expectation equation is why:
- I can go into a town with the most ruthless competition imaginable (ever been to Salt Lake City?) and still extract tons of profits from every source.
- I can go to a library book sale with literally 20 people scanning books, find their blindspot, and make more money than all of them.
- I can go into a used bookstore with someone who knows everything I know about selling books, and they declare: “Everything is priced at
Amazonprices, there’s no money to be made here.” And I ignore them, and come out with a shopping cart of books.
Next time you go sourcing, convince yourself you’re going to the most fruitful, untapped, bountiful sources you’ve ever been to. And see what happens.
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