Lately, I’ve found myself using a phrase I haven’t used in years: hand selling. Back in my days at America’s former second largest bookseller, hand selling was my favorite thing.

In bookselling, hand selling is making a recommendation to a customer based on her description of what she’s looking for. Literary vampire fiction? Funny but informative non-fiction by a journalist? Gothic books about books and the people who love them? I had you covered.

I read Publisher’s Weekly religiously. I poured over displays. I read advance copies. I did everything I could to have an answer when a customer asked me for a book. And if I didn’t know the right book for her, I would know the team member who would.

Why? Because there was no greater joy than connecting the right person with the right book.

How Hand Selling Can Improve Your Online Business

That’s it: knowing that what I put into that person’s hands was exactly what they needed for their next reading fix.

It would make my day.

Now, why am I thinking about hand selling again after so long?

There’s a misconception in the online space that customers will (or need to) come to you. Yes, inbound marketing is a beautiful thing but it’s not the only thing. Especially with markets and conversations as crowded—and loud—as they are.

Sometimes, you need to put your solution in the hands of the right people. That can not only make your goals, but make their days.

When is hand selling the right solution for your business?

  • When you’re offering a “beta” or Minimum Viable Product version of an offer
  • When you’re branching into new territory either with your offerings or your market
  • When you’re feeling sure of your value but unsure of your drawing in your right prospects
  • When your network is a goldmine of potential clients

The truth is that it’s not always feasible to expect that your existing audience will supply the necessary numbers to make your product idea work. You might have to look elsewhere. And that will probably require making individual offers, supplying personalized insights, and looking for specific problems your new offer can solve.

Put your product in the hands of the people who need it most. Make their day. And feel good about it—even if that means selling your work one book at a time.