PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2017
by Brian Jud, Executive Director, Association of Publishers for Special Sales
Non-bookstore marketing is identical to selling through bookstores, yet vastly different. How can that be? There are two pieces in the special-sales pie: retail and non-retail. In retail sales (airport stores, supermarkets, and discount stores) books are sold off the shelf, each person buys one book, there is a formal discount structure, you work through a distribution partner, and unsold books are returned. Non-retail sales (to corporations, schools, associations) are the opposite. You find the people who can use your content to solve a business problem, and you sell directly to them. One buyer can purchase thousands of your books. Terms are negotiated, and books are not returnable. This is the more profitable alternative.
Selling books to corporate buyers particularly offers independent publishers an enormous—and somewhat untapped—opportunity for increased sales. However, most do not address this segment because they are unfamiliar with the steps involved in the sales process. Once you understand how the system works, making a successful transition to large, non-returnable sales may be easier than you think.
The foundation of all selling is to define the people who are most likely to need your content. The answer to this is rarely “everybody.” Instead, describe your prospective corporate buyers with the Five Ws:
- Who makes the buying decision? Typically it is a product manager, brand manager, or manager of human resources (HR).
- When do they buy? Consider their budget periods or start dates for marketing campaigns.
- Where do they look for information? Corporate buyers look to salespeople, trade shows, industry magazines, and association meetings for ideas about promotional tools.
- What do they buy? It is not necessarily books. They want content that helps solve a business problem. This could be delivered via keynotes, workshops, printed books, or e-books.
- Why do they buy? Marketing manages want to increase sales and HR managers want to help employees.
3 Steps to More Profitable Sales
Once this foundation is in place, you can start the process of selling to corporate buyers. It begins with finding the names of potential decision makers. Then you propose your solution during a personal presentation. Finally, you negotiate the terms of each sale. This can take a long time, if for no other reason than the buyer’s risk of making the wrong decision is considerably higher than in the retail sector where unsold books are returned.
Step 1: Search for names of prospective buyers.
There are two ways to generate the names of prospects. First, get them to come to you by exhibiting at relevant trade shows (find them at 10times.com), advertising in industry journals, and increasing your exposure through social media (blogging, podcasts, and LinkedIn). Second, search for them at manta.com where you will find detailed contact information. Also join applicable associations (directoryofassociations.com) to network personally.
Not all prospects are equal in their ability or desire to purchase books as promotional products. Some may be entrenched with competitive products, have no budget to purchase, or may have recently concluded a promotional campaign. Qualify and prioritize your list of names according to those who are the best sales prospects at this time, and concentrate your efforts where you should get the greatest return.
Step 2: Present your recommendations.
Next, arrange a meeting with your top prospects to discuss the potential opportunity. Small sales of your books may be concluded on this initial meeting, but large sales usually require a later, formal presentation describing your recommendation for using your content as the solution to their business problems.
Your presentation is not about your book, but about using your content to solve your prospects’ problems. The words you use to connect emotionally and rationally should be customized to the individual needs of each prospect. Be creative yet credible, persuasive but not pushy, and complete but concise. The way in which you deliver your content is more universal. Control your vocal delivery by varying your volume, inflection, and rate of speech. Use body language strategically by managing your eye communication, posture, facial expression, and gestures. Close your presentation by asking for the order.
Step 3: Negotiate the sale.
Rarely will your initial proposal be accepted in totality, and both parties negotiate in good faith to get the best deal for their sides. Before entering a negotiation, define the terms that would be ideal for you. These could be high price, large quantity, long delivery period, no customization or returns, and the customer pays the shipping charges. Know which of these you are willing to discuss and on which you will remain firm.
These are the three basic steps required to make a large-quantity sale. Although they are applied differently in each situation, they have one common objective: Do not attempt to make sales; try to make customers. Build long-term relationships that result in larger orders, recurring revenue, and increased profits for your publishing business.
Brian Jud is the executive director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS) (bookapss.org) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or premiumbookcompany.com and on Twitter @bookmarketing.