Designing Deals: How to Negotiate a Large Book Sale
by Brian Jud
Negotiating a large-quantity sale requires a little give and take from each party. The process in which both sides seek to fairly distribute the risk and reward begins at the conclusion of your presentation, when you ask for the order. It’s the next-to-last step in the special-sales campaign described in this series (for Steps 1 through 8, go to Independent Articles on the home page at ibpa-online.org and use the search function).
In today’s corporate world, executives seek a win-win result that will set the stage for mutual profitability and long-term relationships. This means each party should negotiate in good faith to get the best deal for its side, but not at the expense of the other. In other words, your job is to find the package of product, terms, and service that does the most to increase value for your prospect without sacrificing your needs.
Know Your BNO
Good negotiating begins with preparation. Even though you cannot predict every verbal exchange, you can set parameters in advance. Before you enter into any negotiation, write down what you will give and take—and what you will not.
That document, which expresses your Best Negotiated Outcome (BNO), should identify:
•All the outcomes that would be acceptable to you. For example: a high price, long delivery time,
no customization, no returns, and 30-day payment terms.
• The outcome that matters most to you (no returns, for instance).
•What you are willing to give up in return for the outcome that matters most (you might barter for a
nonreturnable purchase by offering a better discount with no returns).
•What you are not willing to negotiate away in return for that outcome (perhaps, if cash flow is a
concern, you won’t be willing to extend your payment terms).
•What your bottom line is. Know when to walk away from the deal. Your BATNA (Best Alternative to a
Negotiated Agreement) should be your line in the sand showing where you are no longer willing to
make concessions. Ideally, you believe that you can make a better deal elsewhere, and that will give
you the confidence to walk away from an unprofitable negotiation.
•What your final BNO is. An equitable agreement might include an acceptably lower price, feasible
delivery time, a customized cover, no returns, and 2/10 Net-30-day payment terms (i.e., 2 percent
discount if paid in 10 days, or the full amount in 30 days).
Ten Points to Help You Negotiate
1. From the beginning, take notes so that you will be able to send a summary after each meeting that describes the areas of agreement as well as what needs to be done, and by whom. People may not remember everything to which they agreed.
2. Build trust first. Rapport presumably began to develop in the earlier stages as you proved yourself a consultant who could help your prospects solve their problems. Do not let your desire to close a large-quantity sale become dominant now.
3. Do not negotiate with a time limit. If your counterpart says, “I have only one hour. Let’s talk,” try to delay the negotiation until later. Strict time limits do not allow relationships to unfold or allow creative alternatives to surface.
4. Supplement your understanding of the other side’s interests by asking questions. Why did the prospect not accept your initial proposal? How far apart are your positions? If they are close, can you split the difference? (For specific negotiating scenarios, see my article “Make Your Best Deal for Large-Quantity Orders” at ibpa-online.org.).
5. Solve the easiest problems first. Save the toughest ones for later.
6. Start high and concede slowly. Children know that if they want a hamster, they first ask for a pony. If you have to make the first concession to keep the process alive, concede something small and get something in return.
7. Do not negotiate on price. Favorable economics are necessary but not sufficient, and if you emphasize price, your prospect may decide to seek a less expensive alternative elsewhere. So bargain with other variables that the customer might value. Offer to train the company’s salespeople, ghostwrite the foreword for the CEO, and contribute ideas for cross-selling. Do not be provocative or immovable about price, but remember that quality is remembered long after price is forgotten.
8. Focus on interests, not issues or positions. Most deals are 50 percent emotion (positions) and 50 percent economics (interests). The issue under discussion may be the value of using books in the next marketing campaign. Your prospect may have taken a position against using books in general. But the prospect’s underlying interests are company profitability and/or employee productivity, so talk about how you can address those interests without sacrificing yours.
9. Get buy-in, not just cooperation. A solid agreement proceeds on parallel planes. One represents the economic contract and the other the underlying social contract. Both parties must be committed to making the promotion work. Engage people as partners by asking questions such as, “What do you think? How might we do that? What else could we do? From your experience, how might we make that happen?” As you negotiate with authority, confidence, and empathy, you develop a sense of partnership with your prospects.
10. Do not be thrown by unexpected developments. For instance, if a personnel change occurs during the negotiations process, you may be forced to begin again. But remember that the change may help you if your previous contact was favorable to your position and moved up on the corporate decision-making ladder.
Alternatives and Outcomes
If you choose not to go through all this, you might want to hire a sales-promotional agency or premium rep group that could sell your book(s) in bulk. One such group, the Promotional Bookstore (1320 Toronita Street, York, PA 17402), has a network of commissioned salespeople who can personally present your titles to buyers in corporations, associations, schools, and government agencies and negotiate a sale for you. To learn more, contact Guy Achtzehn at email@example.com.
However you proceed, a successful negotiation is not the end; it’s the beginning. If you concentrate only on closing the deal, you may lose sight of the more important objectives—to create long-term relationships and get reorders for your books. Once the negotiation is concluded successfully, perform as you promised and implement the agreement flawlessly. The next, and final, article in this series will cover those steps.
Brian Jud, the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books, now offers commission-based sales of books to buyers in nonbookstore markets. For more information: P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; 860/675-1344; fax 860/270-0343; firstname.lastname@example.org; premiumbookcompany.com; twitter.com/bookmarketing.