Preparing for a Sales Presentation
by Brian Jud
You cannot make a large-quantity sale until potential buyers know how your book’s content can help their company. Steps Four and Five of the 10-step special-sales process involve describing your solution to a buyer’s problems in preparation for your in-person presentation. (“Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers” in the September issue and “How to Find Potential Buyers in Special Markets” in the October issue dealt with the first three steps.)
Step Four—determining which of your titles can meet the buyer’s objectives—is relatively simple.
If you are a multititle publisher, you may have an array of titles that could fulfill potential customers’ needs. Go through your frontlist and backlist to find books that will help them solve their problems and reach their objectives. Think about whether you—and a given prospect—might benefit most if you created a new book, booklet, or e-book instead of presenting an existing title or titles.
When you have zeroed in on a title or titles, it is time to explain how and why your prospects can use your content to solve their problems. In other words, it is time to create your proposal, and this is a relatively detailed process.
What to Put in the Proposal
The proposal is:
• a formal, written description of the reasons your potential customer should accept
• the framework for the presentation you will make in person
• the starting point for negotiations
• your stake in the ground that says, “This is what I believe is the best course of action for
achieving your goals”
What should your proposal include?
When you are seeking a large-quantity, nonreturnable sale, your special-sales proposal is analogous to a business plan. It defines the current situation, coordinates various elements of the decision process, and directs future action.
The typical proposal has five parts: premise, position, proof, payback, and price.
1. Premise. Begin with an executive summary, describing the research you did, the criteria for making a decision, and the expected outcome.
Are you proposing that your book be used as a premium to increase membership in an association? A product for cross-merchandising by a retailer? A textbook in a state’s public school system? A self-liquidator in a corporate promotion? A motivational tool to help improve employee morale?
Next, summarize the prospect’s objective, your recommended plan of action, and the reasons it provides the best way to reach the prospect’s goals.
2. Position. Give details that will show wary decision-makers that you are making an objective recommendation with their best interests in mind.
Savvy businesspeople may expect you to use “To Be” analysis. This means beginning with the prospect’s current business situation (As Is), then describing the desired future state (To Be), and finally showing how your solution is the best way to get from here to there.
Try to include information on how lessons that the prospect learned from previous promotional campaigns are incorporated in your recommendation.
Focus on key result areas (KRAs). If you are delivering your proposal to marketing people, show how your recommendation could increase unit sales, gross revenue, and/or net profits. Human resources managers may want to focus on decreasing employee turnover, or having a better educated, more highly trained and more motivated workforce. List each appropriate decision criterion followed by the reason that your recommendation fulfills it.
Show a range of possible outcomes. Decision makers know that forecasting is not an exact science, and they will neither expect nor accept one prediction as the only possible outcome. Make your forecast credible and defensible by creating a spreadsheet that shows three possible outcomes: the best, worst, and most likely cases. In marketing terms, this is called bracketing the risk.
In column one, show the calculations that depict the worst possible outcome. In column two, describe a result that exceeds expectations. Then show what you believe will be the most likely outcome. In each column, indicate where the breakeven point will occur. Also propose an exit strategy in the event the worst-case scenario occurs and a decision is made to abandon the project to minimize losses.
Use charts and graphs to summarize the spreadsheet data and to make your points visually
Conclude this section with a timetable for implementing your proposal, with milestone events. These should include design approvals, delivery, payments, reorders, and when to pull the plug, if necessary.
3. Proof. When you make your presentation to decision makers, you should describe your proposal but not walk them through the details. Instead, include your backup material in a separate folder that you create beforehand, refer to as necessary during your presentation, and distribute after the presentation concludes.
This folder is similar to a press kit. It should contain your full proposal along with supporting documents. Also include your bio, case histories, examples of previous promotional campaigns in which you have been involved, and reviews and testimonials from satisfied customers of yours. A fact sheet about the size, case quantities, weight, and other pertinent characteristics of your book(s) should be in the folder too.
Design this data to anticipate potential objections and use it to defuse them. For example, imagine that you are presenting a proposal to HR people showing how your book could motivate employees at their company. The material in your folder could demonstrate that you know the company’s workers come from many different generations, each with its own motivations, and that your book’s content addresses the needs of Boomers as well as the needs of Generations X and Y.
4. Payback. Without guaranteeing anything, explain the results that could occur if the agreed-upon objectives are achieved and the most likely scenario occurs. Explain the improved competitive advantage, increased market share, higher profits, or greater sales the prospect may experience; or, for HR, illustrate how the company could benefit with better trained and motivated employees.
5. Price. Up to this point, you have been reminding decision makers of all the positive elements in your proposal to make the point that the money you are asking is a worthwhile investment. Now you need to say how much money that is.
Show your prices for various quantities, and consider offering options such as a success fee for you if results exceed expectations. Include shipping charges and costs for customization; describe your payment terms, and note that returns will not be permitted (unless, for some reason, they might be or must be).
If you are asking buyers to pay you tens of thousands of dollars now, and perhaps more over the years, they will need to be reassured that they are making the right decision, so the proposal must give them what they need to know to justify it.
Once you have created the proposal, the next step is presenting it, and that is the topic of the next article in this series.
Brian Jud, the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books, now offers commission-based sales of nonfiction, fiction, and children’s titles to buyers in special markets. For more information contact him at P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001-0715; 860/675-1344; fax 860/270-0343; firstname.lastname@example.org; premiumbookcompany.com; or Twitter.com/bookmarketing.