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Prioritize to Boost Sales

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It is easy to create or buy a
list of prospective buyers for your titles. But any list is comprised only of
suspects, names of people who might fit the description of those in your target
audience. You will waste time and money if you act on the assumption that
everyone on a list has the same need and desire to purchase your books. By
using a simple two-step process, you can remove the names of those with no
interest in buying your products and devote your marketing attention to
contacting prospects who are relatively likely to buy.

 

The process involves ranking
potential buyers. Everyone begins as a suspect, simply a name on a list. As you
see how suspects fit your criteria, you either remove them from your list or classify
them as qualified prospects. Once they buy, they become customers.

 

Step One: Qualify

 

Evaluate each name on a
list in terms of buying criteria.

 

The
size of your opportunity.
Some
people may buy one book at a time, while others have the potential for buying
books in large quantities. Those in the latter group are more desirable
prospects. For example, an online niche bookstore might buy one copy of a title
for display on its Web site and purchase single copies from you as sales take
place at the site. By contrast, a company that buys a book to use as a premium
might purchase thousands of copies all at once.

 

Distinguish those who will buy one
copy at a time from those who can place large orders, and focus on the big
buyers. But bear in mind that the odds and the time involved in making a
premium sale are long, especially when compared to the effort involved in
selling to a niche bookstore online.

 

Your
familiarity with the market.
You
probably know more about selling to some potential markets than you do about
selling to others. If you are familiar with traditional book-distribution
channels, you may be able to enter markets that resemble them fairly quickly;
think libraries and airport stores, for example.

 

Arrange your suspects in
groups accessible by similar distribution channels.

 

The
benefits buyers will get.
People
buy for their reasons, not yours. And they have different reasons for doing so.
For instance, book buyers who stock supermarkets seek quick inventory turns on
limited shelf space; buyers for bookstores want increased traffic; newspaper
editors want more subscriptions and more readers.

 

Classify prospects by
similar needs.

 

Prospects’
awareness of your topic.
Members
of the National Association of Sales Professionals will be more familiar with
the potential benefits from your book on selling skills—and therefore
probably ready to buy more quickly—than members of the Modern Language
Association. If you have been consistently marketing to a niche segment, the
people in that segment will know more about your subject than people outside
it.

 

Separate prospects who are
familiar with your topic from prospects who aren’t.

 

Buyers’
ability to buy for others.
You
could sell a copy of one of your children’s books to hundreds of daycare
centers. Or, you could sell hundreds of copies of the book to one buyer at
Kindercare, who would move them on into its daycare centers. Which strategy do
you think would be more profitable?

 

Note which suspects on your list
can purchase and receive books and then redistribute them.

 

Step Two: Prioritize

 

Once you have organized your
suspects into lists of prospective buyers, rank them in the order in which you
will contact them.

 

A good way to find your top
prospects is to list the top 10 potential customers in each of the five Step
One categories. The names that appear on the most lists are A priority. Contact
them first, via telephone or personal visits.

 

B-priority potential customers are
the ones that remain on the top-10 lists after you remove your A-priority
prospects. They may buy fewer books, or have less need for—or less
awareness of—your title, but they can be a lucrative source of sales if
you market to them appropriately. Contact them by telephone and personal
letter.

 

C-priority prospects may emerge
from your experiences with those you classified as A and B by responding with
statements like, “I have no budget now, but call me in six months.” Or they may
be buyers who recently purchased a quantity of similar books and don’t need
more now.

 

Spend time every day on A and B
prospects. Work frequently with the As to close the sale. Explain your topic to
the Bs, persuading them to increase their orders or to buy more quickly.
Contact your C-list prospects periodically to remind them that you will be
around when they are ready to buy. Sometimes there are surprises. C-priority
people have been known to turn into A-priority people.

 

Keep good records of each prospect
with contact-management software, and when you have made contact, immediately
plan the timing of the next contact. Continue to follow up until you receive a
positive or negative answer. If the answer is positive, send the requested
material. Then follow up again. If the answer is negative, add the respondent’s
name to a list of C prospects to contact again in three, six, or nine months.

 

Using this system to organize your
selling time and prioritize your contacts should help you become more effective
and efficient so that you can increase both sales and profits.

 

Brian Jud is author of <span
class=8StoneSans>Beyond the Bookstore
(a Publishers Weekly book), The
Marketing Planning CD-ROM
(about selling to special-sales
buyers), and a new series of printed booklets (<span
style=’font-size:11.0pt’>Proven Tips for Publishing Success
). In
addition, he is editor of the Book Marketing Matters special-sales newsletter, and
creator of the Special-Sales Profit Center used by R. R. Bowker to sell other
publishers’ books. You can contact him via P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001;
800/562-4357; brianjud@bookmarketing.com; and www.bookmarketing.com.

 

 

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