Significant new marketing opportunities have been opened up by the development of order-entry computer programs that let publishers interact personally with customers while transactions are being processed. Of course, actually questioning customers helps publishers track sources of sales more precisely and that, in turn, helps them adjust their marketing plans for better results.
But suggesting appropriate additional or follow-up purchases to buyers may be an even more important new opportunity. In 1999, the publishers participating in the Huenefeld Consultants’ annual survey received 37% of their orders by phone, on the average. This means that with more than a third of their purchasers, the publishers’ order-takers got to talk back–with questions or diplomatic suggestions.
Sometimes there’s resistance to this sort of intrusion into order-taking. It comes not from customers, but from order-entry personnel so thoroughly committed to the customers’ perspective that they resist being asked to try to sell anything a customer doesn’t actually ask for. However, people who take orders at any well-organized publishing company should be able to handle all kinds of customer interactions.
There are ways to avoid irritating callers and to not transfer them from phone to phone in search of information. Whoever answers the phones to take orders (probably entering the information into the computer as they talk) should also answer questions directly–or go “off-line” to have invoices checked, returns authorized, accounts adjusted, or shipments traced, and then themselves report the results back to the customer. In most cases, the person on the phone is’,’e voice of the publishing house, as far as the customer or inquirer is concerned.
All these transactions provide a number of opportunities to increase sales by telling customers about additional books relevant to needs or interests revealed by the books they’ve already ordered. These attempts to increase sales as a result of the customer’s initial contact are known as reactive selling–in contrast to the proactive selling accomplished by salespeople (field reps and telemarketers) acting on their own initiative.
To multiply your sales, you can use one, two, or all three primary types of reactive selling.
This term is used to describe efforts that (gently) encourage someone who’s just bought one book to buy another–or several more.
The additional purchase(s) automatically suggested to all callers might be more material that relates to the book initially ordered, or a better (more recent, more comprehensive, etc.) treatment of the subject. Additional purchases might also be encouraged by an offer of a discount (on additional copies for the buyer’s colleagues or on a prepublication purchase of your next relevant title).
Opportunities for up-selling should be catalogued in brainstorming sessions. Potential up-sell occasions should be listed (“new bookstore accounts,” “consumers who buy So-and-So’s Handbook,”“all clergy who call,” etc.) on a read-at-a-glance reference sheet posted near each phone for quick and automatic consultation. And the identified occasions should be accompanied by a set of scripts that present each up-sell offer as comfortably, completely, and quickly as feasible to minimize the possibility that a caller will hang up.
Good up-sell scripts can be delivered in about 30 seconds and require only that the listener respond “Yes” (“Yes, I’d like to order that,” “Yes, I’d like to hear more,” etc.) or “No.” Anyone who will be using these scripts should be firmly trained to “Take ‘No’ for an answer”–i.e., to not argue with customers who show any sign of resistance. The up-sell script should be delivered as a favor to the customer–not an imposition.
Properly timed up-sell scripts are a particularly good way to offer products in other media by phone–and also by fax or mail–to customers who’ve revealed particular needs or interests through personal book purchases. Author workshops, videocassettes, and other spin-offs are likely to have strong appeal to readers who’ve just discovered a writer. But be careful not to suggest alternates (such as audiocassettes) that cost less than the initial purchase, because doing that may persuade the buyer to switch to the less expensive product.
To tie up-sell messages into mail, fax, or other orders, you can insert a personally signed letter with the initial shipment. The letter should offer to “take care” of an add-on order for related books or copies of this book for colleagues, or to handle an order with a special-discount (on a forthcoming new title, etc.) if the customer simply calls a designated phone number.
When you fulfill any single-copy “special order” from a bookstore, you can also insert a personalized letter. This one should explain that while you give no discount on one-book orders, you’d be willing to reprocess the invoice for the special-order book (which you have shipped) to combine it with an order for four copies of your current bestseller (“sure to move fast if prominently displayed”), which would give the store your 40% five-book discount on both the initial and the subsequent shipments. If your add-on titles are good ones and you apply this up-sell tactic consistently, you may turn some of those pesky special-order buyers into new bulk-purchasing accounts.
The term “cross-sell” refers to a persistent means of using outgoing packages, handouts at meetings, support materials for field advocates (such as authors), or insertions in other people’s communication packages (such as membership circulars or new-member greetings of a parent organization, or shipments from related-interest manufacturers) to carry descriptions of appropriate books to an audience that has already indicated (by its purchase or attendance) a distinct interest in the subject matter.
A systematic cross-sell program involves accumulating a small library of “related book” presentations–all titled or coded for easy identification–for every conceivable opportunity for extensive free distribution. These should be available at all author appearances. Moreover, you should offer authors inexpensive flyers about their own books and related books for insertion in their correspondence, association newsletters, etc., and you should annotate packing slips to tell shippers which cross-sell presentations to put in each outgoing bag or box.
Cross-sell campaigns are normally so low-key that no assertive follow-up contact is appropriate. Since they usually cost nothing except printing expenses for the promotional presentations, very modest responses can generate very profitable revenue.
To re-sell, you make appropriate notes–or do appropriate research–to identify specific customer purchases that logically suggest additional purchases later. Re-selling might include personalized reminders to buyers of a specific book whenever you issue a significantly revised edition, personalized notices to buyers of a given author’s work when you publish that author’s next book, or follow-up queries about the results of modest trial displays of certain titles by bookstores.
Because re-sell efforts are always made some time after a customer’s initial contact, it is probably a good idea to precede each phone call with a personalized letter reminding the customer of the past contact and promising to call soon about the new offer.
A Stellar Use of Marketing Money
To encourage conscientious and enthusiastic up-sell, cross-sell, and re-sell, some publishers track and publicize results for the individuals who are doing the selling. All this requires is the use of a special source-of-sales code when entering orders caused by reactive sales activities–identifying not only the tactic but also the responsible person. That simple statistic will constitute more recognition than most of these “voices of the publishing company” ever get for their contribution to the marketing program.
In fact, since the add-on costs of up-sell, cross-sell, and re-sell programs are so much less than the potential add-on revenue, this tracking will often identify their efforts as the most profitable single use of marketing money.
John Huenefeld is a management consultant and confidential advisor to some 400 publishers. This article is adapted from the completely rewritten sixth edition of his “Huenefeld Guide to Book Publishing.” For detailed information about the Guide, send a stamped, self-addressed envelope to The Huenefeld Co., Box 665, Bedford, MA 01730. To order (shipping prepaid) for $42, call 781/275-1070 with a VISA or MasterCard in hand.