How to Maintain, Grow, and Protect Your Business with a New Special-Sales Customer
by Brian Jud
Imagine that you have implemented the special-sales campaign described in the earlier installments of this series of articles. You have taken the proper steps in the prescribed order, and now the prospect signs on the dotted line and becomes a customer (for guidance on taking those steps, see “Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers,” “How to Find Potential Buyers in Special Markets,” “Preparing for a Sales Presentation,” “How to Make a Persuasive Sales Presentation,” and “Negotiating the Sale”—all available via “Independent Articles” on the home page at ibpa-online.org).
Don’t let the euphoria of knowing you will receive tens of thousands of dollars blind you to the final step you need to take.
Your objective can’t be met simply by getting the order; you have to make sure that the sale is implemented flawlessly. Competent post-sale service makes for a satisfying experience, leading to recurring revenue. A mutually profitable, long-term relationship is more likely to develop if you maintain, grow, and protect your new business relationship.
Maintaining the Business
An order for any product seems to take on a life of its own. Sometimes things go smoothly; sometimes Murphy’s Law kicks in. Reduce the likelihood of problems by monitoring the fulfillment process. Here are some things you can do to help lubricate it.
• Send a summary letter to the buyer that describes everything to which you agreed and notes who is responsible for each action at various points. Get agreement on any changes and put them in writing.
• Define metrics (measurable goals, dates, commitments). Periodically track the progress of the order and the campaign, staying on top of each step in the production process (design changes, printing) and making certain the correct books (high quality, customized as agreed) are shipped at the right time in the right quantity.
• Keep tabs on your suppliers to ensure that they are abiding by their schedules and promises.
• Communicate regularly with your buyer. People would rather have bad news than no news at all. Inform the buyer quickly of any delays or snags.
Growing the Business
If you maintain your new business relationship properly and the promotional campaign meets expectations, you will have proven that you are a true consultant, someone who works with the customer to reach its goals and not just another vendor.
Once your buyer has confidence in you, it’s time to expand the relationship through new orders. Take the initiative.
• Ask the buyer to place a new order for your title. Since the book performed as expected, perhaps the company will use it again in another campaign.
• Introduce other appropriate titles in your product line. Or offer to produce other books or products that meet this buyer’s needs.
• Ask for referrals to use within the company. A large business may have multiple divisions. An endorsement by your buyer may help you persuade someone in another division to buy your book too.
• Ask for referrals to use outside the company. Your buyers may be glad to give you names of people to contact at firms with which their companies do business.
• Continue functioning as a consultant. Help your buyer come up with new ideas for other campaigns. Meet with your corporate contacts and run a brainstorming session.
• Tell the buyer about other publishers’ complementary titles. Let’s say you sold your book as a tool to motivate employees of a large corporation, and now you recognize that there are multiple generations of employees (Boomers, Gen X and Gen Y). If your book’s content is applicable to only one of these, consider suggesting titles relevant to the others. Arrange the sale for their publishers and take a percentage for your efforts.
• Suggest complementary products you might provide. Using the example above, you might offer to write new content for the employees in the other generations, possibly to be delivered in a new form, such as a booklet, for easy use.
Protecting the Business
Customers can be capricious. If you do not take care of them, they may choose a competitive product for the next promotional campaign. You can’t guarantee that nothing will go wrong, but you can minimize negative impact by recognizing and rectifying problems quickly.
Here are some warning signs to watch for.
Persistent problems with the order. Print runs can be delayed. Pages can be missing. A strike can prevent an on-time delivery. Tell your buyer about such problems as soon as possible, and recommend responses.
Cutbacks on the order. For example, suppose your buyer placed an order for a year’s worth of books to be delivered in quarterly shipments. If the buyer then decides to postpone a shipment, that could be a warning that something is amiss. Talk with your corporate counterpart.
Repeated comments about the merits of your competition. If you hear comments like, “I wish we had checked out that other book more carefully,” a problem is almost certainly brewing. Ask questions until you understand what it is, and then deal with it.
An increase in complaints. A stated grievance can have a positive effect if airing it leads to its resolution. But if the frequency of complaints increases, they may signal the demise of your relationship.
A decrease in rapport. If you stop getting responses to your email and voicemail messages, schedule a personal meeting with your buyer to uncover problems, clear the air, and fix what’s wrong.
New personnel. If your contact is removed from the project—through promotion or transfer or for any other reason—quickly meet with the replacement. Review the decision process so that the new person knows, understands, and buys into each piece of the promotional program. Establish a new relationship that will lead to repeat orders.
Making large-quantity, profitable, nonreturnable sales with recurring revenue requires going through all the steps discussed in the series that concludes here.
The process of making these sales and keeping the customers can be labor intensive and time consuming, but it is entirely doable and sometimes even fun. Relatively few publishers are willing to do what it takes. Will you be one of those who will make a sale happen?
Brian Jud is the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and 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; firstname.lastname@example.org; or premiumbookcompany.com.