Make Corporate Sales by Solving Prospects’ Problems
by Brian Jud
The Golden Rule states that we should treat people as we want to be treated. In the world of selling, the Golden Rule is replaced by the Platinum Rule, which says we should treat people as they want to be treated. How do you know how your special sales prospects want to be treated? You ask them.
This is the third step in the process of selling books to corporate buyers: Discover your prospects’ buying criteria and campaign objectives. (For an overview of all the steps and detailed guidance about the second, see “Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers,” which appeared in the September issue, and “How to Find Potential Buyers in Special Markets,” which appeared in October.)
Marketing managers in businesses of all sorts and sizes use promotional items—including books—as tools for solving problems. They might see a book as a means of stimulating sales, revenue, or profits. Or they might see a book as an incentive that can help a company introduce a new product or enter a new market. Similarly, line managers in a wide variety of businesses might use a book to motivate or educate employees.
The point is that before you can sell your books in large quantities to these managers, you have to find out what problems they want to solve.
Just as doctors ask their patients questions so they can identify the source of suffering before prescribing a cure, you need to ask questions before recommending a book to a prospective corporate buyer.
Arrange a meeting, in person or over the telephone, with each qualified potential customer to get information that will provide fodder for your proposal. You might begin by saying, “I’m not sure if I can help you, but if I may ask you a few questions, we can find out.”
Then ask questions such as:
• In your last promotion, what went right? What went wrong?
• If you could wave your magic wand, what would you accomplish?
• How would you describe the perfect sales promotion?
• If we were to start a promotional campaign today and look back a year from now,
what would you want to have accomplished?
Potential customers are generally willing to spend time discussing issues of this sort with someone who seems likely to help them. Most corporate marketing people understand the benefits of brainstorming as a way of generating ideas for future promotions. And as you demonstrate that you are concerned with meeting their goals, they will be increasingly confident that you will make an objective recommendation that will work to their benefit.
Your initial contact person will be your advocate in your absence, so it is important for you to establish a good working relationship based on trust from the beginning.
Keep Your Eye on Objectives
Once you have agreed on a clear and precise objective, you can recommend the best way to achieve it, using your book as the centerpiece. Here are examples of the most common goals for corporate promotional campaigns and ways books can be used to achieve them.
The company’s goal: Keep customers loyal. Marketing managers know that it is less expensive and more profitable to retain an existing customer than it is to attract a new one. Especially when your prospective buyer is an insurance company, a real estate company, a doctors’ practice group, or some other business whose customers typically use only one supplier, it makes sense to recommend a promotional program for creating loyalty among customers with an appropriate book.
Doctors in a group treating people with diabetes might retain patients by giving them a cookbook featuring delicious recipes for diabetics.
Real estate agents might keep clients loyal by giving them a book such as About the House or Designing Your Perfect House.
Car insurance companies—or their individual agents—might profit by giving a book called Licensed to Drive to parents of new teenaged drivers, or by promoting it as a giveaway through high school drivers’ education programs.
The company’s goal: Stimulate additional purchases. Many companies sell products and services that consumers frequently buy in small amounts from more than one seller (think of groceries and gasoline). Managers at these companies are usually interested in winning a greater “share of wallet” by giving people a reason to purchase more of their products instead of products from their competitors.
To gain wallet share, a small chain of toy stores might offer a punch-card program, with every $25 spent earning one punch on the card and four punches entitling the customer to a copy of a book in a display featuring your titles.
The company’s goal: Generate goodwill. A book as a promotional item can build goodwill for a company, which may in turn build the company’s sales and value. To be specific, a local family-style restaurant might generate goodwill by giving children’s books to students in local grade schools who earn top grades, and by including a personal congratulatory note in each copy along with discount coupons for use in the restaurant
The company’s goal: Inform, reward, or motivate employees. A human resources manager might decide to use a book to help employees create a safer working environment, to reward them for some achievement, or to influence their behavior.
Suppose, for instance, that your prospect is interested in promoting a healthier lifestyle among employees and that you publish books on that topic. You might propose an educational continuity program, to be conducted over three months. During the first month, the company could distribute your book about the health benefits of walking to its employees. In month two, the company could provide a cookbook from some other publisher that shows busy people how to prepare healthy meals quickly and how to eat when time is limited. The disbursement in month three might provide a journal from yet another publisher for each participant, along with a pedometer.
After all, you are a problem solver. You may not publish cookbooks or journals. But you could probably find some that would work in your continuity program, contact the publishers, get them to participate in the program, and pay you a commission. If you need a source for promotional items such as a pedometer, contact Guy Achtzehn at Guy@msgpromo.com.
Next Step: Preparing the Presentation
The more you know about what a prospective buyer is trying to accomplish, the more likely you are to propose a solution using your book that the buyer will find appealing. Once you have asked questions that uncover needs, established buying criteria, and set objectives, you will need to create a proposal to present your recommendations. This is the fourth step in the process of selling to corporate buyers, and my next article will cover it.
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 via Twitter.com/bookmarketing.