Make Large Sales to Corporate Buyers
by Brian Jud
Selling books to corporate buyers is not simply a matter of identifying potential customers (corporations, associations, and schools, for instance) and then contacting them. It means mastering a different way of doing business. You are no longer acting as a book publisher and working to get people to place your books on their shelves for resale. You are now a creative marketing consultant working to convince buyers in selected companies to use your books to solve problems, introduce products, motivate employees, or educate students. In other words, your objective is to help them meet their objectives with your books.
For example, let’s imagine that you publish an edition of The Wizard of Oz and you’re approaching FTD about using it as a premium (i.e., an item given to the consumer as an incentive to purchase another product). The book, you assert, will increase the sale of flowers on Mother’s Day. The FTD buyer may need some convincing, so you explain that the FTD edition of the book will include a new page that says: “I love you, Mom, and appreciate all you’ve done for me since the day I was born. No matter where or how old I am, I always know there’s no place like home. Happy Mother’s Day.”
In this sale, as in other sales to corporate buyers, you would not be able to rely on a distributor. Instead, you would perform the distribution function. And the payment terms familiar to you would not apply. You’d need to negotiate pricing based on the quantity of books purchased and other considerations. Production methods could vary, depending on the form in which a purchaser wants your content (book, booklet, DVD). And you might have to hire salespeople, employ sales representatives, or train your existing team to sell in this new environment. You’re not in Kansas any more.
The rewards of this different way of doing business are sales of books in large quantities that are nonreturnable. Plus, once you succeed in closing the initial sale, repeat orders may create new revenue streams.
Ten Steps to Profitable Sales
It often takes a long time to make a big corporate sale, partly because the risks associated with making a bad decision are considerably higher in the corporate world than they are for bookstores that can return unsold stock. Here’s an overview of the steps involved in making large-quantity, nonreturnable sales to corporate buyers. Details will appear in upcoming issues of the Independent.
1. Search for prospects. Use the questions in “Ratchet Sales Up with the Right Questions” (June 2010) to identify prospective buyers. Simply asking yourself, “Who else could use the information in my book, and why is it important to them?” could lead you to marketing people, C-level executives, sales managers, HR managers, meeting planners, and other employees of corporations that could benefit by using your books. These are the primary job descriptions you should concentrate on when searching for names of people to contact.
2. Qualify and prioritize the prospects. Not all prospects are equal in their ability to purchase promotional products. Some may already have competitive titles; some may have no budget to buy items as premiums or for similar purposes; some may have concluded a promotional campaign so recently that another one won’t interest them. Figure out which are the best sales prospects at this time and concentrate on them.
3. Discover your prospects’ buying criteria and campaign objectives. Arrange an initial meeting with each top prospect to discuss ways to implement the prospect’s marketing, promotional, motivational, or educational programs. You may meet several times to learn their criteria and plan how to proceed.
4. Identify solutions. You may have one or more titles that could meet the needs of any selected buyer. Go through your front- and backlist to find the books most appropriate for each. Also decide in what form your content should be delivered to best meet the needs of each buyer
5. Prepare a proposal. The proposal should be a written explanation of how your recommended solution will help the buyer reach stated objectives most cost-effectively. It is a formal description of the reasons a targeted organization will benefit by accepting your recommendation.
6. Make a presentation. This may be an informal presentation that you make during a one-on-one meeting with your initial contact, or it may be a formal presentation for other decision makers and influencers. The larger the order, the more likely it is that more people, and more highly placed people, will be involved.
7. Expedite your prospect’s due diligence. Depending on the size of the investment required to purchase your books, a potential corporate buyer may need to investigate the impact on employees, sales, brand image, competitive position, customers, suppliers, salespeople, purchasing policies, warehousing procedures, previous promotions, marketing plans, budgets, and/or short-term and long-term business plans. To keep the process moving ahead, provide additional information promptly when asked.
8. Do a follow-up presentation. Depending on the results of the prospect’s due diligence and the size of the order, you may have to return to meet with more people who can influence the decision. Follow-up presentations tend to be more formal. At this point, you may encounter delays stemming from new information that is revealed, budgets that are being changed, or personnel who are moving. Sometimes you have to start over, and sometimes the deal gets blown.
9. Negotiate. Even when no serious or fatal snags occur, it’s unlikely that your initial proposal will be accepted without modification. Both parties will need to negotiate in good faith to get the best deal for their sides. Remain confident and professional, but know when it is your best interest to walk away from the deal.
10. Close the sale; service and maintain the business. Do not try to make sales. Try to create customers. Building long-term relationships results in recurring revenue. Once the order is placed, track it closely to make sure the right books are shipped at the right time in the right quantity.
Throughout this 10-step process, it will pay to remember that your buyers’ careers could be at stake if they make poor decisions. That’s why they want to make sure every foreseeable event is considered.
These are the general steps required to make a large-quantity sale. Small orders take less time and effort, but you should still cover all the bases. Use this sequence as a general guideline, leading you down the yellow-brick road to more profitable, recurring sales to corporate buyers
Brian Jud, the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books, now offers commission-only sales of nonfiction, fiction, children’s titles, and remainders to buyers in special markets. For more information: P. O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 860/675-1344; fax 860/270-0343; firstname.lastname@example.org; or premiumbookcompany.com.