Make Your Best Deal for Large-Quantity Orders
by Brian Jud
Price, discount, quantity, and timing of delivery are not standardized for sales of books in large quantities to buyers beyond the bookstore world. You have to negotiate and agree on terms. Buyers want to get the best deal for their companies, of course, and these buyers may be skilled at getting the maximum concessions from their suppliers. You, on the other hand, want to sell the largest quantity of books at the highest possible price while paving the way for future orders.
Many negotiations go awry because each party makes incorrect assumptions about the other’s motivation, and then acts on those assumptions instead of exploring other options. To avoid that mistake, negotiate as if you are a crime-scene detective: ask questions to uncover the buyer’s ultimate objective and criteria for reaching it.
Six guidelines can help you do this.
Do not just discuss what your counterparts want; find out why they want certain things and why they do not want others. Let’s say, for example, that you are negotiating a large-quantity sale with a buyer for a company interested in using your book as a premium to increase its sales. You have agreed on a price that is satisfactory to both parties, but the buyer is still balking at signing the agreement. Find the problem by asking a series of questions.
Begin by enumerating areas of agreement. “We’ve agreed that using this book as a premium can help your company increase sales significantly. Correct? And we’ve agreed that the price is fair, right? Is it accurate to say that the shipping charges are acceptable, and the delivery date coincides with the promotional blitz you intend to conduct? Then what is it that is keeping us from agreeing to this proposal today?”
Here, the prospect might say, “Yes, all that is correct. But my budget is shot. I can’t spend any more money until next quarter.”
You could reply, “You mean that if we can delay payment of the books and the shipping charges until next quarter, you will OK the agreement today?”
If the buyer says “Yes,” you have the order, and you can then arrange one of several solutions to the problem, having identified it as timing. Alternatives may include delayed billing from your printer, presenting an invoice today that is dated next quarter, and accepting a postdated check, along with any other mutually agreeable solutions that will get your books into the company’s hands.
Adjust the price to compensate for your “trouble,” perhaps by adding the amount your printer will charge you for extended billing. Or, add a bonus of X percent of sales if the company’s sales exceed the forecast by a specified amount, or something else that increases your revenue by making the concession.
Combine resources to solve the problem. Two key issues in most negotiations are price and delivery date. Once you have agreed on them, you may note anxiety on the customer’s face. Ask what is wrong. If you probe, you may discover that the company will miss an important promotion period and lose significant revenue if delivery is delayed. And what’s more, the buyer will be blamed.
Congratulations. Now that you have the hidden objection on the table, you can begin to create a solution. You know that you can most likely have the books printed and delivered in three months. But that is not good enough. You could ask the buyer if the company has discounted shipping agreements with trucking firms. If the answer is yes, suggest that they pay for shipping with their trucker with guaranteed delivery in less than three months. (For suggestions about what to do if the answer is no, keep reading.)
You may be better off in several ways. In most cases the buyer will not ask for a reduction in price, since what the company will pay for shipping is probably less than what it would lose if the books were not delivered on time. If the buyer does ask for a price reduction, you can bring up that fact. Ideally, there will be no price change, with the result that you make more money since you are no longer paying for shipping. Also, you have eliminated the problem that was worrying your contact, making it more likely that the buyer will give you more business in the future. And, as a bonus, you are no longer responsible for glitches in shipping.
Interpret demands as opportunities. What if your prospect does not have appropriate arrangements with a trucking firm? How can you still reach a win–win conclusion? You might offer to pay a penalty if the books are delivered late. That would probably catch them off guard and make them feel as if you really want to work with them. While your contact is still pondering your proposal, add that you also want a bonus if the books are delivered early.
Create common ground. What if the buyer remains adamant about delivery in no more than three months, noting that the penalty would not compensate for the potential loss? Try another tactic. Ask if all the books must be delivered on that date; you may be able to guarantee a partial shipment before then, perhaps with a bonus for a compete delivery.
Continue to probe even after the deal is lost. Follow up by asking why you did not get an order. In a bidding situation, you may have offered the lowest price but failed to mention some needed service or feature. Always ask for constructive feedback by saying something like, “What would it have taken for us to reach agreement?” It might be something you can provide such as content in another form, returns privileges, or a larger discount.
For example, let’s say you have content that a company wanted to use in its training workshops, but your book is perfect-bound and won’t lie flat on the tables during classes. Make a revised offer of books produced with a wire or comb binding that would lie flat.
Be patient. It takes time for negotiations to be fruitful, perhaps six months or more, because the purchasing process in large companies can be ponderous. Work with your buyers to set up a timeline, and then help them abide by it. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said (in another context), “The game requires coolness, right reasoning, promptness and patience in the players.”
Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant and the author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books (November 2008) and Beyond the Bookstore (a Publishers Weekly book). You can contact him via P.O. Box 715, Avon, CT 06001; 800/562-4357; firstname.lastname@example.org; or bookmarketing.com.