Negotiating a large, non-returnable sale of your books to a corporate buyer can be a euphoric event. As you leave the premises you may celebrate with large smiles and high-fives. Unseen and unforeseen by many publishers are the various post-sale emotions experienced by the buyers, especially if this is their first time dealing with you. Their feelings may range from comfort and positive expectation to uneasiness, wariness, disappointment or regret.
Experienced salespeople know that the sale is not over when they get the signature on the dotted line, but when the buyer reorders. There is still much to do to manage delivery of the books, making sure they are customized, printed and shipped as requested – on budget and on time. Publishers who get it understand that they can only generate repeat orders, recurring revenue and referrals from satisfied customers.
Most corporate buyers make a purchase decision after careful consideration and due diligence. They typically have positive feelings because they feel they made a wise decision and trust that you will perform as promised.
However, a little give and take is mandatory to reach a win-win conclusion for a sale of tens of thousands of your books. Typical negotiations conclude with each side having achieved a satisfactory combination – but probably not all – of its gambits. As the ink of the signature on the agreement dries, your customers look back on their purchase with different degrees of either positive or negative feelings. If buyers think they have given more than they have taken they are more likely to experience negative emotions. They may begin to wonder if you really can deliver on your promises. An unsettling feeling of “buyer’s remorse” may take hold depending on the size of the order.
As they dwell on the outcome, the negative emotions these buyers are most likely to sense are disappointment or regret. If not recognized and eliminated these can have an adverse impact on your future relationship, and your chances for future revenue are diminished.
Disappointment can be a strong emotion, perhaps even stronger than anger. Think back to a time when a colleague or spouse said, “I’m very disappointed in you” instead of “I’m very angry with you.” The former can have a more telling effect, forcing people to reconsider their positions. What causes buyers to become disappointed in or after a negotiation? It may arise if individuals feel they may have been duped.
Another source may be the speed with which the deal occurred. Buyers may wonder if you tried to put something over on them, or if they might have chosen a different tack if given more time. You can diminish the likelihood of disappointment if you proceed slowly, asking questions frequently to give them a chance to reveal their positions and voice questions or objections.
Regret is related to – but a little more active than – disappointment. Negotiators feeling remorse dissect the course of action that lead to an unhappy outcome. They focus on the missteps – real or perceived – that created their disappointment. They tend to regret the actions they didn’t take, the missed opportunities that may have benefited them if they were seized.
Handling disappointment and regret
One way to reduce these negative emotions is to enter a bargaining session without a prepared script, allowing the process take its own path. If you work as a team, asking questions and brainstorming alternatives, both sides feel as if they are an integral part of the solution.
Another technique is to reassure the buyer that you will track the details of the agreement. An order for any product seems to take on a life of its own. Some go smoothly while others try to confirm Murphy’s Law. Reduce the likelihood of problems by following the order through the process to see that it flows smoothly. Once the order is placed, make certain the correct books (high quality, customized as agreed) are shipped at the right time in the right quantity. Here are some things you can do to help lubricate the order’s progress and confirm the buyer’s positive feelings:
• Send a summary letter describing all the pieces of the puzzle to which you agreed. Everyone should concur with who is responsible for each action at various touch points. Get agreement on any changes and put them in writing.
• Define metrics (measurable goals, dates, commitments). Meet periodically to track and review the progress of the order and the campaign.
• Track the order as it works its way through the production process (design changes, printing, shipping, delivery). Keep tabs on your suppliers to make sure they abide by their schedules and promises. Communicate with your buyers regularly – people would rather have bad news than no news at all. Inform them quickly of any delays or snags.
The process for making a sale and keeping the customer satisfied can seem laborious and time consuming. But if you want to make additional large-quantity, profitable, non-returnable sales with recurring revenue from your customers, then you have to manage the post-sale emotions. The results can have an enormous impact on your long-term revenue. It is not difficult, but too few people are willing to do what it takes. Will you be one of those who will make it happen?
Brian Jud was the Vice President of Marketing for a Fortune 250 company before becoming a book-marketing consultant. He is currently the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books and Beyond the Bookstore. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing