This is the first article in a series.
Corporate executives can purchase your books in large, non-returnable quantities. However, the process to convince them to buy is not short, nor is it easy. These people are spending their company’s money, so they must justify their decisions to those higher up the organizational ladder. The decision makers negotiate with you to get the best deal and to confirm they know the answers to the right questions. Much of your sales success will be the result of making the buyers feel they are making the best decision.
Most publishers are not skilled negotiators, and may feel at a disadvantage when dealing with a person trained is salesmanship. Yet in most cases, a sale may be more likely if you know how to recognize and avoid the situations that could automatically disqualify you as a sales professional. In a series of six blog postings I will discuss each of the top negotiating traps in which you could unknowingly find yourself.
Trap #1: Neglecting the other person's problems
Corporate buyers want to solve their problems, not yours. As a publisher/consultant, your job is to show them how they can use your content to improve their circumstances in some way. For a marketing director this could be increased sales, revenue or profits. An HR manager may seek a better trained, informed or motivated workforce. Focus on minimizing their troubles as a means to solving your own.
Begin by understanding your counterparts’ interests and shape the decision so your prospects agree to the sale for their own reasons. Your objective is to create sustainable value without being perceived as being manipulative.
How can you discover their problems? Ask questions about their objectives. What do they want to accomplish with a promotional campaign? What went right (or wrong) with their previous promotional campaigns? Find out what problems they want to avoid. One question that can elicit that information is, “If you could wave your magic wand, how would you describe the ultimate sales promotion?”
Another technique requires a little preliminary commentary. Summarize as if you are leading up to a closing question. List all the points to which you have agreed so far. You may be able to feel the tension build as your prospect thinks a decision is imminent. But you feint with a different question, eliminating the tension and getting the relieved prospect to open up. Say something like, “Let’s suppose we agree to begin the campaign today. Now place yourself a year from today as you look back over the campaign. What would it have accomplished? What would make you glad that you agreed to begin today?”
This is not being manipulative. You are not trying to get your prospects to do something against their better judgment. You are trying to get a better understanding of what the other party really wants, and how you can help them get it. Asking questions is usually the least threatening way to do that. If you want to change a person's mind, first know where that mind is, where it wants to be and how you can help it get there.
Brian Jud is a book-marketing consultant, 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