When you sell a few hundred books to a prospective customer, the decision is usually made quickly, by one or two people. You might close the sale with a handshake and purchase order after a few meetings. But the process changes when you propose the sale of tens of thousands of your books to corporate buyers. These decisions are scrutinized at higher levels since the results can make or break careers.
Typically, large-quantity book sales are rarely made on a unilateral basis. In most cases, the decision authority lies with a committee, the members of which have different roles. These people may be from sales, marketing, purchasing, warehousing, legal and Human Resources. You, as the salesperson for your book, must build consensus among these diverse perspectives to close the sale. How can you do this? Here are a few techniques.
Meet varying needs collectively
Conventional selling techniques entailed a message customized to the specific needs of the primary decision maker. But when making your pitch to several people with narrow, sometimes divergent needs, it becomes difficult to tailor your message without causing confusion. The implication for you is to more effectively connect the individuals to one another.
For example, sales managers may want a variety of customized products to meet the needs of different customers. Purchasing want more similarity among products to minimize the acquisition cost. Your task is to demonstrate that with modern printing technology customized – even individualized – books can be mass-produced economically.
Get involved early in the decision process
There are three general phases in the decision-making process for a large sale: problem definition, solution identification and supplier selection. If you can help define the problem, you may be able to control the other two stages.
Let’s say you are the publisher of a line of pet-care books. Logical potential customers would be manufacturers of pet food. You could call on those sales managers to find out how you might help them solve their problems. For example, they may want to increase the revenue from the sale of twenty-pound bags of dog food. Sales might be declining because of little product differentiation (problem identification). You could suggest that the manufacturer insert one of your dog-care books in each bag of dog food (solution identification). Since your complete and unique line of dog-care books gives them the greatest selection, you would become the supplier of choice.
Find an internal advocate.
You cannot always be there to answer the questions of the various people. If you can engage someone to champion your cause in your absence you are more likely to hold top-of-mind awareness throughout the decision process. However, you must address two challenges to effectively benefit from your internal advocate. The first is the willingness of people to support you, and the second is their ability to do so.
Your initial allies in the organizations may support you but not be willing to publicly campaign on your behalf. Careers can be at stake if they are perceived as backing the “wrong” supplier. Your task is to build confidence in you, that you are there for the long-term success of the relationship. Do not over commit and do everything you say you will do on time and on budget. Building this trust is perhaps the primary reason why large-quantity book sales can take years to consummate.
Also, find an advocate high enough on the organization chart to impact the decision. Get the attention of these people by correctly using terminology such as superior features and customer benefits, positive business outcomes, exit strategies and return on investment.
Greater access to information and product selection is causing a significant change in how large sales are made. It is incumbent upon the publisher/salesperson to manage the progression of corporate decision making, and the personalities of multiple corporate decision makers. Once you understand the “hows and whys” of the purchasing process you can build consensus among the various decision influencers and close more large and profitable sales of your books.
Brian Jud is the Executive Director of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales (APSS – www.bookapss.org– formerly SPAN) and author of How to Make Real Money Selling Books. Contact Brian at firstname.lastname@example.org or www.premiumbookcompany.com and twitter @bookmarketing