By Tony Wales
This is the final article in a four-part series to help publishers succeed in selling their books.
In my first three articles, we have looked at 1) Preparation, 2) Presentation and 3) Getting the Order. Without another part of the sales process, we may lose all the ground we have made thus far. Following Up is vital if we are to build on all the work we have done. Here are some key disciplines all sales people need to have.
1. Perhaps the most important single tool that every sales person can and should develop is THE CUSTOMER SALES REPORT.
This is a written record of the sales calls you make. It can be developed as an electronic file or spreadsheet. Or it can be a paper version. Whichever way you choose, it will record the details of each customer with:
– Who their main contact and/or decision maker is.
– Their credit limit (how much you can allow them to order) and credit terms (the discount and payment terms).
All these will be at the head of the page below which will be a record of the following:
– Date, place of meeting and who was there.
– What was ordered (record as much detail as possible, including any comments on why they may or may not have bought certain titles.) This will be vital information for all future contacts with this customer.
– You may pick up general information in the meeting such as comments about the market, the parent organization of the publisher, or particular personal information such as someone’s illness, or the fact that they are getting married (will that affect who you see next time?) and so on.
– Keep your ears open for any clues as to how the customer is doing. Prepare some sensitive questions such as ‘Is the business doing better this year?’ This may affect the relationship you are trying to build with them.
Whatever you learn during the visit, make sure to record on your CUSTOMER SALES REPORT. You may not be the next person from your organization to meet them. If so, your record will be vital. And, as you build up this record, it will be critical not only to you but to anyone else from your organization who deals with this customer in the future.
Every publisher can and should develop and constantly maintain a set of customer records. They need to be kept in a place which others in your organization can also refer to though you, as the sales person have the responsibility to keep it up to date.
2. Don’t forget to record the latest contact details of your customer while you are still with them. There’s no time like the present. Find time as soon as possible after your meeting to add any further details to your CUSTOMER SALES REPORT. Build time into that day, or at latest the following day, while your memory is still fresh.
3. Following up also means that after meeting your customer, put a date in your own diary, planner or calendar to call them or send an e-mail. At the very least, this will simply thank them for the meeting and assure them that the order they placed is now being processed. You can also take the opportunity to confirm any details—such as the delivery date or publication dates they may have asked for.
4. Sometimes you may have to follow up with further material such as samples of the books you were unable to show them at the meeting. Or send advance material such as information sheets or covers of new unpublished titles, and so prepare the way for future business. In any case, send your new catalog or other advance information when it is available. Make sure you add them to your regular mailing list.
5. Have a regular review of this particular customer. I used to have a pending system consisting of a folder for every day of the month. I would then put a reminder (perhaps with a copy of the customer’s order or other reminders of my visit – often with a scribbled note of any necessary detail) and select a date the following month to refresh my mind of what needs to be done next. I found this invaluable not only to prompt me to act but also to renew my memory. This became more important with every additional customer. I would daily review what I had previously put in the file for that day of the month and take any action required.
The key with all this is to take all possible steps to stay in touch with your customers. FOLLOWING UP will repay your efforts many times over and, even if it takes time and many follow-up calls, e-mails or other mailings, it will lead to increasing sales. It will also lead to better understanding of your market. Additionally, your publishing will benefit as you understand your customers better. Thus, FOLLOWING UP is vital not only for increased sales, but for the effectiveness of your whole publishing program.
May God bless you as you apply these proven principles.
If you have questions or contributions arising from these blogs, I would love to hear from you. Email [email protected]
Photos above courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos