Four Vital Ways to Improve Your Success in Book Sales

By Tony Wales

During my 40-plus years in publishing, I learned that these four principles were always the key to successful sales. If I forgot even one of them, failure followed. These principles are rooted in Christian love for God and love for my neighbor.

The first principle for successful selling is PREPARATION. When we offer our customers a book, we often ignore the need for proper knowledge of our product. Prepare yourself with these key points:

Photo courtesy khunaspix, Freedigitalphotos
Photo courtesy khunaspix, Freedigitalphotos

The author – Who is she? Does her background, her work or her church provide an opportunity for you to sell her book? What are her qualifications for writing? Has she published other books? Find out all you can and carry an author information sheet.  These details give proper respect for our authors and help build their profile, a key aspect of all successful publishing.

The content of the book – Gain sufficient familiarity with the text in order to answer any customer questions. Bring a complete outline of contents, sample text or the complete text, and a cover of the book. These items will increase your confidence before and during customer meetings. If you do not prepare, you will usually be lost for words!

The costs of the book –Be clear ahead of time what financial terms you are able to offer the customer. For example, what is the normal discount they require and what can you offer on a bulk purchase?

Customer background – Have they bought from you before? If so, on what terms?  Look up previous customer records, invoices, etc. If you lack such records, start keeping them. They will be invaluable to your publishing house. If the customer ordered from you before, what sort of books did they buy and when? This will help enable you to inquire how those books sold and what books they are looking for now.

Make a definite appointment whenever possible –Ensure that you and your customer have an agreed time and place to meet. Otherwise, you can waste a lot of your time and theirs!

Arrive 10 minutes early – Use your extra time to observe the shop, church or office, and assess local needs before you see the customer. You may meet another staff member and pick up some useful information. This preparation can often be a valuable part of the learning process before you have even met the customer.

In summary, the more you understand your authors and books, and the more you know of your customer’s history and requirements, the more you will be able to successfully match your books to their needs. This is the first step to successful selling.

Next time, we will look at another great principle of selling:
“Selling the Benefits Rather Than the Features of Our Books.”

 Tony Wales is a board member and trainer for MAI based in the UK.

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