Getting the Order (part 3 in bookselling success for publishers)

By Tony Wales

This is the third article in a four-part series to help publishers succeed in selling their books. The first key is preparation and the second key is selling the benefits of your publication. See the respective articles, “Four Vital Ways to Improve Your Success in Bookselling” and “Selling the Benefits“. 

Once you have presented your publication to a prospective customer, there are several ways to ensure you get the order.

1. Ask for it!
If you don’t actually ask, all that preparation and the efforts you’ve made tomulti-ethnic-biz-meeting-fr understand your customer’s needs and present your publication will be wasted. So be prepared to simply ask them for the order.  However, here are few helpful tips:

-  Train yourself not to ask in a way that demands a “yes” or “no” answer. An unhelpful example would be something like this: “Do you wish to buy some copies of this book?” This makes it too easy for them to answer “no.” Instead ask in a way that will allow them to engage more fully with the decision to buy.

For example: “How many copies of this book would you like to order today?” or “Would you like to start with two or three copies of this book, or would you prefer to get the extra discount for an order of 10 copies?” or “If you order today, would you like to add some copies for that pastors conference being held next month?” All of these types of approach imply that they will be making a positive decision to buy.

- Think ahead how you might present your request for the order. And keep your ears open for the sort of information in that last question; that is, the pastors conference opportunity. You may have discovered about the pastors conference in your preparation, or seen it in the window of the shop when you arrived for the sales meeting or during the conversation with your customer! To be alert in these ways is to find ways to increase your sales.

2.  Record the order then and there
If you don’t already have one, it is important to have an order form ready for all sales occasions. It is a document you can take to all sales occasions whether to shops, churches, conferences or other opportunities. It should always be available to you and your staff in the office so that orders from visitors or from phone calls can be taken immediately. The order form should include the following information:

- The name and logo of your organization including your full address, phone, e-mail or other contact information.

- A box to allow you to record the name and full address of your customer and the date of the order

- A complete list of all the titles you currently publish. This is normally in alphabetical order of title or series (if it’s a series, the titles in the series are usually listed alphabetically within that section or, in the case of a Bible commentary series, in Biblical order). The important thing is that the information is clear to you and your customer. Make it as easy to use as you would want for yourself.

- Each title should be accompanied by the author’s name, the ISBN number and the regular retail price. It is also worth indicating if the book is paperback or hardback or other special bindings. This is often needed for hymn books or Bibles or other titles where each binding style should be recorded as a separate line on the order form.

- Allow enough space before each title for the quantity to be written in as you take the order.

3.  Make two copies of the order (one for you and one for the customer)
- Do this while you are with the customer so that she or he witnesses the recording of this information

- Ask the customer to sign and date both copies of the order. This will protect you and them against any future error or misunderstanding.

Businessmen-shaking-hands4. Make a date for the next meeting
- Don’t forget that what you have achieved with this meeting needs to be a building block in your relationship with this customer, so it is vital to agree upon the next meeting. Put this in your diary or planner while you are still with the customer so that it is clearly understood.

-If they are unable to offer you a date for the next meeting, ask them to call or e-mail you with a date and time. However, it is always better to have this agreed before you leave.

-  Do all the friendly personal inquiries and introductory conversation with your customer at the beginning of the meeting rather than at the end. So, when you’ve finished, don’t prolong the meeting with further personal conversation. Your customer will appreciate your professional courtesy as you simply thank them for the order and say goodbye (until the next time).

5. Make sure the order is put into action within 24 hours
This must include any special instructions (such as special discount or delivery details) being passed on to your staff. You are responsible for ensuring maximum accuracy and efficiency so that the customer is fully satisfied.

Next time; the final vital way to increasing sales success is ‘Follow up, follow up, follow up’…

Tony Wales is a board member and trainer for MAI based in the UK. See his first and second articles on bookselling for publishers.

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos, by Ambro