How to Negotiate Book Sales with Deceitful Buyers
“Buyers are liars,” is a term some salespeople use to describe their customers. They believe prospective buyers distort the truth to put themselves in a better bargaining position. Regrettably, in some cases they are correct, so be on guard when negotiating the sale of your books to some corporate purchasers.
According to studies among business buyers (Harvard Business Review, July-August, 2016) about half of people involved in corporate negotiations lie when they have the opportunity to improve their potential outcome. Fortunately, there are things you can do to prepare for – or even prevent -- this intangible trickery.
In most cases, book salespeople rely on their ability to detect obvious deception. Darting eyes, perspiring brows, and broken eye contact are some obvious signs of potential untruths. However, there are imperceptible signals are often overlooked or unnoticed, placing you at a disadvantage. Focus on prevention instead of detection to level the playing field. Here are a few techniques to improve the likelihood of a win-win agreement.
Corporate buyers are spending tens of thousands of company dollars to purchase promotional items such as your books. They want to make sure they are spending that money in the most effective way, from people they trust. Their egos and perhaps careers are at stake for making wrong decisions.
A large-quantity, non-returnable sale of your books takes time – perhaps years – to unfold. Do not begin the sales discussion by talking about your book and how great it is. Present yourself as a consultant – not a publisher – seeking to help buyers solve a business problem. Lead them to understand that you are not just another vendor, but someone seeking a long-term mutually profitable partnership.
Get Them to Reveal the Facts
If your prospects answer all your questions honestly, but do not volunteer pertinent facts, they are not in their minds lying. But the result is the same. And this can happen in many situations. Andy Kessler wrote in The Wall Street Journal, “(Steve) Jobs emanated what became known as a ‘reality distortion field.’ His overpowering charisma would convince workers, developers, and investors to come around to his view.” He added, “Sadly, the journey from charisma to coercion to lying is quick and often complete.”
Follow the “Ask, don’t tell” philosophy and use questions to bring truthful, relevant information to the surface and develop rapport at the same time. Only then can both parties accurately determine and evaluate potential solutions.
Phrase questions to disclose valuable information in an unthreatening way. “You don’t want to buy any books today, do you?” will rarely yield a positive reply. Ask open-ended questions that get people to talk freely.
A question posed to reveal pain points is, “If you were to hire an assistant today, what would you want that person to accomplish in the first 90 days?” The answer reveals your prospect’s top priorities. To discover their objectives, ask, “If you could wave your magic wand, what would you want your next promotional campaign to accomplish?”
When questions are poised in a casual tone, people are more likely to divulge their true feelings. You could say, “We all know there are millions of books out there. Any chance you might be considering any of them for your campaign?”
Listen to the Answers
Stephen Covey wrote in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” When you ask a question, actively listen to the answer. Nod your head in agreement, if that is the case. Raise your eyebrows if you question a comment. Do not interrupt or change the subject, but listen intently while processing the information to your advantage. Take notes and write key words to remind you of issues to bring up later.
If it becomes obvious that your prospect is being less than truthful give them a face-saving way out by using the feel/felt/found technique: “I understand how you feel. Others have felt that way, too. But when they found out … ” Your prospects will appreciate your willingness to let them off the hook, and rapport increases.
This blog post is not intended to portray all corporate buyers as liars or that your negotiations are likely to be held under deceptive conditions. In the overwhelming majority of selling situations you will deal with professional people who are trying to create win-win conclusions. Just be conscious of the possibility that there are some less-scrupulous people out there who want to win at all costs – especially yours. Do not assume buyers are trying to take advantage of you, but do not be caught unaware if they do.
Brian Jud is an author, book-marketing consultant, seminar leader, television host and president of Premium Book Company, which sells books to non-bookstore buyers on a non-returnable, commission-only basis and conducts on-site training for publishers' sales forces.
Brian is the author of "How to Make Real Money Selling Books (Without Worrying About Returns)," a do-it-yourself guide to selling books to non-bookstore buyers in large quantities, with no returns. He has written many articles about book publishing and marketing, is the author of the eight e-booklets with "Proven Tips for Publishing Success," and creator of the series of "Book Marketing Wizards." He is also the editor of the bi-weekly newsletter, "Book Marketing Matters."
Brian is the host of the television series "The Book Authority" and has aired over 650 shows. In addition, he is the author, narrator and producer of the media-training video program "You're On The Air."