Anyone who’s read my last three full-size books on publishing, sales, and marketing knows that I started my career with a small Canadian literary press straight out of college almost 25 years ago. After working there for three years, it was clear to me that there were no solid opportunities for advancement nor any real chance of a salary increase due to the fact that this press operated solely on government grants. Needless to say, I was forced to leave my job out of financial necessity and found a more prosperous position in advertising sales at the local daily newspaper. It was my reluctant beginning to a lifelong career as a salesperson. I hated sales back then. It felt so foreign to me.
Perhaps, if I’d read a copy of Claude Whitacre’s Selling Essentials: Your First 90 Days in Selling back then, I would have had an easier transition into the world of sales and would have enjoyed it that much more. That’s why I’m sharing my review of this book with you here. Because authors are entrepreneurs. Always have been. Always will be. If you want true commercial success as an author, you can have it. There’s proof of this everywhere these days (you can check out the guest posts on this blog for some real-world examples). You just have to learn how to sell.
I already know the reason for your initial resistance to selling, and so does Claude. Believe it or not, he and I both lean more toward the introverted side of the personality scale like so many other authors do … which may be hard to believe since we’ve both done something seemingly extroverted by placing our author pictures on the front covers of our books. (That literally makes me laugh out loud.) In any case, Claude sums up this initial resistance perfectly in this early excerpt from his book:
People say they cannot sell when they are doing it every day. It’s because they don’t want to do … what they think selling is. They don’t want to pressure people, misrepresent, abuse friendships, sell shoddy products and services. That’s what they don’t want to do. But selling isn’t any of those things.
As I read this book, I was pleased to learn that Claude and I both agree the best salespeople in this world are trustworthy and accountable. They do what they say they’re going to do. They tell the truth. They are reliable. They keep promises. They work hard for their customers. They are interested in understanding their customers’ needs first and then doing what they can to fill those needs in the most beneficial way for that customer. That’s what this book is about; and, although it’s tailored more toward the corporate sales environment, there’s a lot of information for authors to garner from Claude’s advice. Here are five crucial tips for authors in particular:
- The single biggest threat to your sales success is hanging around with the people who say it can’t be done.
There is a lingering myth among aspiring (and some established) authors that the ultimate goal is to have one’s book “picked up” by a traditional trade publisher, not only for the associated recognition but also because of the belief that these publishers will sell your books for you … you won’t have to do any heavy lifting at all. In reality, to be a truly successful author you must treat book publishing, sales, and marketing as your own business. The same holds true whether you self-publish, take today’s hybrid (e.g., supported self-publishing) route, or sign with a traditional trade publisher. Hanging out with the “bitch and complainers” (or “losers” as Claude refers to them) in the corporate world will kill your sales potential because you’ll begin to take on their personalities and habits if you’re around them for too long. The same holds true in the book sales and marketing world. Do you want success as an author? Then you not only need to learn how to sell, but you need to surround yourself with those who are succeeding to keep reinforcing for yourself that it is possible to be successful. Here are two such authors for you to pay attention to: Timothy Ellis and Liz Schulte. You should also read Claude’s book.
- It’s not all about the price!
Claude calls this a myth: everyone buys based on price; no one buys expensive products. Claude is absolutely right. No matter what it is that you’re selling, there is a time and a place for price-based selling and there is a time and a place for value-based selling. It all depends on your prospective buyers’ wants and needs as I discuss in many of my books. If you want to reach them, you need to speak to them in their language. You need to figure out what their needs are and sell to them rather than just assuming everyone only buys based on price.
- Here’s a great way to overcome your fear of rejection.
Every aspiring author fears rejection. Every new salesperson fears rejection. Why? Because they’re taking certain things personally that aren’t personal at all. The way Claude helps new salespeople to realize this, during his sales seminars, is to ask 10 random people in the audience whether or not they like butterscotch. Usually, around half say yes and half say no. At that point, he poses a question to the entire room: “Do you feel any differently about the people who like butterscotch versus the ones who don’t?” Everyone says no, of course. Because it’s simply a choice they’ve made about a product—not a personal attack on the person who asked whether or not they like or want that product. What a great exercise! It truly puts things into perspective, doesn’t it? Keeping that in mind should make anyone feel better when they approach a new sales prospect whether they’re trying to sell a vacuum cleaner or a book.
- You need to measure your activities in relation to your sales to know how you’re doing.
In most corporate sales jobs, your employer expects you to log your daily activities in some type of customer relationship management (CRM) tool such as Salesforce. It’s such a valuable practice that everyone should be doing, even if they don’t have an employer asking them to do it. Why? Because doing so tells you exactly where your sales are coming from and how long it takes for them to happen in relation to whatever sales activity (e.g., blogging, social media marketing, event marketing) you’ve done. When you know what’s working and what isn’t, you can tweak it. You can improve it.
- Start with just one push-up and, the next thing you know, you’ll have done 100.
I always recommend authors to commit just one hour per day, six days per week, toward their book sales and marketing efforts. That’s it, that’s all. Why? Because everyone can commit an hour a day. Claude has another way of saying the same thing. He calls it his “one push-up theory” and here is how he describes it:
Let’s say you want to start an exercise program. And that exercise program starts with
push-ups. You work your way up to 100 push-ups a day. But today, you just don’t feel
like doing 100 push-ups. What do you do? Do one push-up. That’s right. Just do one.
Anyone can do a push-up. It takes you no effort at all.”
He goes on to say that it’s interesting how, once you’ve done that one push-up, you suddenly feel motivated to do a few more. So, you maybe do 10 or 20. Then that’s builds up a momentum. You’re already in position. Might as well do the remaining 80 or 90 push-ups. Sales works the same way. Just start. Just one hour. Just one push-up. Just start every single day, and you’ll see that momentum build.
I highly recommend you click on the above link and buy a copy of Claude’s book Selling Essentials: Your First 90 Days in Selling because there is so much more value in this book than the five crucial tips I’ve included here. You may find some additional tidbits that speak to you even more clearly than these.
It’s a small book, a fast read. I got through it in about two hours, so it won’t take up too much of your time. But it will be worth the read in terms of helping you to understand and feel so much more comfortable with your role as a salesperson.
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