My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Tuesday 30 October 2012

I'm not selling anything

Have you ever had someone ring you or knock on your door and one of the first things they say is "I'm not selling anything to you".  This has got to be the most stupid things to say.  I can only think of a couple of scenarios  where this might work:

1/ the person  has been living in a cave all there life and never ever been sold to and so believes you
2/ the person is totally thick and believes you
3/ the person is too polite to tell you to f*#$ off.

As I enjoy studying people's sales techniques I  recently let the sales process run it's course when I was  cold called in this way.  The technique usually switches to some no obligation survey or promotion. To me it is clear that the survey will find something wrong giving them the opportunity to sell something.  On this particular occasion I let them feel secure and then started asking questions about once the survey is completed would anyone try and sell to me. OK the face told me the answer was yes even if the words had switched to "there is no obligation to buy".

My logic is it's hard to buy something unless someone is selling some thing....

Conversation terminated.

I was tempted to confuse him by start selling my book to him given that he had inadvertently given me permission to have a face to dialogue.

Clearly "I'm not selling anything" is a lie or at best a half truth "I am not selling anything to you right this second, but I will very soon".

Lying is never a good technique in sales.  Why would I trust a company when their opening line is "I'm  lying to you so you don't slam the door in my face".

A far better approach for this particular door-to-door salesman that cold called me. "Hi,  I noticed you have a few broken tiles on your roof and lots of moss that could cause damage to your roof in a cold winter.  We have a team of roof surveyors in the area next week. I wanted to just let you know they will be putting an estimate card through your door and if I hadn't knocked you might wonder what it is. They will survey your roof from the outside and put the card through your door with an  estimate of how much we would charge to fix these issues. There is no obligation to buy - you decide. Thank you for your time"

No lying
No pressure
You outline a problem and some risks if the problem is ignored
Result - I trust these guys a bit more.

Lying gives sales a bad name and doesn't establish trust - why do it!

Friday 26 October 2012

Selling business books on Kindle

Last week I launched my first business book, Romancing The Sale  and I have been busy learning how to sell books. Not my normal fare of sales - I'm more used to face-to-face encounters and selling complex stuff.

Selling books requires a different mindset. Without being able to see who you're selling to it's rather like attending an orgy in  a pitch back room - you're not sure what you're grabbing hold of. Retail selling is clearly about throwing enough stuff out there and hoping some of it sticks on the right people.

So after 1 week I can now state that I'm an expert on selling business books on Kindle.  I've read 5 or 6 books this week on book promotion. I've read blogs and of course thought about it and done some of my own things. This  puts me in the top 5% of knowledgeable people since most of the information out there is ill considered rubbish.

Let me share my new found knowledge with you.

1. Business books are not fiction
The vast amount of information out there on book promotion is aimed at mass market fiction. Business books are a niche and so the recommended websites are off target. Although my book might have the right title, announcing it to the Romance and Lovers book review club is not going to propel it to best seller in its category.  I have yet to find a business book review club equivalent.

The second observation is that  there are loads of  book review websites out there.  No clear market leaders. The Pareto principle tells me that 80% of the benefit will be delivered by 20% of the websites.  I've yet to figure out which ones I need to invest my time with.

I'm also dubious about book review clubs that want to charge me $49 per month for advertising my book before they will review it or even list it. Sure their website needs a business model but is their readership on target?  What is the conversion rate I can expect from their advertising - information which sadly lacking. Will readers consider them impartial when they know they are charging me for the privilege of being on this website?

2. Build a Promotion Platform. Not

The other advice out there is to build a promotion platform for your book. Blogging, social networking etc so you can promote your book through this channel.  Hmmmm. How long is that going take to realise sales?  Building a loyal following on a blog  takes time and lots of effort producing content. I've been doing this blog for coming up to 1 year and get a few thousand readers per month.   Say 1% of my readership purchases my book from this blog then I get a few tens of book sales.  Horrary I'll be able to retire on that (not that the intention of my book was to get rich quick anyway).

The problem with building a Promotion Platform is that it is yet another product which you need to promote. If you already have a large following (100,000+ followers) then it would be a viable vehicle. Building yet another thing in order to promote a book is ludicrous. If I was seduced into going this route I would think "Why not build a platform to promote all books rather than just limit it to mine?" (even though it is clearly the best).

Make a Killing on Kindle is one of the best books on book promotion I read this week. It's a no nonsense approach to promotion. Ignore the get rich quick title - there is some great advice in there.

3. Advertising

I've experimented with using Google advertising as a book promotion tool this week.  I wasn't expecting big results from paid advertising.  I was working on the basis that I wanted to build a readership therefore revenue from my book sales is being ploughed back into Google AdWord advertising.  I was expecting to come out neutral (the advertising cost generated sales which matched the margin from resulting book sales).Zero cash gain.  Sadly it is on-track to come out negative.

So a little explanation on how Google AdWords works. Google displays my adverts. The adverts display based on what the person at the other end is searching for. I declare which keywords I think are relevant for my book. Google don't charge to display the advert.  If someone clicks on my advert I pay. This is called click-throughs.  The industry average is 0.3% click through rate.  So in other words, the advert needs to be displayed 333 times before someone clicks on it.

I've done a lot with Google AdWords in the past so I know how to optimise it quickly to control costs.  My initial click through rate was 0.12% (833 ads per click) so worse than the industry average. Google recommended I bid £1.75 per click (guess what I didn't pay that). A click takes my prospective book lover to my Amazon page where they have the option of buying my book. Of course every single one of these prospective book lovers will buy it won't they?  Nope. I guessed maybe 1 in 5.

So lets do the business case.

5 x clicks @ £1.75 = £8.75 in order to sell a book priced  at £7.20 (with VAT) - negative case

I wasn't prepared to pay £1.75 so I bid 45p - it got me a top 3 ranking which is good enough.

So revised business case

5 x clicks @ 0.45p = £1.25.  This could be viable to promote it.

The reality is the conversion rate to a purchase is closer to 1 in 20. £5 to get one purchase. Into negative margin territory.

So lets do the math.  0.12% click through 5% conversion.  In other words I need to display 16,000 adverts to get one sale!  It looks like there are about 50,000 advert banners displayed per week so 3 book sales per week with negative margin. Horrary. 3 book sales per week is sure to make me a best seller!

I've experimented with my keywords and the average is improving.  Some of my keywords are now yielding an amazing 6% click through rate but the sales conversion is still only 5%. I'll keep you posted on how this works out as I experiment with this.

Advertising is therefore not a viable vehicle to get a best seller. I'll keep using the advertising since I want to get readership. Conclusion - it needs to be a part of my overall promotional sales strategy.

4. Free Download Day

The most successful promotional tool this week has been the free download day.  I dropped the price to free for one day! This proved a massive draw with hundreds of copies flying off the virtual shelf around the world.  Clearly the zero price eliminates perceived risk from the buyer and is an effective way to get a readership.

Free is a great way t get the book out there but not a great way to make money.

 And Finally

It's been an interesting journey this week learning about a whole new dimension to selling.

One of the statistics I've learnt is that 30% of new authors sell less than 100 copies of their book. How depressing would that feel.  There are plenty of books out there advocating writing a book as a way to generate  income so you can quit your job and live the high life.  Get real.

A book is a product.  Creating  a product is 10% of the job. 90% of the job is selling the product.  Why should books be any different to anything else in the real-world.

Selling is necessary for success.

Thursday 18 October 2012

My book is out on Kindle

I'm feeling guilty that I have not posted a blog for nearly 2 months. Particularly as I made a promise to myself to blog an article at least twice per month.

Hopefully my excuse is acceptable. I've been working hard in my spare time (the time when I would normally find time to blog) on my book. It's now out on Kindle!! Romancing the Sale, as the title suggests is about winning sales by making your customers love you.  It takes a fun look at sales by comparing the sales process with the world of dating.

Some of the things you will discover in my book are:

Find out why using the same sales technique on your mother-in-law, that you used on your girlfriend,  will get you a slap or unexpectedly into bed with her.

Why Mr Spock, the character from Star Trek, is useless at selling?

What's going on in your head and your prospect's head during the sales process?

I have a limited number of free samples of the book to give away. I need to read the Amazon documentation again as it wasn't clear how to give these away.  Ping me if you're interested in reading it and you have a Kindle (or Kindle app). The only thing I would ask is that you write a review. Once I figure out their system I'll

I enjoyed doing writing the book so much that I'm already thinking about my second (and third) book!

Romancing the Sale is available on Kindle now priced £7.20 in the UK and $9.99 in the US. The paperback version will be out  January 2013.