Jabe Stafford asked me to write a post about "pitching/selling your book to others face-to-face without sounding like a TV ad."
You got it, Jabe. Here goes.
The reason why we feel sounding like a TV ad when selling face-to-face is because we think we have to sell to the person instead of buying with them.
The typical understanding of selling comes from our experiences being sold to. We only know what we're experienced in life, and because many times we've been burned by bad being-fooled experiences, we despise selling.
“Oh God no. Do I have to do this? I guess I’ll do this. I have to eat and pay bills, after all. Might as well suck it up.”
And off we go, selling.
Except none of us like being sold to. But we all love to buy. In other words, we hate being told what to do (“Buy it! Buy it!”), but we love making our own decisions and feel like we’re the ones who bought (“Look what I got!”).
There are professional sales people and non-professional sales people. Unfortunately, many of us have been burned by non-professionals. By “non-professionals” I mean sales people who manipulate us into buying something we don’t need. Needless to say, those people don’t last long in their careers (hence, non-professionals). Professional sales people understand what selling is about. Instead of manipulating us to buy what we don’t need they motivate us to buy exactly what we need. But how would they know what we need? Therein lies the difference.
Anyone can try pushing anything on anyone else. What’s the chance of hitting the true need of that person? Close to zero. That’s why we hate ads—we hate pointless interruptions that have little to do with what we truly desire.
So how do you do it? How do you sell books face-to-face without sounding like a TV ad?
Simple. Find out what that person needs, then give it to them. How to do it?
For example, how do you know if the person you’re taking to reads books? Ask them. If they do, great! You can then start asking them what kinds of books they like to read, and after a while you’ll become friends on your mutual love for books, and finally they’ll ask you about your books. This is your golden moment.
But what if you find out they don’t read? How can you sell a book to someone who doesn’t read? Ask more questions to find out what their true need is, then ask even more questions about that need until you uncover the need for reading underneath it all. Because it’s always there—the need for escape from routine. The need for magic. We all have it.
Do you see how there is no selling involved here? It’s a conversation.
Instead of selling to the person ("I need to sell you my book, so go ahead and buy it, why don’t you?") you’re buying with the person ("You need to rediscover the joy of reading, so go ahead and treat yourself to it, you deserve it."). See the difference? In the first case it’s about you. In the second case it’s about them.
And that’s Sales 101. When you sell a book to someone, instead of pitching it to them ask them what they need.
If you pitch it to them, you do Advertising 101: "Let me interrupt you because I don’t care about what you’re doing, I only care about selling you my book." It’s fast. You get results fast (sale or no sale). You also burn people, fast.
The second one takes time, considerable time. That's why I call it Caring 101. It takes time to listen to another person, but it doesn’t burn them, and when they’re ready to ask you in turn about your books, only then do you tell them about what you write. Be careful not to tell too much. It’s like with kids, “Mom and dad, how do you make babies?” Answer quick and to the point, don’t get into details the kid didn’t ask for. “Well, first there is this thing called foreplay, and it’s when you get naked and—“ You get the point.
That's all there is to it. I’ll repeat again.
After all, most of us writers are introverts (I’m one for sure), and it’s easier for us anyway to ask and listen then to force ourselves to talk about our books. Guess what. That’s the best approach you can take. Go ahead and try it, and report results here.
P.S.: I started a tiny newsletter on sales tips to give you tips like above, but in a very short form. Click here to subscribe and let me know if you have any more questions or a particular scenario that's happened to you, and I’ll answer in the next post. Now go forth and sell books! YOU CAN DO IT.