You may already know Berrett-Koehler author Bob Johansen, former CEO and Distinguished Fellow at Institute for the Future. Bob has been helping organizations around the world prepare for and shape the future for nearly forty years, and during that time he has built up a formidable speaking and consulting business that yields large corporate sales for his books Leaders Make the Future, The Reciprocity Advantage, and his latest, The New Leadership Literacies.
Over the years, Bob has picked up some great strategies for encouraging corporate sales (or what we in the industry call bulk sales) of his books at the venues where he speaks or consults. Some may say, “Well, that’s great if you’re Bob flippin’ Johansen but what about the rest of us?” But the truth is that almost all of his strategies can apply to any author, regardless of their level of experience or connections.
Six strategies for authors to ramp up their corporate sales
1. Don’t use the word “bulk”
Authors and publishers often use the term “bulk purchase” to describe large quantity sales to corporations for events or trainings (and here at BK, we are guilty as charged). But Bob points out the word “bulk” does not sound appealing to clients. When speaking to a potential buyer about the advantages of buying large quantities of books, use other terms such as “multiple copy discount" or "volume discount" or anything else—but just don’t say “bulk" unless you’re at Costco and stocking up on toilet paper.
2. The person to know is not the CEO
Many authors think that the CEO is the decision-maker when it comes to organizing multiple-copy purchases as part of a consulting, training, or speaking package, but this simply isn't the case. Approaching the CEO about your book can backfire: they can be difficult to reach and too busy to follow through even if they do commit to something. When it comes to arranging a purchase of your book, your best bet is the organization’s chief learning officer or (if you are presenting to an audience) the events organizer. These people not only handle such purchases, but also control the budgets for them.
3. Customization is always an option
If a client is interested in purchasing a large quantity of books for, say, a training event, you can partner with your publisher to personalize copies of the book just for them. This can mean everything from adding a corporate logo to the book's cover or including a special foreword from the CEO. At Berrett-Koehler, we can offer this service at no additional charge if the customer can commit to 500 copies or more. In cases like these, customization can certainly sweeten the deal!
4. Bundle the books into your fee
Whenever possible, bundle your book(s) in with the fee for your presentation or consulting gig—either as a built-in cost or as an added incentive. This guarantees a book sale will result from your event. Alternatively, you can make books available for purchase to participants of a large event by partnering with the publisher to offer a discount. BK is happy to collaborate on these types of arrangements!
5. Remember, sales can happen after the sale
A sale does not end after the transaction is complete. If an author speaks or presents at a venue, their books may already be distributed to participants, but a follow-up call with the learning officer or events organizer could reveal if individuals representing particular departments or teams want more time with the author. In many cases, those individuals may want the author to come back and focus specifically on their departments or people, which then results in more book sales.
6. Each book in a large-quantity sale is potentially a gateway to more sales
A card, note, or flyer slipped into the pages of the books purchased for an organizational event multiplies the potential for more purchases. If everyone who gets a copy of the quantity-purchased book gets a little reminder that they, too, can purchase more copies at a discount, well, you can do the math.
Photo by Ricardo Gomez Angel.