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Back-of-Room Sales

Ed Smith

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I'm seeking advice on increasing back-of-the-room book sales while speaking at service club meetings in which I'm given approx. 15/20 minutes to talk. My talk is near the beginning of the meeting and I am unable to move it to the end of the meeting. The meeting ends and since it's during business hours, most attendees rapidly exit the meeting. I make my talk as content-rich as possible and only give one mention that my book is available for sale during the meeting. I use a handout that has ordering information, but this has not proved effective in generating sales. Could anyone offer any tips on how I can subtly increase my sales pitch and have people stop and buy my book after the meeting instead of rushing out?

Note: We have an earlier compilation on back-of-room selling here.

-- Larry James

An extension of the speaker's ability to reinforce his/her message is through the written word and audio/video learning systems. If I meet any resistance from a meeting planner about offering my books at the back of the room, I offer (in writing) a guarantee. Here is one key paragraph from the signed form I send:

"You have my personal promise that if I spend more than two minutes mentioning the books and audio learning systems that I have available, I will decline acceptance of the balance of my speaking fee from your organization! You have my word on it!"

My two minutes begin when, after my presentation, the meeting planner (the timer) asks me to return to "tell a little bit about Larry's books." I make this offering carefully, tastefully and briefly. It's a very fine-tuned, 1-1/2 minute product presentation with book props. So far, I've never had to turn down my fee.

Bonus Tip: Sign some of your books ahead of time. All you'll need to add is the person's name. This helps prevent "walk-aways;" the impatient would-be buyers who might walk away because the line is too long or is moving too slow.

Be sure to add some special words to them above your signature. People love the personalization and really appreciate being treated on an individual basis instead of watching you just scribble your name the same way for everyone.

-- Susan Fee

I've added a free ezine sign-up to my table. If they drop their business card in my box, I'll add their name. That encourages traffic to my table even if they had not intended to buy. I am able to start conversations and up sales. You can also make it a free drawing.

-- John Fuhrman

I would suggest giving a book away at every program. Here's the best way to do it. Try and find a reason to pick on someone furthest from where you are speaking. Ask them to give you an answer, a question, or otherwise engage them in conversation. DO NOT bring them to you. Let them stay at their seat. Then, as a token of appreciation, give them a copy of your book. The key is, hand it to the closest person to you and ask that it be passed to the back of the room to the winner. Others will see it and be interested in stopping by to purchase. Also, offer to bring the book to them during the remainder of the meeting and let them pay as they leave.

-- Ron Rosenberg

It's difficult enough to incorporate a sales pitch into a 60-minute keynote, and it's virtually impossible to so effectively in a 15-20 minute talk.

I try to work with the meeting planner to select the best time slots for my programs to provide maximum value to the audience both during the program and after they go home. If you talk to them for 15 minutes, and then they hear other speakers, and then they're running out the door, it's no wonder your sales are suffering; frankly, it's amazing you sell anything at all.

My speaking agreement states that I will make additional educational resources available at the end of the program and requires a break of at least 15 minutes immediately following my program. I recently turned down a full-fee program -- partially because it wasn't the right audience, but also because as soon as my program ended, lunch began. Product sales will lose out to hunger every time.

More serious problems here. First, you're selling a book. Books are bad. They have no margin. Your first book is only good for credibility (so you can say, "author of..." in your bio.) After that, they're only good for lead generation, or as the front end of a continuity product (like a newsletter or "CD-of-the-month" product) tied to the initial purchase of the book. I'm not sure how many buying entities are in the rooms you’re speaking to (three people from one company count as one "buying entity" because all three aren't going to buy the same thing) but even if they all bought your $13.95 book, how much will that make for you? In contrast, I sell a Marketing System for just under $1,000. Do the math on that and you can see why I think books are bad.

Second, you have to give them a reason to buy the book NOW instead of taking the order form back to the office to "think about it" where they'll put it into a stack of papers never to be heard from again. Also, you can incorporate a "table rush" strategy, offering some special bonus items to the first n people who buy your book. Of course, again with a $13.95 book as the main product, your options become limited.

Third, I'm assuming you gather the contact information of your attendees, particularly their e-mail addresses. At least this way, you can put them on a follow-up autoresponder to continue to deliver them helpful information...along with additional offers to invest in your products.

One area concerns the topic of your material. You're speaking at service clubs with local businesspeople, many of whom probably own or manage their own companies. And yet, you're trying to sell them on a "soft" topic with "fluffy benefits" like "success" and "move towards your goals." How about recasting the material (and the book) to more of a "hard" topic with benefits like "getting more customers" "increasing profits" and "making more money"? This will make the sale a whole lot easier.

But the big question I have for you is this: Why are you even speaking at these kinds of events in the first place? I can't imagine they pay very much to have you present, they don't give you enough time to speak, and they give you the worst possible environment in which to sell your products. Any one of these would be cause for alarm. All three of them together would send me running for the door.

Unless you're getting solid business leads that turn into paid speaking engagements or consulting deals, what possible reason could you have to waste your time preparing for and presenting at these events? Your time would be much better spent researching more appropriate venues, writing sales letters to promote your book, or creating higher-priced products that will really help your audiences successfully apply what you're teaching them in a way that will truly make them more successful.

As I'm rereading this message, it occurs to me that my comments might be coming across a little harsh -- if this was your perception as well, I apologize; this wasn't my intention. You are making many of the same mistakes I've made in the past, but fortunately, they're fairly easy to correct.

-- Steve Stewart

  • ABSOLUTELY MOST IMPORTANT TIP: Give a really tremendous talk so they'll want your stuff!
  • Make sure your product is directly tied in to your topic and that there is a close direct connection.
  • PRODUCT CLOSE: 3 minutes.
  • Put product close during 1st break -- almost all sales are made here.
  • If sales aren't high enough (note to you from sales staff as to amount sold), take another break! (20 minutes later!)
  • Tell audience about book-writing experience
  • Read from book.

-- Roger Dawson

  • Scrunch people together to create an atmosphere conducive to buying.
  • Give them LOTS of material but don't give them enough time to write everything down so they'll want to get book
  • Say "When I was writing my book, I....," walk over to where book is (slowly), look at book lovingly, point out it was a labor of love, read from it, look at it lovingly, etc.

-- Marla Benson

  • "We only have 3 hours and can't cover everything, but you'll find more info about this on side 2 of tape 3."
  • "Lots of other stuff we could discuss, but you'll find it in book."
  • When selling stuff to techies, ok to make table layout with printed price sheets, but when selling soft skill stuff, she packages stuff with rubber bands, writes a package name and $ amount on it, and color codes packages: Personal Power Package, Professional Power Package.

-- Patricia Wiklund

Fred Gleeck is not only a master at selling from the platform, but can teach others how to do it.

Go to www.fredgleeck.com/ebooks and download the free ebook "Selling Products from the Platform."

Note from Ed Smith: Don't overlook this link, it contains a large quantity of outstanding info.

-- Jeff Dobkin

I've created a sheet with 85 tips on marketing -- it's actually a booklet: 2 sheets folded in half and nested. I give these out, and no one throws it away. It has an ad for my books on the back page, and all contact info for both direct book sales and to contact me.

-- Merit Gest

Could you ask the event organizer to arrange a 10-20 minute break immediately after your talk to allow people to purchase books before the next segment? Can you do a business card drawing for a free book and collect the cards to market to them later?

When I do biz card drawing, I tell them at the beginning that we'll do drawing at the end of my talk. In your case you might have everyone get cards out for drawing right after your talk, but do the drawing at the end of the lunch. Tell them to put YES or NO on the back of their card. Yes means they want to talk to you further, NO means they just want to win the book, but no need to talk more at this time.

Rather than doing the drawing immediately after you talk, you might hold off until the end of the luncheon/ It can serve as a reminder about your books and the event promoter will like that there's a hook to keep people to the end.

-- Ned Parks

Make the buying exercise as EASY as you can.

  • Sell the book for an amount that is even like $10/$15/$20. It makes the transaction run smoother.
  • Take checks
  • If they have neither hand them the book for a business card and send them an invoice - Ed Peters says he rarely gets shorted with this method.
  • Offer to the group that is speaking that THEY handle the sale and give them some of the take to raise a few bucks. One thing for sure is that you will have better sales if YOU are not selling the product.

-- Russell Roy

Give one away as a prize during your speech -- bring the person up to receive the book.

-- Dick Dale

You might mention during your talk that "Several people have inquired if I would autograph my book." You, of course, would be happy to after the meeting." This lets people know that you have a book available and now is the time to get it autographed.

-- Sally Strackbein

I collect cards for a drawing for a product. My main purpose is to add to my mailing list and to get everyone excited about winning. When others see the excitement of the winner, they are more likely to be interested and to read the flyer I gave them with my handout.

I've used this successfully to promote my public workshops and/or book sales.

-- Michael Mercer

It is best to have time immediately after your presentation for your BOR selling table. But, you do not have that option. So, here is how I modified my method for your situation:

End your speech on a "high note" -- with audience laughing. That results in your desired impulse purchases of your book. After the laughter ends, say thank you for 2-5 seconds (very quick -- so you do not lower the mood).

Then, say, "Please turn to the last page of my handout. It is an order form. You might notice that if you buy my book today, you get a discount. But that discount is available ONLY if you obtain my book today. So, please take out your business card, write "Book" on it, and pass it to [center aisle or 1 person at your table], and I will pick up your business cards RIGHT NOW. I'll autograph your book during the rest of the program, and it will be waiting for you as you leave today -- so please pick it up from me. As you leave, you can give me cash to pay now or I will send you a bill. I'll collect your business cards right now."

Then, walk to a table -- and put your hand out to collect business cards.

Keep in mind:

  1. Buying at a speech is an "impulse purchase"
  2. Audience members make more impulse purchases within 1 minute after they stop laughing
  3. You need to get the cards/sales immediately -- even 2 or more minutes later, and barely anyone will buy
  4. Point out that "TODAY ONLY -- AT THIS MEETING" your book is cheaper than normal. Example: If your book normally is $25, then today it is $20.
  5. Act enthusiastic -- so the audience "catches" your enthusiasm for you -- and your book.

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