Entrepreneurship By Kyle Milligan / June 20, 2016 Yesterday I was just north of Baltimore in Towson, Maryland for a book signing at Ukazoo Books. They said I had to do a signing if I wanted to be in their store. I enjoyed myself on my last trip to Baltimore and it gave me an excuse to return so I said I would absolutely love to do the event. I set up my books on the little table and took my seat. After a couple minutes, a girl came to check that I had all that I needed. “All set,” I said. “Okay, great. Did they tell you how this works?” “I’m not sure. What do you mean?” “Well, just that in order to be carried by the store you have to sell five copies minimum. Just because our shelves are already so tight. This helps us kind of screen out books that won’t sell.” “Oh. Okay, cool. No problem.” But it was a problem. It was a big, big problem. I hadn’t told anybody about the event. I knew a total of three people in the area and they had already bought Hang-Ups and Hangovers. I figured this book signing was a gesture of sorts, more than anything. I just showed to enjoy Baltimore again. I had two and a half hours left to sell five books cold to walk-ins. I don’t know the last time you visited a book store but the small shops don’t generally have a ton of people coming in. Also, go ahead and subtract the people coming for specific titles and genres from my sellable population. When the girl walked away I had basically already given up hope of being carried by Ukazoo Books. What a wasted trip. Still, I threw myself at every walk-in. I didn’t care what they looked like or how many kids they were with. They needed to buy my novel about depression, drinking, and one night stands. I pitched my book to anyone in a shouting radius of my table: “Hey! Hows it going? Need a summer read? This book has it all! Hey! Since you’re here already, why don’t give my book a shot! It’s great for anybody. Sex, humor, romance, you name it!” I probably ran off five or six people. One guy did circle back and asked how much the book was but then excused himself when I began pitching again. I felt helpless. The problem was nobody gave a shit about my book. Nobody gave a shit about me and my name. I decided I needed a better approach. Telling them my book was great wasn’t convincing anyone. The Sales Process Before I became a writer, I was actually a very talented salesman. The most impressive aspect of my career was that I was a top performing sales rep for a product I had never used nor seen be used. I simply followed the sales process. THAT’S IT! Nobody was buying my book because I was not using the sales process! The glory of the sales process is it is transferable to any product. And it is highly effective. I just had to remind myself of the steps. I pulled out a little notepad and wrote the following steps down: Intro Probe Build Value Product Recommendation Close No matter what you are selling, if you use these five steps you can sell ANYTHING. I looked at my list for about ten seconds. I said the steps over and over. I put it into practice on the very next walk-in just TEN SECONDS after I scribbled the list. Intro I stood up behind the table and stuck my hand out: “Hi, my name’s Kyle Milligan. What’s your name?” His name was Lou. Probe “Nice to meet you Lou, what brings you in, today?” “Oh, nothing in particular. Just browsing around.” “Oh, nice! So what kind of stuff do you usually like to read?” “Oh wow… All kinds of stuff, man. I’m all over the place.” I asked Lou to name some of his favorite and most recent reads. I didn’t know what any of them were. That’s not a problem! “So what did you like about those books, in particular?” “Well, ya know, they had really strong characters. Like, they were real people. And the author did a good job of making it relatable, ya know?” “Most definitely. So you kind of favor books with real world experiences that you could see yourself in?” “Yeah. Definitely.” “What else?” “Well, not much specifically. Like I said, I’ll read just about anything, ya know? I just like depth.” Build Value “That makes a lot of sense. I totally relate. Actually, Hang-Ups and Hangovers is about a single guy in his twenties and is based in present day, so any guy living today can see themselves in his shoes. He’s recently become single after a bad relationship and is trying to figure out the dating game but he’s just terrible. So you said you like depth, right?” “Right.” “So the main character, David, is actually super analytical. He’s always dissecting everything as it happens. There’s a lot of psychology in this book. David is trying to figure out what he did wrong when things went south. Also, he has some pretty big disappointments that he feels heavily. So depth is definitely abundance in Hang-Ups and Hangovers.” Lou is nodding and saying “okay,” a lot. Product Recommendation Lou said something generic like “Okay, sounds cool.” It was time to recommend my book and tell him why. “Well, Lou, you say you like books in relatable settings with depth. I think Hang-Ups and Hangovers is a fit for you.” It’s really that simple. Close Customers need to be TOLD to buy. Otherwise, they’ll “check it out later,” or put it on their “to-do.” Meaning they will never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever check out your product. A good salesman always closes. If you don’t you lose the sale. “Hang-Ups and Hangovers is my dream. I quit my job to do this. To be here at this store today. Based on our conversation it sounds like a good fit for you. Let me sign this copy for you.” “Ya know what, I think I will pick up a copy!” After you sell them, leave them feeling good about their purchase. “Thanks a lot, Lou! I know you’re going to love it! Here’s your signed copy, just take it up front to pay.” Rinse, Wash, Repeat I used the sale process on everyone from that point and sold exactly five books. I would have loved to sell more, but I’m stoked I made some money as well as made it to the shelves of Ukazoo Books. The trick to the sales process, is to pitch LAST. The first steps are to gather information and build rapport. If you get this backwards, the customer has no reason to value your pitch/recommendation. Listen first. Pitch last. When I first started, I was just shouting out all the wonderful things about my book to passersby, not even sure if those were the things they were interested in reading about. With the sales process, the sale is done by the customer themselves. They tell you what they are looking for. All you have to do is be warm, welcoming, and get them talking. With Lou, I simply told him everything he liked was in my book. Then I sold him on my dream when I closed. As a result, he had two reasons to buy: I sold him on the book and myself. That’s a powerful combination of customer specific value and rapport. By following the sales process and building rapport, Lou was happy to pick up a copy of Hang-Ups and Hangovers and was glad to support my journey. Limitations While the effectiveness of the sales process is remarkable, sometimes you can’t force a fit where there isn’t one. A girl told me she enjoyed dystopia and historical fiction; war-time books. That made it a tough sell. I had to probe further. WHY wartime or dystopia books? What about them makes her enjoy them so much? I found the tiniest thread in her answer and grasped onto it. She said she liked just getting inside that world. I ran with it. Build value: “Ya know, it’s funny you say that. I originally wrote Hang-Ups and Hangovers for men. But women love it because it’s a completely new reality. You actually are inside the head of a man. You get to see his thoughts as he tries to figure out women. He goes through trial and error again and again.” I probably could have targeted her love for dystopia harder with David’s depression and the rock bottom lows, but hindsight is 20/20. I closed: “I’ve seen you walking around here at least thirty minutes now and haven’t picked up anything. How about give my novel a shot? I’d love to go ahead and sign a copy for you.” She actually did pick up the book and read for probably five minutes before deciding it wasn’t her thing, and that’s okay. I tried. You can’t win ’em all but you can’t sell unless you pitch and close. PAIN Hang-Ups and Hangovers is, at its core, an entertainment product. That makes it a harder sell as opposed to a product that solves a customer’s PAIN. A customer’s PAIN is the problem your customer has that your product fixes. Those sales are much easier because you can say exactly what it is your product fixes and you can “stir the pain.” A customer says, “Oh my god! My current product/provider is terrible!” You say, “Oh, they’re the worst! I can’t tell you how many people have came to me with that same complaint JUST THIS WEEK! Hey, no worries, my friend. Like I said, it’s a common complaint and my product actually fixes that because data, data, data, info, info.” Hang-Ups and Hangovers does solve some PAINS indirectly. Hang-Ups and Hangovers: Shows women the inner workings of a man’s mind. Comforts people who struggle with self-worth and depression by showing the human side of David, demonstrating they are not alone. Teaches men techniques that work for seducing women. But these are tough selling points because these are very personal issues I can’t easily probe for. “Hey, you ever been depressed? Had a toxic relationship that destroyed you? Great!! David gets SUPER depressed! Read my book!” No, that won’t get it. I can’t really address PAIN with a novel. I had to convince people they would HAVE FUN reading Hang-Ups and Hangovers. I could use Amazon reviews as proof of Hang-Ups and Hangovers effectiveness but other than that, there’s not much I can do but probe and build value based on their interests. And some people aren’t great at articulating their interests. If your product solves a PAIN, you should be probing for that pain in step 2 then building value in step 3. To build value just explain how your product fixes the customer’s problem with the information they provided during your probing. In this case, they still sell themselves. That’s the glory of the sales process. The customer ends up selling themselves. You just have to be friendly! If you gained some value from this article, subscribe to future posts. More info on my fiction work at realkylemilligan.com You can buy my novel Hang-Ups and Hangovers here.