Becoming a Better Salesperson

How_To_Handle_Rejection_400x265February is staring me in the face like Punxsutawney Phil, the angry Pennsylvania groundhog about to be jettisoned out of his hole to predict the weather. A whole month of 2016 has flown by, and I still haven’t made much progress toward setting up my book-selling goals for the year. I have some, I do. Nebulous, dreamy-eyed plans to get more eyeballs on my work. It’s what every indie author wants. If I were a beauty pageant contestant, I might be rhapsodizing about world peace right now. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

One thing I have learned about goal setting and goal keeping is that those aspirations need to be specific and achievable. And I’m usually pretty good about that. I make plans, I fill in spreadsheets, and I even look at them once in a while. But so far this year, I’ve stayed so far in denial I might as well hunker down with Phil.

I think part of my avoidance is that the market for books is changing and I haven’t gotten my “sea legs” yet. You might have seen this by the flood of book-bargain emails in your inbox. There’s more competition than ever—for your attention, for advertising slots, for pretty much everything. Having a good sales plan is more important than ever, and deep in my little introverted heart, the word “sales” makes me want to barricade myself into my writing room and watch kitten videos until my pulse returns to normal.

But I am a grownup (mostly) and I have chosen this business, so I made a commitment to learn how to become a better salesperson.

To that end, I asked Mama Google for assistance. She gave me an article about the biggest ways salespeople fail. What’s the most common reason for going away empty-handed? Failing to actually ASK for the sale.

Seems like a no-brainer, right? Get acquainted; offer a pitch; transaction made. So why the disconnect on the transaction part? I know, as an author, many factors in the promotion arena are out of my control. Book bloggers are busy people, marvelous people who write about books for the love of them, but they have lives that don’t stop because I want them to pay attention to my work. Also, no matter how much advertising spaghetti I toss at the wall, for any number of reasons my books won’t always connect with readers exposed to them. And of those wonderful, wonderful readers who do choose to take a chance on me, only a small percentage will write a review or tell their friends. But I like to think I’ve been paying attention to all the advice I’ve heard over the years about spiffing up my book descriptions, writing more engaging newsletter posts, and generally doing a better job of connecting with potential readers everywhere I happen to find them. And, you know, finding them.

Then it hit me: I could be a better salesperson if I actually started ASKING for what I want!

Yes, sometimes it’s tough for me to get bold and ask for help. I want to be able to handle everything myself, otherwise I’m afraid I’ll look needy, and who wants to play with someone like that? Then I had one of those facepalm moments: I actually AM a salesperson! In the past, I’ve sold my own skill set: I’ve convinced various employers to hire me, even when they didn’t have specific jobs advertised, and they were happy with my results. I’ve asked for things and gotten them.

So, if I could ask total strangers to hand me actual cash money for my labor, what was my problem with asking for a little help to get the word out? Granted, there are nice, polite, professional ways of doing these things. But it can be done. I’m doing it. Not everyone says yes, but most do. And all I had to do was ask.

Now it’s your turn: What are you not asking for?

So Long, 2012, and Thanks for All the Fish…

happy-new-yearLoss, love, joy, grief, rebirth, pain, triumph: it’s been a rich and melancholic salad of a year for me. That canard of ancient wisdom, “Be careful what you wish for,” is definitely not one to toy with. For a while there, every shiny penny on the sidewalk, it seemed, came with a foot waiting to stomp on my hand as I reached for it.

My professional goals (Thank you, Jim Devitt, for reminding me of the importance of goal-setting) for this year were to publish two novels and continue building up my editing business. I’ve accomplished both. I’m very happy about that. Drawing Breath and Don’t Tell Anyone are both out. I’m helping some wonderful writers get their manuscripts ready for publication. Took me almost fifty years, but I think I’ve finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up. Being up to my elbows in words—my words and those of other’s—is definitely my happy place.

But this year, two additional books came out with my name attached to them as contributing author: Indies Unlimited’s Author’s Snarkopaedia Volume 1 and Indies Unlimited: Tutorials and Tools for Prospering in a Digital World. This would not be possible without the passion and dedication of Stephen Hise and K.S. Brooks, the evil geniuses behind Indies Unlimited. I sit in a little pink room filled with toys in a house in the woods, typing on a keyboard, a recluse by nature, and at times this gets isolating and a bit sad. Being a part of IU and having a virtual extended family of kindred spirits across the Interwebs gives me great joy and at times so much laughter I spit tea across the keyboard. I have actually pulled muscles from laughing. It’s much more entertaining to go to the chiropractor with a good story of how I hurt myself, rather than the usual snow-shoveling or long-car-ride excuse. I do like to be considerate of my healthcare professionals whenever possible. They want funny stories to tell people at parties, too.

So thank you to you all for supporting my writing, for sharing it with your friends, and for trusting me with your work and your words.

However 2012 has treated you, whether you’re gazing fondly in the rearview mirror or bidding it off with glee while saying, “Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out,” I hope 2013 is bursting with health, peace, love, happiness, and prosperity, in whatever form that means to you.

Onward!