When Chris Spurvey told me that he’d sold over 8,000 copies of It’s Time to Sell before Christmas (and his book came out in December), I immediately asked if I could interview him for an author spotlight.
We all want to know Chris’s secrets for breakout book sales!
But when I read the book, I found even more to love and to ask him about. The book is not a typical sales book and I realized it could really help authors to get over their fear of sales and sell their books well.
LISA: When did you decide to write a book and why?
CHRIS: A few years after graduating from university in 1997, I realized that I needed to change the direction of my career. I had followed my friends into accounting but was miserable sitting behind a desk all day. I evaluated my natural gifts and values and decided to move into a sales career. But due to my negative images of what I thought sales entailed, I fell flat on my face.
One day, while I was browsing at a bookstore, I picked up a book titled The Greatest Networker in the World by John Milton Fogg. It was a narrative that painted a picture in my mind of a way to approach sales that would leverage my background, values, and gifts. I fell in love with how Mr. Fogg delivered his message through the use of a story. I decided at that very moment that if I ever broke out and made it in sales I would write a book to tell my story. It’s Time to Sell is that story.
LISA: What were your dreams and hopes for It’s Time to Sell?
CHRIS: I truly wrote It’s Time to Sell in an effort to help others see that success in sales—and in life in general—does not have to be complicated. I saw it from two perspectives: writing a book would be a great way for me to add an extra layer of fulfillment to my life and if I could help even one person through the sharing of my past struggles and achievements the book would be a success. I should also note that I wrote the book with my two teenage children in mind. I wanted to write a book that they could read and learn from.
Breakout Book Sales
LISA: I have to admit that I was blown away when you told me you sold 8,000 copies of your book in three weeks. Of that, 75% was bulk sales. Can you say how you made a case for a large services firm to buy the books?
CHRIS: It was not done on purpose, but It’s Time to Sell has appealed not only to people in the sales profession but also to anyone with a desire to add more success or fulfillment to one’s life. I pre-sold my book to people on my email newsletter list.
Some of those people are sales and marketing leaders within their companies. One of my pre-orders turned out to be the chief marketing officer for a large services firm, who then decided to purchase copies for the company’s entire sales force. This type of bulk sale has since happened three more times.
LISA: Wow, that really speaks to the importance of building a community before your book comes out. You did a great job of that with your sales podcasts and sales blog. Were you surprised at your book’s success, particularly the bulk sales?
CHRIS: That is a great question. I am proud of the sales, but I am not necessarily surprised. I am always striving to level up my life. I try to focus on the energy of progress rather than the energy of numbers. A fun by-product of the book’s success is that I have been invited to speak at sales rallies and entrepreneurial events. I am more excited by these opportunities than I am about the book’s sales numbers. I thrive on interactions with other people.
It’s Time to Sell
LISA: It’s Time to Sell is geared to a reader who may not be comfortable with sales but needs to be able to sell. It seems to me that you really understand your readers and what may help them to reframe their beliefs about sales so they can be more effective while remaining authentic. It seems to me that the content of your book offers readers the opportunity to understand their motivations, beliefs, and patterns. Can you say why that’s important and why you emphasize such activities?
CHRIS: We all have experiences in our pasts that have had huge effects on us. For me, I creatively interpreted an interaction I witnessed, when I was young, between my parents and the Electrolux vacuum cleaner salesman. My interpretation was that sales was something you did to people and that to be successful in sales you had to convince people. This belief held me back for years when I first entered the sales profession.
At our core, though, we are all the same. We all have visions for our lives. These visions are either positive (congruent with our goals), neutral (we have what we have), or negative (we think we do not even deserve what we have). The gap between our vision and our current situation produces self-motivation.
To move consistently forward, one needs to build a positive vision. Anyone who is either directly responsible for generating revenue for a company or is in the game of convincing others really must build up a vision that includes them being an authentic sales professional.
Most—if not all—people are in some way in the sales profession. So becoming effective at sales provides a great foundation for success.
LISA: What kind of response are you getting from readers?
CHRIS: The majority of readers say, “Wow, this is not a typical sales book! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”
LISA: I wholeheartedly agree. Are you doing any trainings or other events at KPMG?
CHRIS: My role at KPMG is sales enablement. I work with our partners and consultants to enable them to be more effective sales professionals. I try and live and breathe the content of my book on a daily basis.
Using LinkedIn to Sell Books
LISA: How else have you promoted the book?
CHRIS: During the past year, I have written more than sixty articles and published them on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has been my platform of choice for networking with like-minded people. At the bottom of each article, I include a reference to my book and my website.
LISA: You mentioned to me that you sent out copies to some key influencers…
CHRIS: Yes, not the stratosphere or influencers–regular people who comment frequently and whom I’ve gotten to know–the storyteller Sarah Elkins and Larry Levine, among others. They’d been commenting on my articles. I nurtured the connections and they really appreciated the gift. I gave from gratitude and never asked for anything but they were very generous in their response. Several posted on LinkedIn and Facebook, resulting in book sales.
I interviewed Dorie Clark for my first podcast and sent her a copy. I never asked for anything but she wrote my first Amazon review.
Lisa: So much of this success can be attibuted to building relationships over time.
Chris: Yes. I’ve also mentioned the book to my email newsletter subscribers (I have produced a newsletter every Sunday morning for the past year; in it, I share my personal experiences in sales). I would suggest that, to date, my launch has been quite soft.
Lisa: I can only imagine what kind of success you’ll have if this is the soft launch. What’s next?
Chris: I plan to ramp up my launch throughout the first and second quarters of this year. The activities likely will include a launch event in my hometown, where I’ll invite friends and family who have supported me.
LISA: Did you have to apply some of your own advice on selling as you wrote the book and later marketed it? If so, what’s an example?
CHRIS: I most definitely had to apply my own advice throughout the writing process. I would characterize the writing process as a slog. I thought I would be able to do it over two to three months, but the more I got into it the more I was encouraged to do it right. There were days when I thought, “What am I doing?” But I always went back to the vision I had for the next phase of my life—the vision of helping others to become successful in sales. This helped me to maintain my focus.
LISA: What are some of the points in the book that are particularly relevant to an author who may not be comfortable with selling?
CHRIS: I would suggest that all of the content in the book is relevant to authors. To be successful as an author, we need to write. While writing we experience resistance that is deeply rooted in creative interpretations of our pasts. For example, when I was at university, I was told by an English professor that I was a horrible writer. I barely passed the course! When I look back at that experience now, I realize that I had tried to write like my friend Craig, who was natural at it (he is a sportswriter today). My writing had no authenticity. What was missing was my vision for my future, which included me doing and being everything required to be a professional writer.
In the same way, most people’s visions for their lives do not include them selling. We need to create this vision so that we can come at it in an authentic, unique way.
When you have that vision crystallized, look out! Self-motivation in the form of physical energy, enthusiasm, creativity, persistence, and courage will burst forth.
LISA: I love the reflective questions you ask at the end of each chapter. Sometimes we think of sales as a pushing kind of energy, making things happen. It’s Time to Sell really reframes that mind-set. What’s your advice to an author who wants to reframe their idea of sales?
CHRIS: Reframing is exactly what this is all about. To the degree there is clarity, the mind does not distinguish between a real experience and a vividly imagined experience. If we take the time to create a vision of ourselves coming at sales in an authentic, value-based way that incorporates our gifts and use it as a tool to enable us to fulfill our purposes in life, we will attack sales with vengeance. It is just like dyeing cloth. If you want to reframe your vision of sales, you should relax and visualize yourself in sales mode over and over again. Eventually, just as the white cloth will turn blue with continual soaking in blue dye, you will wake up and attack sales in a way that you had never thought possible.
LISA: You self published. What are some of the benefits of self-publishing?
CHRIS: Personally, I wanted to get my work out there as expediently as possible. I had no desire to look for a publisher. That is not to suggest I would not consider traditional publishing for future books, but as a relatively new author I did not want to take the time to find a publisher. Throughout the process, I felt 100% in control. I chose who I wanted to work with as a copy editor. I decided who I wanted to design the interior and the cover. I decided how fast or slowly I wanted to market the book. I like that feeling.
Lisa: It looks like that was a great decision: Your book got out there faster than it would have with a traditional publisher. Your sales are strong. And the book is high quality. In addition, you make a higher percentage on each sale, which I’m sure is nice! Well done and congratulations, Chris.
Chris Spurvey is a Vice President with KPMG Canada. He loves his work and hopes to share his enthusiasm for selling in an authentic and visionary way. He lives in Newfoundland, “The Best Province.” He is author of It’s Time To Sell.