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Sep 04, 2002
Case Study

How a $35 Book Web Site Upsells Visitors to $835 Teleseminars

SUMMARY: Even if you are not involved in the content business, you may find this Case Study useful because it includes tips on how to plant sales notes on online discussion groups your marketplace visits.

Plus, how can you not admire the sheer chutzpah of a guy who pops up an almost-home-made Web site to market a $35 book, and ends up selling literally millions in teleseminar tickets through it?

When sales guru Jacques Werth completed the manuscript of his first book, 'High Probability Selling,' several publishers were interested in it.

As Werth puts it, "The terms of their contracts were onerous." He called a few of their published authors to see if it was worth it. "No one had had a good experience. Even one that was selling very well, he said the publisher quickly stopped promoting the title."

Indeed the publishers themselves tell authors that if they want bookstores to order more copies, the authors have to be very proactive about marketing.

Werth figured if he was going to have to promote his own book like crazy, then he was not going to settle for a measly 12% royalty. He decided to self publish instead, and lined up a distributor deal to get his books into the stores directly.

How to promote the book so stores would sell lots of copies and then reorder mass quantities?

It was 1996 and the Web was just starting to heat up. Werth decided to pop up a site featuring promotional ideas that stores could use to increase their sales. "It was cheap and it was worth a try."

It did not work.

Bookstore staff just were not surfing online yet. However, out of the blue, as Werth describes it, "for some strange reason we started getting orders from individual people who weren't booksellers. We had a phone number on the Web site and people started calling up saying 'I want to buy your book.'"

Werth bagged his original Web strategy in favor of seeing how much money he could get by selling to visitors direct.


First Werth focused on making his site as powerful a sales tool as possible in four ways:

1. First four chapters of the book free. "If we could circulate it to a million salespeople we would." As it is the first chapter is downloaded and read almost twice as much as chapter four. Notably these chapters are available in HTML, which visitors seem to prefer over PDF.

2. Revamped home page every six months. "It gets stale," explains Werth who hopes for return traffic beyond one-time book buyers (see below). He constantly reads up on Web design and tests new tactics that seemed to have worked for other sites.

3. Professional copywriting. Although he is an author and no slouch with words, Werth says it is important to hire expert copywriters for your site. "It's typically not very expensive. Our current home page cost about $600, which works out to $100 per month as long as we use it. If it can pull 20% more than the previous home page, that's worth it."

To select copywriters he views their samples, "If it makes me want to buy what they're selling, I'll give them a shot."

4. Complete contact info on every single page. It may seem like a small thing, but many sites forget to do that.

Aside from putting his URL on everything he can think of, Werth drives traffic to the site using two classic guerrilla methods:

-> Traffic Method #1: Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Very early on Yahoo happened to list the site under "sales training" of its own accord, and traffic soared. Werth became an SEO believer.

He now budgets $18,000 per year to hire SEO consultants (about $1500 per month). "Considering what we get back for it, it's a pittance."

-> Traffic Method #2: Participating in Online Discussion Groups

Werth budgets a portion of his time each week to seek out and participate in bulletin boards and email discussion groups about topics relating to his book. "Very often I'll just go to Altavista or Google and put in the keyword 'sales and marketing discussion groups' and it will come up with more lists than you want to deal with. Most are invalid, but it's worth the time. If you turn up just one, it's worth a lot of business."

Other places he searches for groups include:

Some of the boards and groups he posts most frequently to include:
Fast Company Forums's message boards's community's sales talk
Registatered Representative Online

Werth never posts sales pitches (A.K.A. "shameless self promotion") to any of these lists. Instead he looks for questions from participants that he can reply with highly useful answers to. He hopes group members are impressed enough by his expertise to then scroll down to his carefully crafted SIG (email signature) to find out who this guy is, and then to click through to learn more about his book.

Sample SIG:
Jacques Werth
High Probability Selling
and thirty other national publications.

Soon the site's sales began to almost equal bookstore sales, which themselves were fairly healthy. Werth wondered how to make more money from his online buyers.

First he tested offering an audiobook version. Visitors can buy it alone, or as a bundle with the printed hard copy.

Like many experts who use their books as a platform to market one-to-one consulting services, Werth got lots of new clients from the book and site. He expanded his team to include a staff of instructors who fly to clients' locations. However many small and mid-size companies can not afford this personal service.

Then "one student suggested that we do a conference call class with maybe 10 people to split the cost." Bingo. Werth's teleseminar division was born.

The site was critical to the ticket-selling process. First Werth's webmaster added a pop-up box offering an email newsletter subscription which appears the second a visitor clicks on any link from the home page (so they have hopefully seen enough to be impressed and agree to sign up).

Werth tested two different newsletter types. One was two-three pages long and contained several stories plus links to upcoming seminar schedules. The second was much shorter, containing one half-page "tip" and the seminar schedule link. (See sample below.)

Some notes on how the teleseminars work:

- Each is 12 hour-long sessions spread over six weeks

- Attendees get a "thick loose-leaf workbook" packed with course materials and blank worksheet pages to start with.

- No, the phone number is not toll-free.

- Pricing averages $740-835 per student.

- Best times of day for classes are 10:30am ET or 1:30 P.M. ET

- Best days for classes are Monday-Thursday

- No make-up classes are available. If you miss a class, that is your tough luck. Werth suggests you get notes from your fellow students.

- Every class includes homework assignments, which may be sent in prior to the next class for instructor feedback. However participation is entirely up to the students, and no grades or certificates are given.

- Q&A times are built into the schedule. Occasionally a student will take a bit too much advantage of this. In that case the instructor calls that student privately after the session and reminds them of the rules about participation (students must sign an agreement sheet prior to starting the course).

- About one student in every four classes ends up resigning (or is asked to leave) because the course material or their behavior is not suitable.

- More than 95% of the time, attendees have read the book prior to the class. "The first course we did was 20 people and 19 had read the book."

- Sales rise when the description of the seminar is highly detailed on the Web. "When we did a very clear outline as to what exactly the course was all about, and walked them though what a session was, our sales shot up."


65% of Werth's business now comes through his site, and business is booming. "This summer has been the best summer we ever had."

The original book itself is now in the ninth printing of its 3rd edition. "Every month we continue to sell more than the month before. It's just a phenomenon," Werth says.

A full 7% of people who buy the book go on to purchase additional products or services, with an average sale of $227 each. Werth shared this example of a typical sale:

"An insurance agent visited a web discussion board about financial planning and read some favorable commentary about High Probability Selling (HPS). He did a Google search for that term and arrived at our web site where he ordered our book. After reading the book he called our office to ask if we had any information on how to apply HPS to his industry. We sent him a set of prospecting scripts for that industry - no charge. A couple of weeks later he went back to our web site and enrolled in one of our Open Enrollment Distance Learning workshops. That kind of sale occurs almost every day."

More Results:

- Although just 40% of book sales are made through the site (versus bookstores) those online sales are three times more profitable than books sold in stores because buyers are more likely to revisit the site to purchase other items.

- 60% of sales are to corporate sales departments, 40% to individuals. Individual sales often lead up the ladder to the corporate sales though.

- Every time the home page has been redesigned, results have improved at least a bit. However, Werth says he can not believe that will go on forever.

- Although participating in online discussion groups has proven very successful (some of Werth's individual postings can drive up to 50 visitors to the site who are more likely to purchase than the average visitor), Werth cautions marketers not to judge success by clicks alone.

"We compare who goes to our order form versus the just the home page." Some groups generate lots of clicks but few sales and vice versa.

- 18% of visitors agree to join the email list when they get the home page pop-up asking for permission.

- The longer newsletter was not worth the effort. This may be because sales people in general are not known as big readers. Werth now just sends the shorter version. (Sample below.)

- 30% of site visitors who buy the audiotape, spring $50 for the tape/book combo.

- In slow periods Werth's team start a new teleseminar "every couple of weeks. In busy times we start three new ones at once." The average class has 7.6 students.

SAMPLE: Here is a sample of Werth's short tip ezine

Subject line: Ethics In Selling and Course Schedules

Body copy:

As you requested, the latest sales tip/email notification letter appears below.



To Be Removed From this List See REMOVAL Instructions at the Bottom of This Page.

Ethics In Selling

What are the basic ethics that a sales person should keep in mind while selling? What are the do's and don'ts to follow apart from regular selling tactics?

We know that most salespeople try to be as honest as possible within the parameters of their selling methods. However, almost all selling systems are designed to convince and persuade prospects to buy, to manipulate their thinking, and to overcome their objections. That means continuously stressing the positive aspects, the benefits, of your products and service. Very few salespeople have learned to stress the detriments, also. But, that's exactly what most top salespeople do.

Most top salespeople have learned to sell without manipulation. They tell their prospects and customers all of the negatives about their products and services, as well as the positives. In other words they practice "total disclosure." The result is that most prospects realize that they can trust and respect that kindof sales person and, for most prospects, trust and respect are the two most important buying factors.

We studied the sales activities of 312 of the top salespeople in 23 different industries. The vast majority of them are using radically different selling methods from those of "reasonably successful" salespeople. One of the standout differences is that most top salespeople are radically honest with their prospects and customers. We're not moralists; we take a pragmatic approach; it may (or may not) be coincidental that the two are in harmony. When the best salespeople on the planet have proven that telling the whole truth is far more productive than telling partial truths, it makes sense to learn to sell that way. That's why the High Probability Selling process is designed as a radically honest selling system.

For the latest Distance Learning Sales Training Schedules click this link:

Removal Instructions: If you no longer wish to receive emails from High Probability Selling, send a reply with the word "Remove" in the subject field.
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