"My prospects and clients are certainly feeling the pinch of the economy and they're fearful. But I also closed the biggest sale of my career last week."
"Despite the news and the hype of the last two or three weeks, I've only seen a slight decrease in our sales. Our salespeople have to be much more selective in qualifying prospects and they have to spend more time building value into the sale, but our customers are still buying, they're still getting the financing they need, and their companies are still profitable. It's tough, but not nearly as bad as what you'd believe if you just listened to the news."
"Seems like everybody wants to just sit and wait it out and see what happens. Everyone is afraid. No one knows what to do at this point, so our sales have fallen off the chart the past couple of weeks. I really don't want our GM to talk to the salespeople because there's a sound of panic in his voice."
"I'm finding it more difficult every day to make sales calls. No one wants to make a decision and even some who would be willing to go forward aren't sure they can get the funds to do so."
"I'm working hard. I'm willing to talk to people I would have passed over just a couple of months ago. I'm spending a lot of time talking but I'm not getting anywhere. I've even found myself reverting back to doing some pretty hard sell stuff trying to get something going."
The above are comments about selling during the last two weeks from several of my clients from various parts of the country, each in a different industry.
Like many others, I've spoken to many salespeople and managers over the past couple of weeks who blame the economy on poor sales. Their words indicate they are struggling, their voice indicates defeat. When we talk about strategies to overcome sales resistance and to find and connect with quality prospects, they complain that I'm not being realistic, that I just don't understand their situation, that in their industry in today's economy it isn't rational to expect to maintain their sales volume or their pricing structure.
Yet I have other clients in the same industries as those who claim it unrealistic to expect to maintain their sales volumes, who are still selling at or near their previous levels-one who signed the biggest contract of her career just last week.
Which 'reality' is reality? Is it the reality of those whose voice communicates defeat and hopelessness-or is reality really reflected by those who although they say the market is tough are producing at or near their pre-crisis levels?
I believe that both realities are, in fact, reality. More correctly, I believe that the 'reality' of defeat and hopeless is a self-fulfilling prophesy, whereas the 'reality' of "it's tough but the sales are still there" reflects the actual marketplace.
Let me explain why I believe that.
When we begin discussing the specifics of their activity, those who foresee doom and gloom and whose sales have plummeted, have:
- Spent less time prospecting than they did prior to the economic 'crisis'
- They are less selective in whom they speak with, hoping against hope to find someone interested
- Their conversations are more hard sell than they had been previous to acquiring their current attitude of desperation and depression
- They expect the prospect to refuse to make a decision at this time
Not surprisingly, they get exactly what they expect. By making fewer contacts with less qualified prospects and then trying to strong arm a sale, they are seeing their sales fall drastically. They are getting the exact results they not only expect but have set themselves up to get.
On the other hand, when I speak to those who are doing well in this market I find that they:
- Have increased their prospecting activity
- Are more selective in qualifying their prospects
- Are spending more time working with prospects to understand their needs and issues to build more value into the sale than they had previously
- Are taking additional time and care to build relationships prior to seeking to sign a contract
- Understand that although the market is more difficult, there are still more quality prospects in the market than they can take care of-their job is to find them
Yes, these men and women are working longer and harder than they have in quite some time. But they aren't seeing the drastic decrease in business many others are. And, yes, they expect to be successful. But that expectation is balanced with a serious dose of reality that says they must work both harder and smarter-they must invest more time and effort and be much more selective in how and where they spend their time.
The current paralysis that a great many are seeing in the marketplace is only two or three weeks old. It is very likely-a foregone conclusion-that the market will get tighter before it begins to get better. But for a few, the current market driven by fear-for both prospects and clients-isn't hindering their production. Not because they're lucky or because they have some magic formula, but because they haven't allowed the 'reality' of the 'crisis' to stop them from selling.
They have to spend more time prospecting. They have to work harder. They are having to develop new skills and new strategies. But they aren't letting the perceived 'reality' of the negative and hopeless create their reality.
You need not accept the defeatist 'reality' either. You will have to invest more time and be more selective in finding and connecting with quality prospects-but they are out there. You will have to invest more time in building solid relationships and building more value into each sale. You may well have to invest in training and coaching to learn more effective prospecting and sales methods and strategies. It isn't easy and it takes commitment, innovation, and perseverance-but it works. Just ask those who are finding the current market to be just as lucrative as the market was before the 'crisis.'
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