Pick up any newspaper and you'll find stories about how bad the economy is. Foreclosures are snowballing, the unemployment rate is inching up, gas prices are soaring, there are fears of runaway inflation, food prices are way up, layoffs are increasing, the stock market is down, the world as we know it is coming to an end.
For salespeople, this onslaught of bad economic news can have devastating psychological consequences. It erodes our confidence, heightens our anxiety, and may even convince us that our efforts are hopeless. The normal 'no' we receive is no longer simply no, instead it's a sign of how bad the economy is. Rejection becomes magnified, lost sales are indications of how business has changed and our success or failure is no longer within our control. As the negative economic news increases, we become more convinced that it isn't us; it's the economy that is causing our sales to decline, our income to shrivel, our future to be in question.
Having been through several economic ups and downs in my career, I've had the opportunity to experience first hand the insidious nature of paying too close attention to the news. When we are bombarded by negative reports we tend to absorb those reports into our selling activities. The negative news we read becomes the negative outcome we expect-and the negative outcome we experience. We view our successes as the rare exception and our failures as the new norm.
This creeping negativism worms its way into all of our sales business. Our prospecting decreases-what's the use anyway? Our presentations and proposals become defensive, pricing becomes our centerpiece, and we no longer ask for the prospect's business but instead beg for it.
Yet, there are companies and salespeople who thrive in weak economies. There are those who view a weak economy as an opportunity to grow their business while their competitors are hunkering down with a bunker mentality, hoping merely to survive.
How can you turn a weak economy to your advantage?
5 "Musts" to maintain momentum during a weak econom
1. Maintain Perspective: Don't allow yourself to get sucked in by the negative hype about the economy. Even during the worst of the Great Depression there were people and companies buying all types of products and services. There are ALWAYS quality prospects that want and need your products and services. Your job is to find them and connect with them in a manner they will respond to.
2. Maintain Prospecting: Most salespeople will DECREASE their prospecting as the economy weakens. Their general feeling of malaise and helplessness can work to your advantage if you can maintain-or even increase-your own level of activity. Further, since most salespeople will be using the most ineffective prospecting methods such as cold calling and networking, employing prospecting methods that are more acceptable to prospects will give you the opportunity to set yourself apart from the crowd.
3. Focus on Solving Issues, Not Price: Most of your competition will be focusing on price, not solving real issues and problems. Although price may be a consideration, quality prospects are more concerned about resolving their issues and problems and value, not getting the lowest possible price. Focus on the prospect's needs, not your competitor's price. While your competitor is busy turning their products and services into commodities to be sold at the lowest possible price, concentrate on understanding the root issues your prospect has and develop solutions that create value for your prospect.
4. Relationships Are Key: Human nature doesn't change just because the economy changes. Both business and individual consumers buy from people they trust and respect. Certainly, we all on occasion make purchases from people we don't have a relationship with-we may even make an occasional purchase from someone we don't respect or trust, but most sales are created through relationships, not price, hype, or fast talking. That doesn't change during a slow economy. People still purchase from people they trust and respect. While your competitors are looking for the quick sale, continue developing long-term relationships-not only will it pay off in the long run, it will create immediate selling opportunities also.
5. Take Advantage: As your competitors become more concerned about the economy, they will begin to batten down the hatches, cutting costs-including their marketing and prospecting expenses. They may cut other corners, even sacrificing customer service to save a couple of dollars here and there. Take advantage of the opportunities your competitors open up for you. Cut out the fat in your business while increasing your marketing and prospecting; make a conscious effort to target your competitor's best customers; while your competitors retreat to their bunker, become more aggressive in pursuing new business opportunities.
An economic downturn can be a time for you to expand and grow your sales business by doing the opposite of your competition. While they are cutting marketing and prospecting expenses, allowing themselves to become incapacitated by the bad economic news, and hunkering down hoping to just make it through the bad times, you can turn the economy in your favor by eliminating your unnecessary expenses while expanding your marketing and prospecting, recognizing prospects still buy solutions and buy based on relationships, not just price, and by taking advantage of your competitor's complacency, fear, and mistakes.
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