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5 Strategies for Selling in a Tough Market
by Gavin Ingham
1. Believe you can and stay positive!
One of the problems with all of this talk about recession is that once people believe there is going to be a recession they start to feel negative about their business prospects and only tend to see what they believe rather than believing what they see. Once you believe that there is going to be a recession you tend to only notice articles, comments and statistics that support your beliefs.
What's more, your negative beliefs quickly affect your outlook and the way that you feel about your business prospects.
If you thought 2008 was going to be a great year for business, your best year yet; how would you feel?
Conversely, if you thought 2008 was going to see a major recession and that it was going to hit you and your business hard; how would you feel?
Mighty different huh? And remember, nothing's changed here other than your belief. Having a positive and supportive belief structure is essential if you want to succeed in any market but it is vitally essential if you want to keep on selling in a tough one.
Having a winning belief system does not mean that you need to be deluded however! In the middle of the darkest recession you don't want to have your eyes shut! But you have to understand that in a downturn clients want to partner with the best companies. Suppliers that they can rely on. Suppliers that support them. Suppliers who are going to be around tomorrow. And if your competitors struggle, that means more sales and more business for you.
2. Get proactive
You need to be more proactive. Much more proactive. You need to do more marketing and more selling. You need to attend more events and do more networking. You need to do more promotion and more canvassing. You need to increase your sales activities, maybe dramatically.
In a recession many companies cut their sales activites. They figure, "If we're not going to sell anything, what's the point?" Many individual salespeople do this too.
Cut your activity, cut your sales. You're a living, breathing, self-fulfilling prophecy! You believe there is not much business out there, so you feel negative. That in turn affects your activity and your activity destroys your sales results.
Even if there is not as much business out there, then you need to be more active, more focused and more targeted. If your competitors are easing off a little, now is the time to up the anti and grab your share of the market. Even if there is a blip, you will be strongly placed when activity picks up.
One of my friends went down to our local estate agent this week to put his house on the market. He was told that maybe he should wait as he might not get the price he wants right now. They told him the market was quiet and that might not be able to sell the house at all. Better to wait for the market to pick up. I walked past their offices later on that day. They were all sitting, chatting and drinking coffee. They were probably moaning about what a bad year it's going to be. If I's have been in that office, I'd have taken my mates house on and I'd have been on the phone drumming up some viewings. 50 calls, 100, calls, 500 calls... Whatever it takes. I'd have found someone.
Talk about killing your own market! If you see less business then you need to do more sales and marketing, not less. That's common sense.
3. Sharpen your sales skills
If a workman needs a spade and a farmer needs a horse; a boxer needs a defence and a chef needs a recipe; what do salespeople need? The answer's obvious - it's sales skills.
Most salespeople do not spend enough time working on improving their sales skills and techniques. Sales training and development is not something that many salespeople spend their time on out of choice. Perhaps they can get away with this in a booming marrket when sales are easy. Perhaps not. But things will always change if the market tightens. Sales success will go to the salesperson who really understands why people buy and can help people make the right business decisions. Salespeople of this calibre stand to benefit from possible changes ahead because there will be more business for them as their competition falls by the wayside.
Sales will not go to the journeyman salesperson, the mediocre wannabee or the 9-5 order taker. Salespeople like these could well be in for a rough time.
When did you last read a sales training book on selling? How many sales training audios have you listened to over the last month? How many sales training seminars have you atteneded in the last 6 months? For 80% of salespeople reading this, the answer is zero.
4. Improve your service and focus on relationships
As I write this many companies will be working out how to cut corners. They will try to save money by tinkering with their business offerings. They will try and eek extra profits out of their clients by cutting the bells and whistles from their offerings. This is not a good idea. A Swiss cow with no bells is just a cow and no-one would send postcards of them home!
If business is tight you want to be wowing your clients with the best service that they have ever had, from you or from any of your competitors. You need to be going the extra mile. If a recession bites many companies will try and discount to survive. They probably won't (survive), but you don't want your clients going to them as they try to keep their heads above water! You need to "lock in" your existing clients now so that they won't even think about going anywhere else.
Spend time with your clients. Build stronger relationships with your clients. Make sure you truly understand them, their concerns and their businesses. Find ways to help them and add value over and above what they could have ever expected.
5. Leverage your efforts
In a soft market many salespeople only chase the easy stuff. They don't chase the tough stuff. They're doing ok, they don't have to. They're making sales right?
Most salespeople have all sorts of opportunities which they squander every day and every month because there are seemingly easier things that they can be doing. This is particularly true in an industry or a company where leads have been relatively easy to come by, where sales targets are relatively soft (I could tell you which industries but I'm not going to) or where salespeople are overpaid so don't crave the business (again, I'll keep this to myself!).
In a tough market you must leverage all of your efforts. This is basic sales 101 and should be stuff that you do every day anyway... Here are just a few ideas.
Always ask for referrals. Referrals are great business but most salespeople do not ask for them because clients often say no. Learn how to ask for a referral properly and then build asking for a referral into your sales process and ask for one every time.
Upsell and cross-sell. Whether though laziness, lack of knowledge or lack of ability many salespeople sit on accounts where there is so much more business than they are currently leveraging. Extending your business with existing clients will not only make you more money, it will also strengthen your relationships with and value to them and their businesses.
Contact dormant accounts. Most companies have hundreds if not thousands of "dormant" accounts. There may be multiple reasons for this from changing business practises to fall-outs with the client. Dormant clients may well be redeemable and may have been "lost" purely because someone forgot to ring them or a salesperson moved on. Get in touch with them!
Follow up on all leads. I recently contacted 5 health insurance companies over the web. Only one replied. You should not be burning leads like this in any market. Follow up on all leads professionally using a proven sales system like the ones I teach in my sales training seminars and programmes and you will close more business. New business is the lifeblood of any business in any market.
So there we are, 5 tips to help you to sell in a recession. This year may well prove to be an interesting year for some businesses and individuals. Some of this will be down to the market itself. Much of it will be down to you and how you react and respond to what might be a challenging year.
Here's my prediction for the year...
There will be winners and there will be losers. Which are you going to be?
Copyright (c) 2008 Gavin Ingham
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