The pressure is building. You feel it every day. Customers are more knowledgeable, and they’re demanding more concessions and more results making for a very tough selling climate. And when you don’t keep up, it’s easy to fall into the trap of blaming the economy for lost deals or poor results.
Opportunities for success
The pressures under which salespeople operate provide both opportunities for success and risks for failure. These same pressures that push some salespeople into failure cause others to flourish.
The encouraging news is that even in uncertain times some salespeople deliver impressive results. A recent survey by Forum identified nine driving principles that top salespeople follow during an economic turndown:
- Be a true business consultant to customers. Customers value new ideas and insights based on your experience and expertise. What have you learned from past customers that can help relieve current customers’ pains immediately? Talk results with them. Show how your product or service helps them meet their goals. Create solutions for their problems. Be innovative. Increase credibility by acting as a trusted advisor who brings innovative, highly-differentiated solutions to the table that respond to your customers’ unique business challenges.
- Do your homework. Know more, connect to more information than your customers do, and turn your knowledge into value. Invest time and energy in researching your customers and their markets, competitors, employees and challenges. Learn much more before the call, so you can prepare insights to share with the customer during the call that turn into meaningful action after the call.
- Clearly differentiate. Try harder to clearly differentiate your company, product or service from the competition. If you customers can’t easily and quickly explain why you’re different from others in the same field, it might be a good idea to review your presentation. Don’t just assume they see your uniqueness — ask them.
- Identify hot industries or sectors. A downturn doesn’t hit all companies, all sectors of the economy or all industries. There are always some areas that still grow. Concentrate on finding those areas.
- Market yourself more to both prospects and customers. Keep in touch with them through letters, postcards, newsletters, emails, voice messages and sales calls. Try to have something of value to share with them every time you touch base.
- Stay in touch with customers who are not buying — no matter their reasoning. By not staying in touch with them now, you send the signal that you only want to talk with them when they’re ready to order.
- Keep your enthusiasm. Prospects and customers are influenced by your enthusiasm or lack of it. Customer surveys report that they prefer doing business with positive, enthusiastic sales professionals. Complacency by a salesperson almost always leads to disaster.
- Avoid negative self-talk. It’s easy to get caught up in negative thinking, especially during tough times. Resist the temptation to tell yourself all the things you’re not doing right and all the things you need to improve upon. Recharge or renew yourself and then put in enough effort to get where you want to be, not just enough to stay where you are now.
- Focus on your long-term vision versus the short-term. Take the time to renew your goals weekly so that you’re focused on the long term. That way there is not as much impact from the negative things that happen in the short term.