Times are tough. Companies are cutting back, people are tightening their belts and many decision-makers are holding off on major purchases. However, your company has not reduced your sales quotas. Selling in a difficult economy requires a different approach than during a robust one. Let's look at what you need to do to actively compete and keep your sales afloat.
• First and foremost, don't believe everything you hear. Just because the media says that the economy is sliding downward does not mean that your sales will be affected. Your mental mindset plays a tremendous role in your success. While it is difficult to maintain a positive perspective during times like this, it is essential to keep focused on your main objective. Associate with positive, like-minded people and avoid naysayers like the plague.
• Tighten your prospecting. Too many salespeople cast a wide net when prospecting with the intent of catching anything that comes their way. However, this approach is simply not a good use of your time. Instead of cold calling one hundred companies, determine your ideal customer and target businesses or organizations that more closely match this description. If you don't know who your ideal customer is, look at your existing clients. Who generates high revenue with high profit margins? What problems do you help them solve? Why do they do business with you? If you don’t know, ask.
• Do not, under any circumstances, say, "I will sell to anyone." This is the equivalent of selling to no one. In a difficult market, it is critical that you focus your efforts. Sales guru and fellow S&MM online columnist, Lee Salz recommends that you limit your prospecting efforts to no more than 25 new customers with an additional 10 on the backburner. (Read Salz's tips on recession survival at www.salesandmarketingmanagement.com.)
• Use an account-entry campaign. Jill Konrath, author of "Selling to Big Companies," suggests that you use a multi-touch campaign in your prospecting once you identify your top prospects. Use a combination of e-mail, telephone, targeted letters, trigger events and networking to connect with key decision-makers. This takes planning and time which means you cannot effectively prospect to more than 25 companies. Once again, this reinforces the importance of narrowing your prospect list rather than using a shotgun approach.
• Focus your presentations. Anytime you meet with a prospect or existing client, make sure that your presentation is directly focused on their problem. Skip the nonsense about your company, how long you have been in business, blah, blah, blah. Instead concentrate on showing your prospect EXACTLY how their business will benefit from using your product or service. If your product will save them money, tell them EXACTLY how much. If what you sell will improve productivity or reduce errors, show your prospect EXACTLY how. Decision-makers don't stop making purchases; however, they do expect more in terms of value.
• Get closer to your customers. Hopefully you already have a great relationship with your existing clients. Now is the time to strengthen that relationship. Aggressively look for ways you can help them solve problems they may be experiencing in their business. This does not necessarily mean selling more of your products. It could mean connecting them with experts in different fields, helping them on a project or recommending other resources.
• Become more visible. Resist the temptation to crawl into a cave and hide until the economy recovers. Your customers may forget about you and you may die. Now is the time to increase your networking activities—make sure that you network at the appropriate events. You can also increase your visibility by writing articles for industry trade magazines, speaking at industry conferences, and volunteering at your association's events. Your prospects may not have the money to make a buying decision right now, but when you increase your visibility you may just give them a reason to buy from you versus a competitor.
• Fine-tune your sales skills. As a sales trainer, I always come back to this and with good reason. The skills you currently possess got you where you are today but they won't get you much further. During times of economic uncertainty, it is essential to refine your questioning skills and learn to ask some tough questions. How has your customers’ buying process changed? What new challenges are they facing? What needs must your customers have satisfied now as opposed to later?
In addition to death and taxes, the one thing you can count on is that the economy will fluctuate. Right now, it is considerably more challenging than it was two years ago. However, that doesn't mean you can't reach your sales targets. Get smarter. Get focused. Get busy. Get ready to succeed in a tough economy.
© 2009 Kelley Robertson, All rights reserved. Kelley Robertson, author of "The Secrets of Power Selling" helps sales professionals fine-tune their selling habits to improve their sales and profits. Receive a FREE copy of 100 Ways to Increase Your Sales by subscribing to his free newsletter at www.Fearless-Selling.com. Kelley conducts workshops and speaks regularly at sales meetings and conferences. For information on his programs contact him at 905-633-7750 or Kelley@RobertsonTrainingGroup.com.