All bets are off! The economy and the market have changed more dramatically in the last few months than perhaps at any other period in our lifetimes. With the sub-prime mortgage collapse, the takeover of banks, massive government interventions worldwide and the rapid retrenching of businesses everywhere, the sales manager today often finds himself in the equivalent of a firefight—grappling with problems on all fronts.
Your ability to manage effectively in a period of turmoil, uncertainty, declining sales and customer anxiety is a true measure of your maturity, professionalism and character. Several issues ago, you may recall, I wrote about the seven R's—steps any sales executive can take to deal with unexpected challenges and achieve management mastery. Given the drastically altered economic landscape we now face, they've never been more applicable.
I. Rethink. Taking the place of "resistance," this requires that you take the time to stand back and look at your situation objectively. Remain calm. Accept that there are certain things that you can do something about, and there are many things about which you can do nothing. Put your previous assumptions about the market aside; start with a blank sheet of paper.
II. Reevaluate. Asked the question, "If I was not now doing this, knowing what I now know, would I start it up again today?" Is there any method of marketing or sales that you would not initiate, knowing what you now know? Is there any product or service that you would not offer in this competitive and changing market?
If the answer is "yes," then your next question is, "How do I get out of this, and how fast?" If there is anything that you would do to preserve your sales or customers, if worst came to worst, you should be thinking about doing it immediately.
III. Reorganize. Look at everything you are currently doing. How could you reorganize your activities to increase both the efficiency and effectiveness of your people and operations?
Perhaps you could focus your best people on your most important accounts, or your most profitable products and services. Perhaps you could focus the energies of your organization on selling those products and services that are most in demand at this time.
IV. Restructure. This requires that you move people and resources into the top 20% of activities that account for 80% of results. Put your top people selling your best products to your most important customers. Focus your marketing, advertising and sales activities on those prospects, customers and products.
V. Reengineer. This process goes on throughout your business life. Look for ways to simplify your work and reduce the time necessary to achieve your most important results. What activities could you delegate to others to free up your time for those things that only you can do? What parts of your business could you outsource to companies that specialize in that area?
VI. Reinvent. This requires that you continually imagine what you would do differently if you were starting your sales department over again today. Who would you take with you? What customers would you immediately get in touch with? What products and services would you no longer offer?
VII. Regain control. As a leader, you take charge. Refuse to make excuses, criticize, condemn, complain or blame other people for the problems you are facing.
In the final analysis, you are the decider. Your job is to think through the critical elements of your business, then make the tough decisions that ensure you survive today…and thrive tomorrow.