How to Sell Your Way Out of a Tougher Economy

So how's business? Whether you sell equipment…materials…supplies…or services…I'm guessing your answer isn't that positive right now.

Some business areas are doing really well…but most have spent the last year struggling for every sale…fighting off aggressive cost-cutting competitors as you all chased after fewer buyers.

I'm Jim Pancero. and I've been consulting and training sales teams for over 35 years…in 80 different industries. And I've worked with lots of companies as they fought their way through tough…multiple-year recessions.

The companies that did the best during tougher times all followed the same six actions to sell their way out of their economic slow-downs. How many of these six actions will you make work for your sales team?

1st - Improve Morale.

The first…and most critical action you need to take to sell your way out of this tougher economy…is to improve moral.

I'm guessing there have been a lot of "doom and gloom" language and conversations going on around your offices lately about mergers…cutbacks… layoffs… and cost cutting…all negative.

There's a reality of leadership…if you change your language as a coach and leader…you'll also change the attitudes and actions of your sales team.

Allow me to ask you a straightforward question, are you going to survive today’s challenging…hyper-competitive economy?

I'm really sorry if your answer's no…but for the vast majority of you watching …your answer is going to be an easy yes.

So…if you're going to survive this…you'll need to first re-energize your sales team. The majority of sales people are emotionally driven. They're happy and working hard when times are good and sales are easy. But look how everyone's energy and efforts dropped as soon as your market went sour and things got tougher.

Start with your personal language and attitude. The emotional crash has passed…isn't it time to start talking about positive signs of improvement and action?

As a coach…you need to first work for a change in attitude; then for a change in effort; next, a change in progress; and finally, a change in results.

What can you do to contribute to the positive language of your team?

2nd - Get back to work.

Your second action to sell your way out of tougher times is to get your team back to work.

When times were great and they're closing lots of orders they were laughing and thought nothing of working 60 or 70 hour weeks. But when the market place slows down…there's less buying…and they grimly struggle to get through a 40 hour week.

It's time to get your sales team busy…even if there're fewer buyers to talk to. You can't be active and depressed at the same time. Your job as a leader is to get your team's energy up and to get them more active.

Most sales reps in slower times go into reactive mode only responding to requests and problems. To sell your way out of this you need to drive more proactive selling efforts.

Keep reminding your team it's still a competitive battle. No matter if fewer customers might be buying at any moment…those buyers still have a competitive choice. What're you doing to make sure your choice is considered for every buying decision being made in your market?

Expand your existing customer outreach programs or initiate new prospecting projects. Set a team goal of working harder…and smarter than your competitors.

3rd - Protect what you have.

The third action to selling your way out of all this is to protect what you have.

This is the time to become more valuable to your most important customers by becoming their Trusted Advisors…to keep your competitors at bay. Conduct free seminars and clinics on how to extend the life of your equipment, how to best use your products, and how they can lower their total costs of operations.

Talk about ways your buyers can save money or lower their costs…show them the trade-offs and consequences of various cost-cutting efforts they're considering…to help them make the best decisions…decisions that hopefully involve continuing to buy from you.

This is the time to make it harder for your current customers to leave you for a cheaper…and lower service level alternative. Your customers are talking to someone right now…is it you?

4th - Prospect!

These first three actions I’m recommending are really just defensive and protective actions. Once these first three are stable then you can move into offensive mode and expand your opportunities.

Your fourth action is to significantly increase prospecting. Now is the best time to prospect for new customers. It's easier in today's tougher environment to get a first conversation with a new prospect than it's been when times were good and everyone was selling at strong profit margins. Challenged buyers tend to listen to anyone offering suggestions that can lower their costs, increase their quality, or lower their risk.

Though you might occasionally get lucky and stumble across someone getting ready to buy, the goal of prospecting in a down or slow economy is to build the contacts and then maintain the connections so when the marketplace does recover you're the first one's talking…and selling your new friends.

What percent of your time are you dedicating to prospecting? Most industries believe an average producing sales rep in a normal or growing economy should be spending at least 25% of their time looking for new customers…or new opportunities within existing customers.

What percent of next week do you plan to invest in prospecting?

5th - Strengthen coaching.

Your firth action to sell your way out of tougher times centers on refocusing…and strengthening your sales leadership.

In strong economic times a sales manager could be a successful team leader by only focusing on the "Transactional" side of sales management…spending all their time on special pricing…problem solving…expediting…and customer thank you calls.

The key to leading a team through a tougher economy is to function more as a "Selling process" coach and leader. Transactional managers only ask WHAT and WHO questions…"What're you going to close this month?…and who's it going to be?"

Selling process coaches and leaders ask more HOW and WHY questions…"How do you plan to go after that prospect?...and why aren’t you also trying to call on their quality manager?"

Changing the selling habits of a team has to be management led. As a leader you need to increase the frequency and positive language of your communications. You need to show them this is doable…and you believe they can do it.

If moral or sales are really low…hold weekly…or even daily brief sales meetings to discuss what they did the day or week before…what their plans are for today or this week…and to affirm any successful efforts or progress.

There's safety in a team…the more you create a team selling culture…with planning and structure and coaching…the harder your team members are likely to want to work.

6th - Increase "Selling Best Practices."

Our 6th and final action to sell your way out of a tougher economy is to increase your selling best practices.

The relationship selling skills that got your team through the strong economic times allowed even a reactive order-taking sales rep to be successful.

Success in today's tougher environment is to sell as a "SWAT Team" where you have defined steps…processes…and proven selling best practices. It’s a shift from only having sales artists…each painting their own unique message of value for each customer they sell…to today’s more efficient and effective model of sales as a “paint by numbers” selling process.

It takes real selling skills to survive in a tougher economy like today. Do you have the tools to help your team survive…and even win in today's hyper-competitive markets?

Do you have a clearly defined "Why buy from you" message of value and uniqueness? Do you have clearly defined multiple stepped selling plans of what it takes to consistently win new business opportunities? And do you have ongoing account planning sessions with your reps?

These are the tools…and the competitive advantage of a coach and leader of a sales team. How many of these tools do you currently have defined and in place?

Slower times are the best times to invest in sales training for your team. Experienced does not equal trained. Use my free sales videos on my website to begin training your sales team now.

Yea…for most this is a tough economy right now…and sales and profits are down…in some cases WAY down. I remember from my MBA training…it's nearly impossible to grow market share and profitability at the same time. They taught us you can only focus on one of those at a time.

If you know you're going to survive this tougher economy…then your immediate focus can't be on profitability right now…but instead your longer term strategy If you know you're going to survive today’s more challenged markets…then your immediate focus can't be on profitability right now…but instead needs to center on maintaining…and hopefully even growing your market share…so when markets do begin to recover…you recover first…and fastest.

Even in this weak economy there are still buyers buying. NOW is the time to fight for market share. NOW is the time to be strengthening current customers and building new relationships. NOW is the time to be building your team's selling skills and effectiveness.

And of most importance…NOW is the time to become a stronger "Selling Process" coach and leader of your team…to show them how they can sell their way out of this.

Call if you'd like to talk more about how you and your team can best implement and achieve success with these ideas.

Connect with me on Linked-In and register for my blogs to keep up on the latest ideas to increase your competitive advantage.

And be sure and check out all the free stuff on my website including free videos…articles…audios…as well as free online sales and sales manager tests.

It really doesn't matter whether it's a weak or strong economy…winning in sales is still based on you offering more uniqueness and a better value than your competitors.

After all…we know you and your team are good…now the only question is…are you and your team ready to get even better?...and to sell your way out of this?

Thanks for watching…I look forward to talking with you.

Jim Pancero

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