A slow economy is a difficult time for business and no salesperson welcomes it. As total business volume slumps, triggering apprehension of deeper recession and pessimisms and uncertainty can prevail. However, it is an inevitable part of the economic cycle and businesses should learn to cope with it and salespeople should develop a strategy to survive and thrive. They should pursue only the best possible sales opportunities despite the hardships. Weak and inefficient salespeople are affected most in a slow economy and some even get wiped out, because all the negative news affects their attitude. Interestingly, many salespeople and businesses not only survive when the economy is slow, they also thrive. In addition to having quality products and services they follow some basic sales strategies to succeed in a difficult market which you too can follow:
1. Shift and Readjust Focus:
The market composition changes when the economy is slow. Consumer demand and preferences change. Astuteness lies in studying and understanding the changes in the market and in consumer’s behavior. For example, a shoe manufacturer will notice that during a slump, consumers forego purchasing expensive designer shoes. But the sales of moderately priced shoes meant for the average consumer will purchase these brands unabated. The shoe manufacturer will be better off shifting focus to low end and moderately priced shoes rather than concentrating on high end – designer shoes. Similarly, financial and investment companies will find that the shares of certain industries still remain high despite an economic slow down. Industries related to food and other products that are basic to the needs of people will remain upbeat in a slump. Campbell’s Soup’s stock price has not depreciated significantly during this recession. The gaming industry has actually experienced growth during the current ongoing recession. Some computing companies haven’t yet been introduced to the current recession. IBM for example, has registered growth for the second successive quarter. Investors can shift their focus to these industries. Even some companies that have experienced a decline in the value of their stocks will be worth investing in if they show enough promise of bouncing back soon.
2. More Thrust on Sales:
When the economy is running smoothly or booming many salespeople become mere order takers and are not delivering value to their clients. There is hardly any skill required to push sales as the brand name of the product and huge consumer demand automatically result in sales. But when the economy slows down, consumer demand dips for a large range of products. That’s when sharp sales skills should be used to keep sales figure up. The smart ones succeed in selling reasonably well despite the hard times. Organizations should reassess their sales strategies as well as the efficiency of their sales teams. There may be a need for weeding out non-performers from the sales team and rewarding the performers. Companies should have a well defined and effective sales process in place. All salespeople should adhere to the sales process and apply every ethical sales method that is known to them to get a sale. The possibility of online sales should be fully explored, as Forrester Research points out, that online consumers will spend $3000-4000 per year and their desire to spend is unlikely to be affected by recession.
3. Emphasis on Customer Service:
In good economic times you may get away with poor customer service. But during tough economic times a single slighted customer could prove to be very costly. Customers expect prompt service and due attention, especially when they have come forward and chosen to buy your product. Organizations should remember that the transaction doesn’t end when they deliver the product and receive payments. It is just the beginning of a process that may require further rendering of service to the customer. A happy customer invariably becomes a repeat customer. A company can save money and effort by concentrating more on existing customers through impeccable customer service.
4. Slashing Prices:
One of the weapons of fighting a recession is slashing prices of products and services as much as possible to stay competitive attract new buyers and gain market share, while still making profits. Microsoft has slashed its prices of the Xbox consoles to stay ahead in the booming gaming market. To compete with Nintendo and Sony and capture a sizeable chunk of the gaming market during the holiday season, the decision to cut prices seemed very logical for Microsoft.
It is an accepted practice for organizations to cut costs when faced with a slow economy. The biggest mistake many organizations commit is that they cut expenses on advertising and public relations drastically. So much so, that the marketing efforts almost choke without the supply of advertising oxygen. While cutting wasteful expenses is necessary expenses on advertising and PR may be reduced cautiously.
Ultimately it boils down to the diligence, marketing savvy, business ethics, and optimism of the organizations that determine their success in a slow economy.
About the Author:
Doug Dvorak helps companies and professionals achieve results through customized, creative and non-traditional sales training systems that are “one size fits one” and developed to the unique business needs and “sales pain points” of each client. He is available to speak on these topics.
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Copyright 2008 The Sales Coaching Institute, Inc.
Sales Skills Training Strategic Sales Coaching
Doug Dvorak, CEO of DMG International, is the Author of the forthcoming book “Build Your Own Brand” (Pelican, 2009)