Selling in a Tight Economy: The Six Step Approach
by Michael J. Galante The Sales Coach
- Biotech, pharmaceuticals, and health care
- Recruiting and personnel agencies
- Corporate and residential real estate
- Government and education
As many of you know, the recent changes in the market and the economy have made selling a bit more challenging. Many companies are reporting lower sales; tighter budgets and indecisive buyers. We polled several hundred sales professionals and selling in a tight economy was of interest to the majority of our readers. In this issue you will find a six-step approach to guide you through these trying times and help you close more business. Your job is to decide which accounts and prospects offer the greatest opportunity, then execute the plan.
The "bear market" has not hit all sectors of the economy or all industries. There are still a few areas of growth left. If the ones below don’t appeal to you, look for others that do. Try:
During tough times, it makes sense to be very focused and effective with your efforts. That is why we suggest a "target" list of accounts to work and prospects to pursue. We recommend that you select a specific number of targets. Don’t cast your net too big or you will loose touch with each opportunity. The exact number is not as important as understanding the whole idea of the "targeting" concept. By focusing on a manageable number of accounts and prospects you will receive a greater return on your investment. Keep in mind that most people are taking longer to make buying decisions these days and a very targeted list will help you stay focused and in front of your competition.
As a rep in a competitive market, you are going to have to keep your name (and face) in front of these targeted accounts/prospects as often as possible. The old saying: "Out of sight, out of mind" is very true right now. Keep in touch with these people through letters, post cards, newsletters, emails, quick voice messages, personal visits, etc. And remember to always have something of value to say or share with them.
During boom times, some salespeople relegate themselves to nothing more than order takers. (It’s okay, it happens to the best of us!) We suggest that you initiate discussions with your customers that focus on their future needs, upcoming projects, or areas of potential growth. Then, as a true solutions provider, you will be in a better position to capture that business when it comes along. (If they give you the "We’re not ready to discuss that yet" objection, explain to them that now is the best time to review their options so they will be better informed when it comes time to make the actual decision.)
During strong economic times it is common for salespeople to focus on hot products or services. This is known as the "cash cow" syndrome. This main product/service is typically easier to sell and sometimes has a higher profit margin or selling price than the other products/services in your line. The result of which is a higher commission. Salespeople tend to ride this wave not anticipating a slowdown like the one that has recently taken place. Our suggestion is to look at your entire breath of products/services and see where you can offer your customers multiple solutions. Don’t overlook the lower price or lower margin items. It is a proven fact that when customers buy multiple products/services from the same company they are much more committed to that supplier. With this strategy you may be able to recoup some of the lost revenue AND improve your chances of retaining that account.
Some salespeople only show up when there is an order to be had. Now is the time to strengthen your relationships – when they are not buying. By not staying in touch with customers now, you send the signal that you only want to talk with them when they are spending money. Think about it, your competition is so focused on making his/her quota that he/she is out there sending all the wrong messages. They are not spending the quality time necessary to develop the relationships that will pay long-term dividends. You know better and your customers (and prospects) will reward you for it.
The interesting part about this article is that you can implement these strategies as the intended six-step approach, or you can try each strategy one by one. My intention was to give you a "success formula" but the byproduct is six independent strategies that may work for you as well. Regardless of how you implement them, in order to give the approach a fair chance of success; try it for at least 90 days. Look at it this way, it is going to take you at least 30 days to work the bugs out of your new approach and to get used to the new concept. The next 30 days for the new approach to take effect. And the next 30 days before you can expect significant results or feel safe that you have invested enough resources to determine that this particular concept is not going to work for you. Obviously, when you find a combination that works real well for you, ride the wave until it ends. Just keep in mind that nothing lasts forever, and be ready to launch one of the other strategies when you need to. Selling in a tight economy takes more effort, stamina and planning. However, when you have a sound strategy, you are better prepared to identify, understand and close those profitable deals. © by Michael J. Galante. All rights reserved. Michael J. Galante is president of GALANTE & COMPANY, a sales training and consulting firm. He is an award winning salesperson and a recognized expert on sales and sales management. Mr. Galante is a published author; international speaker and results oriented sales trainer. He can be reached at:
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