Beating a Bad Economy: Successful Selling in the Worst of Times

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So what do we have on our plate in 2014, ladies and gentlemen? Economic slowdown, household debt, and national debt continue to climb. The government can’t agree on terms. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) forecast, the U.S. economy in 2014 will remain flat, while unemployment rates will be near eight percent.

What does this say to you? Yes, the economy goes in cycles. Yes, we need to look on the bright side.

Yet if you don’t have a buck in your wallet, no one is bringing it in on a silver platter.

You’ve got to think for yourself. Back to basics. Luckily, there are tools that never rust. Be it depression, slowdown, or bubble bursts, these time-proven skills withstand the pressure of time.

In any economy you will need to nurture these three elements of success:

1. Your Attitude

2. Grow and Maintain Your Business Network

3. Sell/Promote/Market Your Services by Going Back to Basics (yes, cold calls still work!)

As Stephen Schiffman, author of the bestseller “Selling When No One’s Buying,” notes, “there’s no magic formula for selling in a bad economy. You can’t just sell harder or sell more.”

What you need to do is to pay closer attention to what’s going on with your clients. Create a special file to record information from business and analytical publications. Meet your best accounts personally much more often. Maintain and grow your business network, like never before.

But what about the first thing that your customer sees or hears? Your attitude is the first key to your success. When you write your email, when you pick up the phone, or when you shake the hand of a new prospect, you need to exude optimism. It’s contagious.

And how about your personal business plan? Schiffman suggests to think about your own “Me Corporation” business plan. Because any plan starts with a vision. Make a list of 3 to 5 business goals with actionable steps and deadlines. We hear about SMART goals all the time, but when I applied these to my own situation, I found I’d often forget about them.

Another important point that Schiffman makes is to stop continuing your “default” way of doing business.  This “automate” button that we all follow leads us to habitual nothing. Why don’t you stop and re-assess your skills one day? Do a complete overhaul of your business skills. Do you use social media for business development? Do you effectively use your networking time? Should you work on improving your business writing?

Think about what works and what doesn’t. Try one or two new approaches, and see if they work. Look for creative ideas, things that you’ve never done before.

Another important area where you can excel like no one else is to rethink your existing relationships with your clients. Are you seen as a trusted advisor, or just as another vendor or sales person?

As Schiffman points out, assess your top ten accounts, analyze their current challenges and needs, and come up with a creative solution which may cost you a little extra but will bring appreciation from your client.

You will also earn points by asking your current contacts for their ideas to fight the downturn. Listen carefully to your contact. Listening is the rarest quality in the modern workforce. Apart from learning new information about your account, you will also create positive impressions from your contact.

Make a habit of noting why the product or service you provide is essential to your customer. Make sure that you identify the features of your product that go above and beyond. Follow through is key.

When you get back to your sales basics, you can’t avoid looking at the ways you approach business development. Do you do regular cold calls? Or do you actively network and build your customer base on a referral basis?

However much everyone hates cold calls, they do work. Personally, I prefer to have a mix of activities, but I never write off cold calls as useless. Cold calls are like your favorite shoeshiner. Yes, it may look outdated and weird to perch up there on your seat with the “New York Times” in hand above a hard-working shoe shining professional. However, in the end your shoes shine like never before, and the shoeshiner is happy with his tip.

Similarly, there is nothing like having a pipeline full with new prospects every day, every week, every month. Without actively approaching your development activities, you will never achieve your ambitious goals, especially in this economy.

“It is more important than ever that you stick to the proven basics,” adds Schiffman.

His cold call rules include:

1. Not Making Cold Calls Will Leave You Dead in the Water

The hardest thing is…to pick up the phone and call your list. Do it every day for 30 days straight, and see what happens.

2. You Will Have To Do Much More Preparation Than You Did Previously

Preparation makes all the difference. Do you happen to know your account’s birthday? Did you notice a new product line on your best buyer’s line? Make sure that you mention this in your conversation. Nonchalantly and with respect.

3. Be Positive!

What’s on your mind? Your wife is about to deliver your first baby? Or the plumber did a lousy job in your favorite bathroom? Remember that the person on the other end of the line might have her own problems as well. Your best approach is to find a way to keep yourself optimistic, even when it’s tough. Keep your grandma’s brownies on hand, maybe. Whatever is that makes you happy, use it.

4. On the Subject of Respond in Kind: People Respond Not Only in Terms of The Tone of The Conversation, But Directly to The Questions Being Asked

While you need to engage your counterpart in a meaningful conversation, you must stay focused on your goal. What’s your goal? Sell? Then, sell.

5. You’re Only Fooling Yourself

If you’re looking how to quit your cold call slavery and find reasons to gulp another gallon of coffee, or check yet another Facebook activity update from your best friend, then you are only fooling yourself. Make your 5-10-20 calls that you set as your goal. You’re an inch close to your success!

6. More Than Ever It’s Important to Be Prepared for Objections

Yes, the man on the other line is tough. He has to be. Are you prepared to take his objections seriously? Do you have a smart way to counterattack? Overprepare for the toughest calls.

Try it out. Tomorrow.

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