Keep Your Sales
Up in a Down Market
By Douglas Smith
being hammered in today’s economic environment. Entire market
segments have evaporated. Customers and companies are holding back
orders or literally have no money to buy. Opportunities and new
prospects are fewer and further between. In 2008, many salespeople
earned only half the commission they earned in 2007. Half! When
you take a 50 percent pay cut, you know what a recession feels like.
But not all sales
professionals are in a slump. Some are thriving. Some are busy
growing their client base and making good money despite the
uncertainty around them. And you can do the same. Your commitment
to success starts with a dedication to your goals and where you want
to be; remember the basics, and then go beyond. Some salespeople
will take the safe road this year, ratcheting down their
expectations. You’ll hear them say: “I just want to survive,” or “I
need to make it through this.” When you plan just to get by, that’s
exactly what you – get by. When you plan and expect to succeed
it’s a different story. As one astute sales manager once said:
“Most salespeople reach the level of expectation they set for
themselves.” He’s right on.
If you want to be
one of those who will thrive this year, apply these five tips now:
1. Don’t wait
for things to change.
Unlike struggling salespeople who sit on the sidelines hoping for an
economic U-turn any day now, the best salespeople are taking action
and moving forward. They recognize the economy may be in this mess
for years and waiting and watching is a poor strategy for success.
The movers and shakers are moving and shaking; setting up
appointments, making sales calls and presentations, contacting their
current and past customers and marketing like never before. Their
proactive approach is creating opportunities, leads and sales. In
boom times or in bad times, you can never wait for customers to find
you. It’s your job to reach out and find them.
harder. Top salespeople
understand this age-old axiom: You can’t make more money with less
effort. That’s why they are working harder and putting in more
hours than ever before. Think about this: Arriving just 30 minutes
earlier and staying 30 minutes later each day equates to an
additional 20 hours every month. When you are working 20 hours more
than the average salesperson, you can make at least 20 percent more
contacts, and even 20 percent more sales.
3. Talk to
the right people. Some
companies may want or need your product or service, but if they
can’t make a decision or are restrained by shrinking budgets, it
doesn’t matter. Successful salespeople today are selective about
where and with whom they spend their time. They are out looking for
“real” buyers: customers and prospects who have both money and
ability to buy. Every minute you spend with an unqualified prospect
is another minute you don’t have had to find a qualified one.
Remember: You can’t close a sale from a customer who can’t buy.
4. Make more
contacts. Selling is a
contact sport. When times are good, business is easier to come by.
Sure, there’s competition, concern about price and sales don’t
exactly just fall into your lap. But contrast the last few years of
relative prosperity to what we see today and it’s quite a different
picture. Customers are more cautious, more apprehensive and
spending decisions take longer. This means to land more sales, you
have to make more contacts. When capture and conversion rates go
down, to maintain a steady volume of business, your sales
contacts have to go up. Top producers get this. Do you?
5. Change the
way you work. Is change
difficult? You bet! That’s why so many salespeople fall behind or
fail. Successful salespeople have stayed successful through the
years by evolving and adapting to change. As the economy and buyer
habits change, smart salespeople learn to do business in new ways.
By reviewing trade publications, reading top books on selling, and
attending industry conferences, client events and networking among
successful peers, you are able to learn and apply new marketing
approaches and sharpen your face-to-face skills. This is how you
stay current, fresh and on top of your game.
While all of this
may sound like the old “back to basics” line of attack, it’s truly
more than that. Successful salespeople in today’s market have gone
beyond the basics in most everything they do. They
understand that roughly the top 20 percent of every sales force
produces about 80 percent of most company’s sales results. To get
and stay in that top 20 percent, you have to be willing to give and
do 20 percent more than almost everyone else. That’s not only what
gives you your edge, it allows you to keep your sales up – even in a
This year may not
be the best year you’ve ever had, but it doesn’t have to be your
worst. Take advantage of the fact that most of your competition has
pulled back, slowed down, and in some cases, completely left the
business. Now is the time to push forward. You have a window of
opportunity in front of you, and how you use that window is up to
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