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What Sound Investing Can Teach Us About Successful Selling in Recessionary Times

By Paul Shearstone

Question: What’s the first thing they teach you about how Not to Invest?

Answer: Never make an emotional investment. Simply, never be so emotionally attached to an investment to the point where it clouds all other facts, realities or potentialities.

Why? Think for a second about an investment you may have made wherein you were absolutely certain about its successful returns. When your projections did not materialize, at what point did you pull out; cash in your chips, Dump-the-Stock? But here’s the kicker, when did you dump it relative to other underperforming stocks you owned that you were ‘less emotionally’ attached to? That’s the litmus test!

Emotionally driven – bad investing – clearly demonstrates the challenge or inability one has in knowing when to cut one’s losses and take a different course. There is no clearer evidence of this than the Dot-Com meltdown where investors finally got out when the companies went Bye-Bye!

What, if anything, can that teach us about successful selling in a downturned, recessionary economy? In a word, lots. Look at any company, large or small. They have a process, a system, a protocol, mission statements, et al, that in good times - Work Well – or they wouldn’t embrace them.

At the core of any successful corporation is a sales team upon which the fortunes of all walk in lockstep. Successful sellers too, have a system, a process, a proven method to garner sales, the lifeblood of corporate existence.

As a former top salesman and mentor, I would often take juniors out with me to sell but not before I warned them that, ‘what they were about to see during that day’s calls, may prove to be a little underwhelming, if not boring’. That is, I had a time-tested, proven formula that worked for me, that varied very little from customer to customer. It’s not to say that my approach was rigid or robotic but rather to demonstrate the fact that it was a successful formula – that worked – in non-recessionary, profitable times.

The problem with many sellers and corporations today is that when you look at their modus operandi in these recessionary times, there is little to no difference in how they go about getting business compared to when things were financially better. In short, they have become too ‘Emotionally Attached’ to how they think their process should be – relative to past success - rather than “How It Should Be Now”. They have trouble letting go.

Make no bones about it, things today ain’t what they used to be a few short years ago and if you can’t accept that and abandon what now, isn’t working, your fate is sealed. On the bright side, I personally did as well and in some cases, better in downturned economies. How? Several reasons:

  • Attitude: The fact is, a challenged economy can be an opportunity rather than a roadblock. When other sellers stopped calling on customers, I stepped it up. In short, less competition.

  • I learned the magic to a phrase [commonly known as the ‘Right-Angle’ close]. When trying to get an appointment with a customer on the phone or cold calling, and they said something like, “Hey, we’re in a recession! We have no money to spend at this time!” My retort: “That’s exactly the reason you need to speak with me!”… Cust: We have a buying freeze at this time. “That’s exactly the reason you need to speak with me!”

  • I used another couple of follow up questions that also got my foot in the door: 1) Mr/Ms customer, is there a money-saving freeze on at this time as well? 2) What would it mean to you personally, if you could save the company money at this time? [Note: My delivery was always non-confrontational, conversational and light].

Did I get in where others failed? More often than not, yes. What I discovered was that in recessionary times, abandoning my emotional commitment to how I usually sold was step one. I found that it was sometimes a little easier to get in front of customers because a) Other sellers were not calling, b) The customers, believing [in their mind] they were not buying, the threat of the ‘buyer-seller’ interaction was not the roadblock it often could be when real decision-making was required – so they let me in.

Once in, my M.O. was to empathize with their cost saving/cutting challenges and then explore opportunities to achieve that goal whether it was immediate [streamlining leases, recalculating service programs etc] or determining a date in the near future wherein we could do business.

My personal experience and my prediction for this most recent recession is this: We will come out of it sooner than the pessimistic prognosticators predict, and, we will come out of it Fast! One need only look at the last few economic downturns for proof of my prediction. Sellers and companies, poised at the ready, will reap the rewards and ride the new prosperous and successful wave. I have lived it…I guarantee it!

The bottom line is that emotional attachment has no place in financial investing or recessionary selling. It clouds our judgment and makes us vulnerable to failure due to delay. Those that embrace the opportunities that strategic change can bring about in recessionary times, find success in places where others are reluctant to look.

Paul Shearstone is an international keynote speaker and author of several books including, “Up Your Income! Solution Selling for Profitability.” He specializes in Motivation, Selling and Corporate Resilience Training. For more information on Paul's keynotes and seminars, or to invite him to speak at your next successful event, we invite you to contact him at,, 416-728-5556, or 866-855-4590.

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