I plead guilty to enjoying a cold beer or two, and I’ve watched with amazement as the decade-long bull market in the craft beer industry shows no signs of abating.
Are you frustrated and concerned about everything going on in the economy right now? "Credit crisis, stock market crash, banking fiascos, housing meltdown—Who is going to buy from me now?"<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> You CAN make the sale, even in this uncertain economy. While some things may have changed, companies are still in business and work is still getting done. So the real question becomes, what can sales professionals do today to position themselves for success during these turbulent times?<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Here are a few keys to making and even exceeding your quota in a down economy.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>1. Focus on the positive.</b> Right now, it's very easy to be overwhelmed by the negative messages and bad news. It seems to be human nature, that the bad news is always more interesting than the good. To be successful during this time, attitude is very important. Tune out all the information that is not helpful to you. Turn off the 24-hour news cycle and the minute-by-minute updates from the pundits. As a sales manager or sales representative there is quite a bit going on in the market that is outside of your control. It’s important to focus on those things you can control. Don’t become a Pollyanna and hide your heads in the sand. Just realize that successful people find opportunity and positive news even in the most difficult times. A positive attitude and keeping that attitude positive will be critical for you to be successful in this economy. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>2. Focus on your customer with empathy.</b> The best salespeople in any industry are the ones who know how to solve customer problems. The problems facing your customers and prospects are not going away and, right now, they may even be magnified. However, things may be changing for your customers that will impact your sales cycles. In difficult times, people become much more risk-averse. Our jobs will have to become focused on risk mitigation for our clients. This risk aversion may manifest in multiple ways including longer time to make decisions and more people involved in each of those decisions. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>3. Focus on real value.</b> Now, more than ever, real value must be understood by your customers and prospects. Soft-dollar ROI may no longer be enough to justify the decision to purchase. In difficult times, clients expect the time-to-value to be short. In other words, in good times it may be okay to realize ROI in 18-24 months. Now, the ROI expectation may be six months in order for the project to get funded. Clients will be focused on real monetary gains as a result of their investments. Are you positioned to save them money or grow revenue? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>4. Focus on preparation.</b> The top 20% of sales executives will not be affected by this economy. They will out-prepare and outsell their competition. Sales executives do not have the luxury of just showing up for a sales call and hoping that they stumble across an opportunity. They need to be purposeful, customer focused and ready to execute. More time needs to be spent understanding your clients, their industries and markets and building creative solutions with them. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>5. Focus on activities.</b> Increase your activity by 35%. Yes, 35%! The trap many sales executives fall into during a down economy is to reduce activity and cling to their pipeline. You will need more prospects and more sales calls to meet your quota and objectives. Also, you will need to make more new business calls and more calls to engage current prospects and qualify them. Leverage existing relationships and referrals at every opportunity where you interact with someone. Now is not the time to stop prospecting; it's the time to increase your prospect activity and continually engage potential buyers. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <b>6. Focus on qualification.</b> World-class sales organizations make the most of sales methodologies and sales processes. These top companies have customer-centric processes that leverage best practices and repeatable strategies. Mastering prospect qualification is a multidimensional process. Many sales executives only focus on who has the budget. But just because someone can, doesn't mean they will. Your prospect qualification process is reverse engineered from how your prospects will make decisions: <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> a. Should I buy this? <br clear="none" /> b. Can I buy this? <br clear="none" /> c. Is it worth it? <br clear="none" /> d. Am I convinced? <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> These are questions that you should be able to answer with your prospects before you begin investing time and resources in a sales cycle. If your prospect is not qualified, let them go and find someone who can be qualified in this economy.<br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> Remember, your competitors are facing the same difficulties that you are. Stay calm, stay focused and look for their vulnerabilities in the marketplace. You should be playing both defense and offense with your current customers to defend your position. By staying focused on the customer, you will not be outsold and you can win the customer's business and loyalty. <br clear="none" /> <br clear="none" /> <i>Julie Thomas is president and CEO of ValueSelling Associates, based in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., is the creator of the ValueSelling Framework™, the sales methodology preferred by sales executives around the globe. Visit <a href="http://www.valueselling.com" target="_blank">www.valueselling.com</a>.</i>