10 Sales Strategies for Uncertain Times

Originally published
Originally published: 7/1/2012

There’s no question that the economy affects buying behavior. Even so, you can’t afford to wait for sales until after your customers are done hunkering down. Here are 10 ways to make certain you’re still selling, even when things look grim:

  1. Cultivate your inner sales guru.You may be worried about the economy, but you can’t let worries rule your thoughts and actions. Rather than focusing on the economy, act as if you’re starting a new sales job that presents some interesting challenges to overcome. Remember: Even during the worst of times, some people end up winning. Make sure it’s you.
  2. Reaffirm your firm’s viability. Take a good, hard, realistic look at your firm. Is it still in good shape? Are its offerings worthwhile? Do you add value to your customers? Would YOU want to do business with your firm? If the answer is no, find a job somewhere else. But if your firm is basically sound, there’s no reason for you not to go out there and sell with confidence.
  3. Recraft your corporate message. Figure out how you’re going to communicate the value of your firm in a way that the customer will understand and believe. Show the customer enough detail of your corporate financials so that they know, beyond all doubt, that your firm is going to be there to help them in the future. Make buying from you a safe bet, no matter what happens.
  4. Retune your solution message. What works during times of uncertainty are messages of low risk (protection, security, stability, and cost savings). However, you needn’t be glum. People want some positive messages, too, so add those into the mix. Show how your offering helps position the customer for future growth.
  5. Expand your pricing options. Work with your CFO or other financial gurus on alternative financing plans, delayed payments, subscription fees, discounts, whatever. You want to walk into EVERY sales situation with a bag of tricks that will allow the prospect to buy from you.
  6. Prioritize your opportunities. Run though your entire list of leads and opportunities and, based upon what you know and can learn with some research, prioritize your opportunities. Lower the priority of long-term “strategic” opportunities and raise the priority on the customers who are most likely to buy, regardless of what happens to the economy.
  7. Tighten your lead qualification. Each time you get in contact with a prospect, confirm that they’re a real opportunity early in the sales cycle. Then use the flexibility of your financial options to determine the payment plan or method that will make it easy for them to say “YES!” Do this religiously and, as a bonus, you’ll spend far less time following up on dead leads.
  8. Focus on the right numbers. Set up an ambitious schedule of working through the steps of your sales process. And then follow it. A sales process forces you to focus on the mechanics of selling rather than your concerns about closing business. The regularity of selling is a great way to get a sense of accomplishment, even if your hit rate is lower than it used to be.
  9. Become a thought leader. It might be a bit harder to make the deals than it was when times were good. So what? If you’re doing everything I’ve listed, you’ll be outselling the competition. There’s a saying that true leadership consists of being able to remain calm no matter what. This is a good time for YOU to remain calm and make the best of the situation.
  10. Enjoy yourself. When things are difficult, you need to give yourself credit and lots of it, simply for plugging away. Your challenge is to enjoy yourself and your job, even though times are tough. So DECIDE to feel good. If you’ve got the emotional moxie to stay calm when everyone else is freaking out, this could be the most successful year in your career.

Geoffrey James writes a daily column on selling for Inc. magazine’s website and is the author of How to Say It: Business to Business Selling: Power Words and Strategies from the World’s Top Sales Experts (Prentice Hall, 2011).

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