Ideas for Growing Sales in Tough Times

Best-Trust: Ideas for Growing Sales in Tough Times

In a tough economy 80% of all profits are the results of internal decisions and 20% due to external circumstances. In a great economy the percentages are reversed. (Gerhard Gschwandtner)
What kind of Sales Year do you expect 2009 to be? I hope a GREAT one! But to make it a successful year you will require good plans, well executed and a dose of good fortune.
But even as you look forward to a great 2009, economists across the world are predicting a global recession. If the experiences of the last quarter of the year are anything to go by it would be wise to assume their predictions will be true. Even if you disagree with them there is already too much of doom prophecy in the air. This prophecy is likely to be self fulfilling.
With an economic slowdown there will be general decline in demand for most products. People and businesses have access to less money and will consequently tend to spend less. Most Individuals will tend to buy services and products that are essential for their survival, increase their earning power and help cut costs of living. Businesses will spend only to keep their business going on, cut costs or increase their revenues to some extent.
This situation has a very unpleasant truth to sales leaders and sales people. Selling in 2009 will be harder than in the last year. This may sound pessimistic but real optimists will see opportunities in the situation. They will grab these opportunities, beat competition through creative products, marketing and sales strategies. They will grow their revenues and achieve higher profit margins.
How will they do this? A lot of advice, ideas and tips on how to sell in slowing down economy have been in circulation for some weeks now. The soundness of wisdom in this advice will be evaluated through results generated. We have gone through a lot of these ideas and here are seven of which we believe will help organizations not only succeed but thrive in the year ahead.
1.Commitment to development of Sales Competencies. It will be very difficult to achieve better results in 2009 using the same level of competencies you used in the last year. It will be more important to improve the skills, knowledge and motivation of the sales people and managers to be able to excel in a tougher market situation. It will be critical to focus on competency development through coaching and effective training.
It is a fact that when the economy is not doing well the training budget is among the first casualties but failure to invest some resources in equipping those who bring the life into the business (salespeople and sales leaders) will only make a bad year worse. Although being thrifty is essential ; it will be important for sales leaders, training managers and sales trainers to develop competency development programmes that are not only cost effective but offer guaranteed results improvement and require minimal time since selling time is the only resource that will neither be more or less in 2009.
2.Follow a Formalized Sales Process which will increase win rates, reduce time and financial wastage, shorten the salescycle, increase deal size, remove obstacles for customers to buy from you and build profitable business relationships.
Probably, this will be the single most important factor that will determine your 2009 sales success or lack of it. Most firms have been operating without one. But in a situation where it is harder and more expensive to get a top performing sales person as it will be in 2009 ;it will be like attempting to swim wearing a heavy woolen jacket. But as the economy becomes tougher and competition stiffer even with the best sales people in your team you will need to have one that is followed to the letter.
3.Hire, develop and keep highly optimistic sales people and sustain positive attitude throughout the year. The most successful sales people have very optimistic world view. Various studies have shown optimistic sales people sell more and stay longer in a sales job. One of the studies showed that optimistic sales people outsell their pessimistic colleagues by 300%.
Optimists will also stick with you longer in hard times. Pessimistic new salespeople last in a tough sales job only for a few months while optimists will be in it for at least two years.
As As an organization you need to build channels of positive communication and adopt a culture that provides for passion and oozing motivation in all people who interact with the customer. Even as you tend to cut costs don't cut costs on sales people motivation which is equivalent to cutting the hand that feeds you.
4.Customer Focused Selling Approaches: When there is so much news of real or perceived economic slowdown it becomes ten times more important to adopt customer focused sales approaches. The customers will not want to spend one more penny than necessary to solve their problems. It is then important for the sales person to have almost flawless ability to identify the customer's pain (or pleasure points) and match the attributes and advantages of what you are selling to these pains (and pleasures).
5.Positive Price Communication: In 2009 buyers will ask tougher questions related to price and they will base many of their buying decisions on price. They will actually try to live with their problems than spend to solve them which will mean that one of the biggest price competitors to a salesperson will be status quo. Therefore, it will be necessary for the salesperson to communicate his prices in the best positive way possible. Whether this communication is in verbal presentations or written proposals and quotations it will need to be in a format that gets the customer to see more value than cost otherwise forget the sale. Infact the value should prove that the person will lose by maintaining the status quo.
6.Account Management: Many organizations get at least 60% of their sales from existing customers. But this is the year that most of these customers will become more open to propositions from competition (especially if they are less than excited about your handling them). As you think how to excel in 2009 the first set decisions you need to make are on how to handle existing customers as the foundation of your business.
Most businesses that fail start by having their old customers stop buying from them. As you think of old customers you will have to think beyond maintaining these accounts to growing them €"getting as much business from them as possible.
7.Build 3Rs of Buying Decisions: Remember people buy from sellers who present lowest perceived risk of buying from. This risk is affected by what we term as 3Rs of Buying Decision €" Relationship, Reputation and Reliability.
People will be more risk averse when there is too much news in the market advising them to be cautious. They will be less willing to experiment on ideas (products and services) whose results are less than obvious and worse if these ideas are from unreliable or unknown players in the market.

If you have built good relationships with your customers 2009 is the year to get most out of them since they will tend to be more conservative in their experimentation. But for those who have been unreliable you better clean up your mess immediately since your unreliability will be scrutinized more and found to have more negative effect than you can imagine. Unreliable sellers can have only one reprieve sell on lower prices for some time.
You will therefore need to work harder to be perceived as a less risky person to buy from by focusing on the 3 Rs.
I believe by putting into action one or more of these ideas you will get closer to sales success. I hope you will find it worthwhile to seriously consider these ideas and implement them throughout the year.
(These ideas are applicable today as they were during the global recession. Business environment has not become easier.)