Selling in Tough Times

I thought I would put my own spin on what I’ve experienced and in addition, what I currently see transpiring in today’s selling environment. Aimed mostly at sales management, I would like to share my thoughts from having been an active participant as both a sales professional and manager.

Selling in the toughest of economies can still be done, but it takes special leadership to navigate the waters. My career has taken me through broad as well as vertically tough times. The one element that must stand out is LEADERSHIP, not management. Given the events of the past 12-18 months, salespeople AND customers are more nervous than ever before. Now is the time to lead, not manage. Pressure is building on both sides of the selling/buying fence. Here’s what I suggest……

  • Don’t beat a dead horse– brow-beating the salesforce to make their numbers isn’t going to make it happen, rather, beating up on sales people will demoralize and damage their esteem and in the end won’t generate another $ of sales. It just poor management and shows zero leadership.
  • Turn the pressure down– Money is short and both the seller and buyer know it. Pressuring the customer with constant pinging will only result in resentment and anger towards you and your product. It also sets a precedent in future dealings; it shows your desperation. To counter, uncover additional pain points that show value for your product, then work to motivate the customer to buy.
  • Go back a few steps– In order to have a winning situation, you may need to revisit prior sales steps to uncover functionally better reasons to buy including the cost of delaying the purchase. Above all, you must have previously in the sales cycle built a mutually agreeable plan with the customer.
  • Climb the ladder– climb the corporate ladder for the funding. Upper management has, or can obtain the money, especially so in a down economy. If not, they know how to get it so your value proposition better be spot-on. Cultivate higher-level relationships, higher than you are now. When costs are trimmed, they are done at lower levels and if you are working at this level this might be why you are not selling!

The last thought an organization has right now is hiring; but it should be the first thing. NOW is the right time to hire. The market is full of very talented people and we all know GREAT salespeople are rare.

One last thought. Everyone naturally holds the sales organization responsible for revenue generation and even more so when times are tough. Sales knows what they have to do and how far they are out on the limb. –SUPPORT THE LIMB–

As always, Good, bad or indifferent, Contact Me and let me know your thoughts or better yet, post your comment here!

Happy Selling!

Ed Warner

5 thoughts on “Selling in Tough Times

  1. Nicely put.. Though it does occur to me that this time is also good to revisit your old clients and try and sell them something more.. If your services have been upto the mark then they are far more going to buy from you then from anyone else.. A proactive campaign to this effect can really boost the numbers..

    Though this is a time to stick to the tried and tested formula, new techniques would do wonders.. A little something more can spring in the deal for you.. Opt for not so conventional or methodical approaches to show a fresh approach and hence differenciate yourself to others..

    Ta.. Vaibhav

  2. I agree with most of your comments as well as the comment above. Quality Service is sometimes the answer as well as “touch”, but not too much. They need to remember you when the economy picks. Find out “What are there interests, not yours.”

  3. I agree with your comments above except for “Climb the Ladder”.If you have done the first 3,then climbing the ladder isnt necessary at all.In actuality 2 things will happen…..First,when you go around the Procurement Group by backdooring,going over their heads,etc you have set yourself up as untrustworthy for the future.Second,the ones you tried to get to resent what you did,even though they will be polite to you…..but your done with them.In todays business climate Procurement is built on total value,not price alone.If your product is a value added product,then ladder climbing is not necessary.

    The Industries I still see this in are the high margin,low value ones where sales people are taught these and other tactics to protect their turf from potential replacement.

  4. Tollie,

    My advice never mentioned the procurement office, just to go higher. If you are selling at this level, then you are transactional not strategic. Therefore, there isn’t any “backdooring”. If your worry for future business with a cetain person is of concern, you can still make them look like a hero in front of management. This is the “fine art” of selling. Sounds like you are in procurement?

    There isn’t anything wrong with going higher just so long as you are sure you will not be delegated back down again. That’s why I said your value proposition better be spot-on.

    Ed Warner

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