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Selling during a downturn requires a more strategic approach, but the opportunities for growth and expansion are available to the savviest of companies. Here are some of the best ideas I’ve read about.
- The economist and pro-capitalist Milton Friedman in his book “Free to Choose” reminded salespeople that a recession squeezes out the excess in a market. Simple translation: most of your competitors will struggle or better yet, cease to exist during this period. Less competition equals more opportunities.
- Access to potential clients is easier since fewer salespeople are calling on them. This is an opportune time to start building new relations with accounts that at one time were impenetrable.
- Facts…When things are going well, the last thing a client wants to do is try something new or rock the boat. But when a downturn in business occurs, company leaders are looking for ways to either save money or generate more revenue. These are the moments when clients are more receptive to finding new ideas or trying something new. This leads to the next point.
- Managers, Directors, or simply decision-makers in a company who don’t want to lose their job will work very hard to look busy and will be more accommodating to meet with you. Why? They want to be able to report back to their boss that they’re looking into new ideas and approaches.
- Your financial solvency becomes an edge. If your company is well positioned financially, you can outlast your competition, and be more creative with your pricing.
- Brands matter less. Loyalty to a brand goes out the door when times are tight. Highlighting to the client how your product or service can save them money is a welcomed conversation.
- Invest in training for your sales staff. A downturn is a good time to do some on-site training and further embed yourself and your company’s products with the client’s employees. Your clients will appreciate the service and attention to detail your sales teams brings when times are tough.
- Your database is your best currency. Studies have shown that the best way to grow your revenues with existing products (i.e., upwards of 25%) is to go back and visit those clients who’ve bought from you in the past. Instead of trying to find new clients, go back and data mine your existing client base, create a list of the top 20 clients along with what they’ve purchased in the past, and put a game plan together to go revisit them and upsell them on other existing products.
- Test new products. If you have a new product you’ve been anxious to test in the field but couldn’t find any willing clients to take the time to do it, now is the time. This strategy alone helped me insert myself into my competitor’s most prized clients which eventually became my clients.
- Go to the top. During a downturn your client’s CEO, CFO, COO, and others are worried. Now would be a good time to get your CEO or senior management involved in the sales process. Have your CEO call on your client’s CEO and see if there is anything that your company can do. This has no value other than pegging, in your client’s mind at the c-level, your concern for their well-being. Think long-term. If you can help out (or lend a hand) to a client through the hard times by offering them flexible terms, small price breaks on products where permissible, and/or extra support, they won’t forget it. And when things get back to normal, as they always do, they won’t forget who stood next to them through the hard times.
A downturn is definitely the time for frugality, but it’s also an opportunity to lean in and distinguish yourself from the competition.