With the Right Strategy, You Can Sell Your Way Out of the Recession

Is your business thriving in these tough economic times? If not, do you know why not? (If you’re saying, “It’s the economy, [stupid],” please read on.) The answers I keep hearing from business owners fall into two categories: Those that have pulled back, reduced their marketing budgets and are hoping that the current economic crisis passes quickly. The others have made the decision that they will find a way to thrive in spite of circumstances. Like most things in life, it starts with a choice.

You may be among those who have awakened in a cold sweat to the stark reality that you’ve been flirting with insanity: i.e. doing the same things over and over again expecting different results. Don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. Why is it that the obvious is never quite so obvious? It’s simple: We don’t know what we don’t know and, we are creatures of habit. Change comes at a cost. We only embrace it when it hurts more to stay where we are.

Are you ready to step out and make some calculated changes in how you approach the marketplace? If you are, here are 6 areas of opportunity to consider:

1. Be clear about your target market: When it is deer season, a hunter is clear on what the target looks like: The more points on the antlers, the better. Are you as clear about who you are targeting to buy your products and/or services? 80% of your sales probably come from about 20% of your client base. Identify the common characteristics of those clients. Make a list of their gender, age, geographic location, customer service expectations, income level, size of business, average annual revenue, number of employees, industry, how often and what products do they buy, values, payment habits, etc. Look for commonalities. This list will help you spend your time, energy, and resources strategically, vs. because we’ve “always” or “never” done it “that way.”

2. Get Creative: Allow yourself to look beyond of what you’ve always done: Are there new ways to bundle your products/services? Is there a new niche that exists because of the current economic reality that you can market to? Analyze what is unique about your business compared to your competition. How are you different/better? Are you charging more because of that uniqueness? If not, consider a price raise – yes, you heard me. Doing all the sales yourself? Consider hiring a straight-commissioned salesperson and pay for results.

3. Create a plan and work it: Never had a marketing plan? You’re overdue. Have one but haven’t looked at it for a while? Dust it off and update it. Include both paid and free marketing activities. Be specific about what and when. Create a sales plan to maximize your marketing. Create monthly, weekly and daily sales activity goals. Increase your marketing instead of cutting it. (See McGraw-Hill Research at http://www.mactech.com:16080/adsales/recession_marketing/ about marketing during the 1980’s recession.)

4. Increase your sales activities: Customers have become more conservative and circumspect about how they spend money. That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to buy, it just takes better salesmanship to help them move forward and decide to spend money with your company. Test and measure your marketing and sales efforts. What are your -leads to appointments- and -appointments to sales- ratios? What is your true -cost of sale-? What is your unique value proposition? Are you communicating it effectively to your prospects? Evaluate and then train your sales team to improve their results.

5. Make it easy for people to do business with you: Amazingly, in tough times many companies make it harder for customers to buy. They may tighten credit policies, shorten business hours, or scale back customer loyalty programs. Instead, find ways to make it easier for customers to buy from you. If competitors are retrenching and running scared, welcome their customers with open arms. Offer terms. Ship for free. Extend warranties. Provide better service. Extend your hours. Build in “extras” that don’t cost you a lot but make the customer feel appreciated. Be compulsive about thanking your customers for their business.

Not sure how to do these things?

6. Seek the wisdom of a trusted advisor: If you are like most business owners, you spend 60+ hours a week working “in” the business, and zero hours working “on” it. To get a perspective ‘outside’ of your own, find someone you can trust, who knows enough to help you see what you can’t see. And if pride is holding you back, practice swallowing it. The sooner you do, the quicker you can get on the fast-track of learning from other’s experiences. (You really don’t have to learn everything the hard way…)

Remember: The recession isn’t personal. You can sell your own way out.

Originally published in the Central Penn Business Journal.

Deborah L. Brown is the founder of Sales4You, a Mechanicsburg, PA business development coaching firm that specializes in helping people have fun breaking through to higher profits. Deborah can be reached with comments or questions at Deb@SalesFourYou.com.