Everyone I am speaking to at least are aware they are working in a softening market. Some businesses of course are counter cyclical, meaning they can make money in these tougher times – outplacement firms for all the obvious reasons, but they are more the exception.
If your market is softer or heading for a downturn, it doesn’t have to be all gloom and doom. It’s true now you have to earn your real money through pro-active sales practices.
One of my clients in regional Australia kindly sent me a great article on “The three basic sales strategies in a softening market”. It was presented at a client function of a regional accountant firm he had attended. The article is by Robert Miller, who wrote “Strategic Selling” and set up the Miller Heiman group. Here is an excerpt from the article:
“Here are three strategies proven by winners to work in a downturn:
Count your chickens. Make sure that you are looking after your existing customers better than usual (if that is possible) because there’ll be plenty of hungry competitors out there to do anything to steal them from you. If you step up first, and raise service levels when everyone is talking doom and gloom, you’re going to be a beacon in the dark, and attract both old and new customers alike. You’ll also raise the bar so high your competitors will waste a lot of valuable resources trying to jump over it.
Find your lost chickens. Lost and lapsed customers, and ones you just plan mislaid, are still more likely to buy from you again than a new client. So it makes sense to go back, find those lost chickens, apologise, crawl over broken glass if need be and win them back into your pen. We all lose customers in good times for the simple reason that sales people like the thrill of chasing new customers more than the thrill of looking after the old ones, so there will be lost chickens on your books. If you dropped them because they would not meet your price, see if there is a way you can meet their price point profitably with and economy offering.
Steal someone else’s chickens. With competitors cutting service levels you have the perfect opportunity to raise yours (having first done if for your own customers, you should be good at it!) and steal their chickens. If you’ve retained all of your sales force when the market is rife with lay-offs, you’re in the perfect position to ask your entire sales and service teams to step up to a new mark and secure their company’s future (they know they are thereby securing their jobs, so you don’t need to raise this as a threat).
The odds are in your favour
Here are some interesting odds calculated for four types of sales behaviour. They might not be precise for your industry, but I’ll guarantee their relativity is accurate regardless of your market:
- Sell a current customer a current product: 2:1
- Sell a current customer a new product: 4:1
- Sell a current product to a new customer: 8:1
- Sell a new product to a new customer: 24:1″
I found this to be true in most situations and a useful guide to keeping your sales pipeline fresh and full in these softer markets.
Happy counting chickens and selling.
Sue Barrett is founder and managing director of BARRETT, a boutique consultancy firm. Sue is an experienced consultant, public speaker, coach and facilitator. Sue and her team are best known for their work in creating high performing people and teams. Key to their success is working with the whole person and integrating emotional intelligence, skill, knowledge, behaviour, process and strategy via effective training and coaching programs. Click here to find out more
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