When Times are Tough, Polish Up Your Sales Skills

Sure, getting new customers and keeping the old ones is difficult, but this is no time to sit home and get depressed about it if you’re going to be in sales. Sales is all about having a plan and working your plan. Maybe this is the hard and not too exciting part, but things could be worse. It all depends on your attitude and what you want to happen in your life. And it all starts with a plan. With business up one week and down another, it’s time for you and your outside salespeople to get organized.

Make some promises to yourself and your customers. Be on time, look right and follow though. Keeping promises and being consistent makes the process work. Remember, you’re not the only one going through hard times — so is your customer. The more you understand this the better salesperson you will be. It doesn’t mean you back off because times are tough and your're afraid your customer's going to go out of business. You should be worrying about how they’re spending their money—are they buying the right products for their situation and are they buying their products from you?

Do you understand your customer’s business? As a salesperson you must understand your customer’s business and situation as well as you understand your own. This is called empathy. Having empathy is the most powerful skill you can have. It means "I understand; I really understand."

Know how much money you made last year and how much you need to earn next year. How many new accounts will you need to bring in to get this revenue? How much more do your existing accounts have to buy?

Know your closing rates; the real ones. How many customers do you actually close and how many customers will you have to call on to get that rate? How many brochures do you have to send out in order to get the appointments you need. How many emails must you send out or follow up?

Know your products cold. Spend time each day working on your products and understand what makes your products better, more useful and sweeter than your competitors. With customers having limited budgets they will have to spend their dough wisely.

Know your lines. Spend as much time or more on how you do what you do. Salespeople spend all kinds of time on what they sell but not how they do it. Hey, if the sale is worth $10,000 ask yourself if you’re putting in $10,000 worth of time.

Try not to get distracted by the gloom and doom or the fact your customers just want to talk. Sales people often want people to like them so they spend more time than necessary building rapport. Remind yourself to stay on schedule.

Stick to your plans. Prospecting for new accounts takes times and sometimes the pay off is slow. The biggest pay off comes from people who went to a competitor but then come back to you for another try. Maybe now they’ll tell you the new reason they left you.

Fluff isn’t going to work anymore. There just aren’t as many customers out there and there are probably twice as many competitors after your customers. Determine what is your added value and can you deliver it?

Stop making excuses. Sure times are tough but someone’s making money and it might as well be you. But it will only happen if you’re out there. So get out there! Improve you presentation skills, have your manager ride with you, watch you sell and give you feedback. You’ve heard that feedback is the breakfast of champions—if you want to get better maybe now's the time to start eating some!

Remember old cowboy wisdom: Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of the rain dance.

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