Selling in a Tough Economy

Known for his Dale Carnegie training expertise, Terry Siebert is writing to inspire leaders to reach their greatest potential. Leadership, today more than ever, may mean the difference between closing the doors or opening new markets. Every month, he'll post help with mindset, business tools and more. Read Full Bio

The New Business Reality: The need to do more, better, faster, with less resources

As many of you can probably appreciate, this reality is no longer new, yet is as strong as ever as we attempt to grow our businesses. In the past, we placed a lot of emphasis on working smarter, not harder. Today, you better be darn well be working both smarter and harder. The successful salespeople that I work with and talk with today are working harder than they ever have. The others somehow find a way to use the economy or some other excuse as a credible reason for lack of business.

As Albert E.N. Gray said many years ago, in his speech, The Common Denominator of Success: "Successful salespeople have made a habit out of doing the things neither the successful nor the unsuccessful salespeople like to do."

Today’s Business Reality: The Death of the Order-Taker
The order-taker has less value in an organization than ever before. Companies are looking for ways to decrease their cost of sales. One of their primary targets are order-takers who have been functioning as "salespeople." Web technology is finding more ways to replace these folks every single day. The e-robot works 24/7, does not take breaks of any kind, and has no struggle with work-life balance.

Today’s Business Reality: What Do Tough Times Call For?

  1. Better Planning & Execution — Put together plans with SMART goals and then follow through on the plan. Be ready to change direction if something doesn’t work. Make that plan happen!
  2. Better Relationship Building Skills — Clients must look at you as a value-added partner.
  3. Better Value Propositions — Remember that our customers never buy our products or services. They buy what those items do for them. They buy the value those products and services bring.
  4. Better Proof — You better have more that just one answer to: "Who says so besides you?" A depth of evidence is required today. It is not just about features and benefits.
  5. Better Focus on the Client — It is truly all about the client. What is that critical information and who are those key contacts that you have that turn you into a value-added partner, not just another salesperson?
  6. Better Effort — Smarter and Harder!
  7. Better, Better, Better, Better…

What to do? Seven strategies to use now:

  1. Decide on the most important action steps you need to reach your goals and follow through. Successful people are the few who focus and then follow through.
  2. Use metrics that matter to determine how you (and/or your salespeople) spend time. Remember our friend Peter Drucker’s words: "If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it."
  3. Stop wasting time!
  4. Make a time budget. For a salesperson, the one inventory item that rises to the top is how you spend the hours in your day.
  5. Know what is working best and build on it.
  6. Schedule that activity often. In other words block off your schedule to make sure you are doing what works. This is not necessarily what is the easiest or most comfortable to do either.
  7. Focus on the "Critical Few" versus the "Trivial Many."

In a recent survey of Chief Sales Officers, it was determined that salespeople spend about 37% of their time actually selling either face-to face or over the phone. The rest of the time was dedicated to service calls, administration, travel, research, etc. Reflecting on the business reality that we have been discussing, there are two targets. The first, as noted above, is to be working on that Critical Few versus the Trivial Many to take best advantage of the 37%. Second, if you can figure out a way to work smarter and increase that 37% to higher number, your chances of increased business will improve.

Sales do not happen when a salesperson is working on administrative tasks. They happen when a salesperson is selling.

Good Selling!

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