How to sell your product in an economic slowdown

Andy Preston gives eight useful tips on improving your company's sales process.

Whilst plenty of salespeople think, act and behave as though we are in a recession, we came out of it a while back. However, for most companies, they are still experiencing what I call ‘recessionary conditions’ or a ‘slowdown’ – even though we aren’t officially in a recession, their buyers and prospects still act as though they are.

Salespeople that succeed in a slowdown are ones that are flexible, able to adapt to the changing conditions, and most of all – take advantage of them. Failure to adapt your sales activities to these conditions runs the risk of losing out to those individuals and organisations that do.

Here are some of my simple sales tips for selling in a slowdown – and what you, your colleagues and your team need to do to increase your sales, right now.

Simple sales tip 1 – Stop being complacent

I talk about this subject a lot!  Complacency is one of the biggest reasons salespeople lose deals.  They’re not just complacent during the process however. Often they’re complacent before it starts.

They’re complacent because they think they’re doing OK. They’re complacent because they’re focusing on the deals that they’re winning. But what about the deals they’re not? What about the deals that are going to their competitors?

Now isn’t the time to be complacent. It’s the time to look at whatever advantage you can gain over the competition. Where are you strong, and they are weak? How can you leverage that to win business over/off them?

Simple sales tip 2 – Sharpen your new business skills

In recessionary conditions new business becomes more difficult. Other companies get hungrier for new business, so each sales opportunity usually has more competitors than previously. Therefore it means that you have to become sharper at new business.

That means being sharper at prospecting: Sharper at asking good questions; sharper at objection handling; sharper at positioning and controlling your deals. And sharper at closing, because, in this market, if you give a prospect wriggle room, they’re going to take it, along with your deal…

How sharp are your new business skills right now? Or those of your team?

Simple sales tip 3 – Ring-fence your existing customers

It’s also important to ring-fence your existing customers from competitors as well. Don’t forget that your best customers are probably on your competitors target prospect list too, and you don’t want to make their job too easy for them!

I mentioned complacency earlier in the article. One of the biggest areas salespeople and companies get is with their existing customers. After all, they’ve won them now, so there’s no real need to focus on them, right? Wrong!

You’d heard many times the biggest reason customer change suppliers is because of apathy, or perceived indifference from their existing vendor. Yet many salespeople and many companies still lose clients for that very reason!

If a client or two were to leave you right now and go to a competitor, what impact would that have on your figures? What if they were your largest two clients? Get ring-fencing, quick!

Simple sales tip 4 – Target more ideal prospects

More so than at any other time, when business is experiencing a slowdown, it’s vital you’re talking the right sort of prospects. So what do I mean by the ‘right’ or ‘ideal’ sort of prospects?

The ideal prospects in a slowdown are ones that are more likely to buy from you than the average prospect would be. That might be companies or individuals that you know already. It might be people that are local to you or your business. It might be people with a common problem that you and your business are better at solving than some of your competitors. 

It also means ones that will buy from you quicker. Where they’re able to make a fast buying decision. Which means you stay in control of your deals and can do more prospecting – leading to more sales in the future!

So what is it that makes people the ideal sort of prospects for you – more likely to buy, happier to pay a little more than average to do so, and can buy quickly? Then go out and prospect for them!

Simple sales tip 5 – Qualify your sales opportunities harder

In a slowdown, it’s also important to qualify your sales opportunities harder than normal. What do I mean by this? I mean any sales opportunity you’re working on, whether it’s an incoming lead from a phone call or your website, a referral from a networking group or event, or someone you’ve pro-actively gone out and targeted, you need to qualify those sales opportunities harder.

If you carry more than one role within the business for example you have both new business and account management responsibilities, this is even more important because some of your time is taken up with existing accounts, and potentially sorting problems out for them, whatever time you get to spend on new business, you need to make it count!

This means asking more questions of your sales opportunities. Understanding the people who are more motivated to buy, to buy from you, and to buy quickly! Prioritising those people will help you achieve more sales, faster.

Simple sales tip 6 – Get more in your pipeline

For most salespeople I meet, the thought of qualifying their sales opportunities harder and potentially qualifying out some of them fills them full of dread.

This is mainly because they have so few deals in their pipeline that they can’t afford for any to drop out, let alone choose not to proceed with any of them!

Let’s be honest here. You can only follow Tip 5 when you have plenty of deals in your pipeline, so you can afford to be more brutal. It’s a good strategy however as you’re now able to eliminate those opportunities where you have little chance of success, and focus more on the ones you’re more likely to win.

Most salespeople I meet however, don’t have enough deals in their pipeline. Some only have enough deals in their pipeline to hit their target or quota, so that when one or two deals fall out, that ruins their month.

On many occasions this then results in the salespeople being desperate on the phone to, or sat in front of the customer. Do you think this is more likely to make them buy? Of course not!

Getting more deals in your pipeline requires more focus on new business and prospecting efforts – the very things that most salespeople like to avoid. Want to get better sales results – stop avoiding the issue and do more prospecting.

Simple sales tip 7 – Get away from price!

In a slowdown, the temptation for a lot of salespeople is to focus on price. One of the major reasons for this is that clients are more price-focused, so therefore it comes up in conversation more often.

What this does of course is make the salesperson think more about price. So they become more price focused. So they mention it more in sales conversations. So they get more price problems. Can you see how this vicious circle starts to happen?

Remember, at a base level, with everything else being equal, prospects will decide on two factors. Price (of course) and relationship. So therefore if you’re not the existing supplier to a company and the existing supplier has a good relationship or is pitching for the business again in the case of a tender then you’re likely to lose out to that supplier no matter how cheap you are!

This is because changing supplier requires a leap of faith from the customer. And if the relationship with the existing supplier is stronger than yours is, then all they will do is take your price back to them and ask them to match it, or beat it to keep the business. All this means for you is a lost deal!

So, get away from price by being better in the sales process and giving them other reasons to decide to go with you, other than price, or you’re almost certainly going to lose.

See also: Getting your prices right in five steps

Simple sales tip 8 – Make it easy to buy from you

I am often astounded whenever I am working with a business or often when I’m just trying to buy things for myself how difficult some companies make it to buy from them.

Now I know that most salespeople complain about the policies and procedures of their company, and how difficult it is for new customers to place an order with them. So think about what you can do to remove those barriers.

If there’s a credit application form, or order form to fill in, can you do it with the customer while you are sat in front of them, or talk them through it on the phone? If your business wants customers to order over the internet, can you talk them through their first order, or show them how to do it?

You would be amazed how many companies lose business because they didn’t make it easy for the prospect to make the first order with them and that is really frustrating when the salesperson has worked really hard to get the prospect to order with them.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you, by smoothing out your buying process and helping the customer to buy!

Follow the tips above and watch your sales soar! I look forward to hearing how you get on.

Related: How to create a successful sales strategy (that will generate leads today)

Related Topics

Customer Loyalty

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