In the new economy that’s taking shape around all of us today, confidence and pride haven’t gone out of fashion (and thank goodness for that). However, they have to be earned by doing more than just showing up in the market and assuming that your clients will be waiting in the wings, ready to do business with you. You need to equip yourself with a sales strategy that’s geared for offence—not just because the stakes are higher, but also because the payoff can be lucrative.
As I pointed out to participants at the May 2009 Engage Powerhouse Sales Event, a recession is a terrible thing to waste. Truly, there are great opportunities out there for top performing sales people to capitalize on right now. However, you can’t seize them if you’re hiding from your customers and retreating from the proven, field-tested methods that you should be relying on to bring in sales.
Don’t get sucked into the cutback mindset
“How can I succeed when they’re cutting back everywhere?” That’s a rejoinder I hear an awful lot these days, and too often it’s seems to be accompanied by a sense of resignation. While it’s true that many organizations today are expecting staff to do more with less, this is not an excuse for letting your sales performance to slip. Not at all. As a regular reader of this newsletter, you know there are things you can do today—even in this tough market—to grow your sales without necessarily spending more money.
The answers have been covered throughout this series of articles so far:
- by focusing on existing relationships;
- by boosting your risk-busting communications skills;
- by obtaining testimonials from customers;
- by being shrewd and creative about who you target; and
- by getting management out in the field.
By engaging in all of these field-tested activities, you demonstrate to your clients and prospects that you’re motivated and on the move at a time while so many others have retreated (and I’ll come back to that point in a moment). Not only do these activities help increase the number of prospects who will return your calls, they also can play a key role in reducing your discounting. It also helps you compress your sales cycles. There’s an important added ingredient you need in addition to these activities—one that’s shared by top performing sales people in organizations of all sizes—and that’s perseverance. Breaking sales records, month after month, year after year, in good times and tough times requires that you be relentless in your pursuit of your goal.
It’s up to you to ensure perseverance isn’t on the chopping block
It always pays to be persistent, particularly in this economy, because you’re bound to pull in a substantial return on your efforts only after most of your competitors have given up. Consider to the findings of ongoing sales research conducted by organizations such as What’s Working in Sales Management, The Canadian Professional Sales Association, Sales and Marketing Executives International, CSO Insights and Stanford University. They all share the following similar observations about perseverance in sales. Approximately 40% of clients make buying decisions after sales people have completed 3 to 5 conversations (or meetings). However, by this point, two out of five sales reps have already given up! Another 30% of sales happen after six to nine conversations…and that’s after 95% of sales reps have given up. In today’s economy, we’re seeing that it often takes more conversations than ever (even as high as 15 tries), but that there continues to be a healthy reward in terms of the percentage of prospects who make the decision to buy.
So what does this kind of perseverance entail in your organization? It could mean that you might have to spend an extra hour in the office making sales calls. Maybe you’ll need to add just three more calls to your daily quota. It could also mean that you need to attend more networking events and be in front of more customers. It could also mean that you’re on the road a little bit more often, spending one extra day meeting with prospects, developing more partnerships, and finding more suppliers. The biggest investment here is your time and only your willingness to persevere is going to keep you committed to this aggressive new strategy.
The importance of being there
As I suggested earlier in this article, there’s another important benefit to engaging an offence-based sales strategy. You’re making a powerful statement to your customers about the kind of business you’re running or representing. By being a presence in the marketplace—out there spending time and energy with your clients while the competition is retreating—you’re going to be seen as an attractive choice compared to others. Remember, economic uncertainty tends to make people cautious and risk-averse. As I mentioned early on in this series of articles, your task as sales professional is to prove to your customers that buying from you is a good choice—one that reduces or even eliminates risk.
People want to be associated with winners, so it’s important that you don’t create a vacuum into which your customers might make some incorrect assumptions about your business or your sales team. That’s the real risk inherent in a retreat-based strategy. Your absence gets noticed and before you know it, people stop calling you simply because they don’t know whether you’re still around.
By choosing a strong offence-based sales strategy in this new economy, you’re making a decision to stick with proven methods that help you and your organization sell to more people in less time. There’s more happening at a deeper level as well. The word offence (beyond the sports metaphor) comes from the Latin word offensa, or “a striking against.” What you’re really striking against is a mindset that would otherwise trick you into doing exactly what the other 80% of sales people will do in this market—retrench and give up too early well before the real opportunities reveal themselves.
Keep plugging away at your sales calls and at your prospecting efforts, and keep mining your network. The opportunities are there if you’re willing to commit for the long haul. As Winston Churchill famously once said in a pivotal speech to his countrymen: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense.”
Colleen Francis, Sales Expert, is Founder and President of Engage Selling Solutions (www.EngageSelling.com). Armed with skills developed from years of experience, Colleen helps clients realize immediate results, achieve lasting success and permanently raise their bottom line.
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