Keeping Sales Up in a Downturn

How to keep sales up through the cycle and find yourself in an even better place when the economy picks up.

You can't pick up a newspaper or turn on your TV these days without being bombarded by the doom and gloom about the ongoing recession. It's enough to make any salesperson want to hide under a rock until happier days return.

However, there is a silver lining in these ominous dark clouds. Consider this challenging economic time a call to action to become smarter, savvier, and more efficient. If you play your cards right during this downturn, you will not only keep sales up through the cycle, you'll also find yourself in an even better place when the economy begins to pick up. So, turn down the drone of financial doomsayers and start working this prime opportunity to increase your sales.

Stay Close
Don't back away from your customers in tough times. Earn and retain their loyalty by keeping in close communication. Dazzle them with customer service. Be one step ahead of their wants and needs and always, always address them BEFORE they have to ask or remind you.

Give them something for nothing. This doesn't necessarily mean a tangible item. Offer them valuable information, introductions, or some of your extra time. Generously give invitations to company functions, networking events, and tradeshows.

Expand your outreach efforts with newsletters or email updates with useful information that they look forward to receiving. No, you don't need to spend a fortune on printing. There are many email marketing providers such as Constant Contact and iContact that provide online templates, subscription management, open and click through tracking and other useful tools to help you quickly send relevant news to your customer list.

By all means don't leave business on the table by not communicating all of your capabilities to your customers. Don't assume that they don't need or want what you have to offer. How can you make them aware? Ask lots of questions and provide them with up-to-date marketing collateral that clearly spells out how you can help them. Make it a point to consistently inform customers of new services, products, loyalty programs, promotions, and discounts.

Focus on Competitive Advantages
Uncover your key competitive advantages in terms of what improvements they equate to for your customers and prospects. The bottom line here is if you can't offer them an improvement, they won't buy from you.

To be able to effectively communicate your competitive advantages, you'll need to stay attuned to what your competitors are doing and offering - and then stay on par or ahead of them. Develop ways to show just what makes your company different and better.

Become an Advisor
To be successfully, you have to be far more than just a salesperson. You must develop meaningful solutions for your customers and prospects. To do this, put yourself in the mindset of being a valuable ally to those to whom you sell. Stay on top of industry trends and news and don't hesitate to send articles, press releases, journals, books, and white papers if you think your contacts might be interested in them. Doing this will establish you as a "go to" person for information.

Be creative and develop outside of the box, creative strategies to assume an advisory role. Volunteer your time on industry panels, write articles for trade journals, and make yourself available for those who seek advice and answers.

Work Harder and Smarter
With layoffs and cutbacks, you probably already feel that you're working to your maximum capacity. However, it may be time to evaluate how you budget your time each day to ensure that you're working as effectively as possible. Can you shift priorities to give yourself ample time to make more calls, utilize better touch-point management, and network both in-person and online?

Are you finding yourself spending hours in a day tackling administrative work that could be better and more cost-effectively managed by an administrative person? If so, you need to look at where your time is best spent. There are many inexpensive options if you do need help, including virtual assistants who can handle a wide variety of tasks remotely to free up your time to focus on sales.

Stay Positive
It's important to remember that negative thinking can create a self-fulfilling prophecy; particularly for salespeople. Try to minimize participating in downbeat conversations, and focus instead on building customer relationships and partnerships that will remain with you through this down-cycle. Hang in there and be positive, and you'll do just fine!