Hitting your numbers in uncertain times

selling in tough times

The Chinese use two characters to write the word ‘crisis’, one character stands for danger 危; the other for opportunity机.

When there is uncertainty in any market, there is a danger that people reduce their spending. As a salesperson, you will hearing that “no” word more often that you did before, and it seems like the more you push, the more they say no.

When we hear the word “no” regularly, it can eat away at us. In fact, when times get tough, research shows that sales people reduce their calls by 38%.

If you think about it, it’s very easy to do – we can fall into a pattern of reducing calls because we don’t want to hear the little “no” word.

So we convince ourselves “no-one’s spending” “everyone is cutting back” “times are hard”

What can you do?

Besides becoming more resilient, here are some sales tips to help you be successful:-

Selling in tough times – use your time wisely

Keeping your call rates high and stay ahead of your competitors who may be reducing theirs. Be intelligent about the people you see.

This is a winning combination which means that you can be in the 5% of businesses that thrive when things are more difficult.

“In a crisis, be aware of the danger – but recognize the opportunity.” John F. Kennedy

Which accounts will offer you the best opportunity to win business?

Which markets, which projects, which relationships, which people will help you achieve your sales targets?

Which market sectors are buying or hiring? Which are paying their bills on time?

Concentrate your time and energies with these priorities, and be clear what you can do to help them.

This kind of focus will help you when selling in tough times.

Selling in tough times – Stay positive

One study of salespeople, showed that people with a positive mindset sold on average 37% more products and services than their negative counterparts.

I don’t mean this glibly, it can be tough to keep positive when market conditions are hard, and some days it’s easier than others.

Focus on what you are achieving, where the opportunities lie, what your products and services can do for people, it will all help you in achieving your sales targets.

Keep a log of all the positive things that you do during your sales calls, and notice what gets results. When you’re selling in tough times, things that worked before ( when things were better ) may not work now. You can’t just collect the order, you’ll need to shape a business case for your products and services. You need to be clear and confident in your value proposition and why people should buy from you.

Selling in tough times – What do you really sell?

Think about this, you need to explain your products and services in terms of not what you sell, but what they do for the customer / prospect.

This is essential, clients, customers and prospects don’t want to know how many pixels something has, how many products you offer, how long you’ve been going, they want to understand what all this means for them.

Take time to prepare clear benefit statements or statements of results for your particular buyers. ( a user of product will be interested in different things to a financial buyer )

So rather than

“call handling skills training makes people feel more equipped to deal with customers”
“call handling skills training reduces invoice queries”

Be clear, be precise:-

“Our call handling skills training programmes have reduced invoice queries to help clients improve cash flow by 65%”  ( that’s true by the way ) You can find out more here

Selling in tough times – Think job not product

When you are talking to a prospect / customer about a piece of work, make sure you tune into the bigger picture.

See it from their point of view, price the job not your product.

What can you offer that will make their life easier, and give you the best average order value?

Where can you offer add-ons / go-withs, that will increase your order value and make the project easier for the customer because they are working with one supplier?

Pull not Push.

Let’s look at what happens to buying cycles when times get tough.

This will depend on what kind of industry you work in. If you sell low value products with a one time sell, then doing more calls, proposals, presentations, cold calling, prospecting will bring results.

But if you sell business to business or the long term relationship is important to you you’ll need to be smarter; your buying cycles will be longer as buyers will be more cautious. Some estimates are 40% longer.

Pushing the sale will not work, but being convincing and understanding your customers will. It’s estimated in businesses where there are more than 200 people 5-7 people are involved in a buying decision. You need a plan to convince your buyers that your solution is right for them. This means tuning into their buying process, being convincing at every step of the way. It may mean that you need to stay along side your customers and prospects until they are ready to buy.

Let me give you a practical example of staying along side a customer.

One hire controller we were working with in a lifting equipment company in the North East of England, understood this and phoned her key customers regularly.

She didn’t push product, she tried to understand things from her customers point of view. She did talk about things that were right for the customer. And when one major ship yard lost a big contract, she kept calling, to see how people were, not to make the sale, but to keep the relationship. She was looking long term. She knew pushing product wasn’t going to help this relationship, she knew that she wanted to be in the best position when things did improve, and she knew which of her accounts she could still sell to.

And when the contract came back, who got the call, who got the work?

You’ve guessed it – Julie.

Why? because she was alongside her customers as an equal partner in the supplier / customer relationship.

And when she got the work, she was told, she was the only person who called during that time, and the buyer valued that. Everyone else stopped calling, and when things picked up, they started again.

Manage your pipeline, keep it filled with prospects

Focus on your best opportunities. Good CRM software can help you with analysing and keeping track of this.
Put your energy into winning those opportunities rather than being busy sending out and delivering loads of brochures. Make sure you are getting payoff from your activity by prioritising where you spend your time. Define your best opportunities – you’ll have your own criteria, here are some of ours:-

  • Are you dealing with the decision maker or the whole decision making unit?
  • Do you have good intelligence about the prospect and their buying?
  • Are there clear and credible timescales for the purchase?

In short have you established that there is a clear basis to do business?


Sales Leaders

We help clients have more confident conversations with customers. Conversations which get results.  We do that by training and development programmes or sales coaching. If your market place is competitive, your people are finding it tough, and need a little help getting their sales mojo back, we can help.  Call us on 0845 450 0988 or get in touch here