There are a lot of books and videos, to help sales people sell better. Few, however, tell salespeople how to sell in a recession. That is often handled with a Darwinian approach that eliminates the weak. While survival of the fittest may be a common way to deal with this problem, it is not necessarily the best way to survive – particularly if the small business owner is the prime salesperson.
Understanding the business opportunities available to a small business is necessary to sell successfully. Small business owners should find ways to make more sales by finding solutions to the issues that prevent sales from occurring. During a recession, prospects are reluctant to spend money on anything they do not perceive as absolutely necessary. To make sales to these people, sellers must clearly show the need for their products and services. Additionally, sellers must approach their jobs differently. Here are a few suggestions.
Don’t Reduce the Price
The product has value. If a small business owner reduces prices, it can often lead to the perception that the product was never worth the original price. In an article for bnet.com called Five Strategies for Selling During a Recession, author Christina Salerno quotes HR Chally Group Chairman and CEO, Howard Stevens who said, “Most people think in tough times you have to give a special offer or cut prices. But that ends up devaluing the product – and the salesperson’s reputation.”
Stevens suggests that sellers should offer additional services or stronger guarantees with their products so customers will get added value without paying more.
Work Harder on Fewer Leads
Many sales people will try to accumulate as many leads as possible calling on each lead three or four times. John Asher, chairman and CEO of Asher, a sales training firm, says his firm’s research indicates that it takes 12 contacts to make a sale. Those contacts include emails, voice mails, face-to-face meetings, and phone conversations.
Asher believes the average salesperson will pick 50 prospects and give up on them after three contacts. “Elite salespeople,” says Asher, “will pick their top 10 prospects and give them 15 or 16 contacts.”
Work More Efficiently
During a recession, it is critical for salespeople to use their time wisely. Inefficient practices can cost money.
Most salespeople understand the importance of time management and do whatever they can to consolidate appointments and make all their cold calls in between those scheduled meetings.
Poor planning can result in lost opportunities which are not good for the bottom line.
Philip Mydlach writing for biztimes.com says that employees spend 30 minutes per day looking for misplaced papers and electronic files and are distracted or interrupted every 11 minutes. He suggests that salespeople take some time to determine how distractions are eating away at their work day and find ways to be more efficient. It can make a difference.
Focus on Solutions
Selling business solutions has always been a winning sales pitch, but in a recession, it offers even more opportunities for success. All products and services are designed to solve business problems. During a recession, a good salesperson will find more solutions than the obvious.
For example, a bicycle is not only a solution to transportation; it is an exercise machine, a hobby, a sport, and a faster way to travel in rush hour. An iron is not only a way to press a pair of pants; it is a way to look fresh on a business trip, a technique to apply a decal to a t-shirt, and a good door stop. The benefits are limited only by the imagination.
Don’t Give Up
Every small business owner should not throw up his or her arms and accept poor or low sales as part of the recession. Instead, they should make the effort to overcome the obstacles of this recession.
By maintaining their price and adding more services to their products, business owners will add more value to what they sell.
Working harder on fewer and better leads will increase the salesperson’s productivity and, combined with working more efficiently, will eventually result in more sales.
Lastly, a salesperson should find more solutions to a customer’s problems. Using solutions as a selling technique in a creative way will lead to more sales – even in a recession.