A Publication of WTVP

It’s true–the pie is now smaller, but it does still exist. The question that every salesperson needs to ask is, “How do I get more of the pie than my competitor?” Customers are still buying, and now is a great time to fine-tune your skills for when things turn around. Gone are the days of the hard sell! Customers want to be heard and understood. The art of selling is alive and well. Below you’ll find some proven methods of increasing your sales in a challenging environment.

Although your customers and the news media may have a “doom-and-gloom” outlook about the economy, it is critical that you remain positive. Customers buy you, and they need reassurance and confidence in their buying decisions. If you remain upbeat and confident in yourself and your product, they will seek to further engage in the process, which will increase your opportunities for success. By resisting the temptation to oversell or seem desperate, your clients will perceive that “times are good” for you and that others must be purchasing your products or services in these otherwise tough times. In other words, your value must be superior if you are able to be positive and successful. Refer to examples of recent positive customer experiences to further reinforce the fact that your product is valuable.

At times, it may seem as if the pipeline has frozen. Salespeople who have maintained a strong database now have the opportunity to refill their pipelines by contacting their unconverted leads. Remember, they are not “old” leads or “dead” leads, they are simply unconverted, and it is your job to figure out how to convert them. Unconverted leads can fill the void in challenging times because the sales process may already be partially complete. Now is a great time to follow up! Need an excuse? Here are four: congratulate them on a recent event (birthday, anniversary, etc.), follow up on a previous discussion or question, announce a new initiative or product, or simply let them know you were thinking about them.

With discretionary income drying up, customers are extremely skittish about their buying decisions. As a result, it is critical that you accurately identify your customer’s critical needs the first time-you may not get a second chance. Doing some preliminary research on your customer will allow you to have a head start on what needs may exist. However, be careful not to assume you know the answer. It is important that you let your customers voice their needs. Establishing your credibility as a subject expert will allow your customers to feel more comfortable in engaging in the process if they know that they will receive value. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the hard strategic questions.

Although identifying your customers’ needs is the most critical skill, it is followed closely by demonstrating value. Those who try to gain a competitive edge by selling on price will find themselves having to cost-cut in the future. Showing your customers that your product produces a return on investment, fulfills a critical need better than the status quo, or provides pleasure while avoiding pain will yield more sales now, and in the future.

Time is of the essence in a challenging environment, and you will find that your customers think you have plenty of it. However, by politely reminding them that you need to assist other customers who are ready to find the right solution for their problems right now, you will avoid the “time assassins.” Here are a few telltale signs that it is time to move on:

  1. Customer has an inability to pay.
  2. Your product/service is not suitable to your customer’s needs.
  3. Prospect asks to be removed from your call list.
  4. After an exhaustive sales process, the client still fails to make a purchasing decision. Remember that these prospectsmay become customers in the future, so handle them with kid gloves and discretion.

Finally, assessing your performance in a challenging environment will assist you with increased sales now and when things turn around. Ensure that you are not selling out of desperation or being too pushy with your prospects, as you will lose them forever. Hold yourself accountable through goal-setting and an accountability coach. Don’t forget the basics. Last but certainly not least, become a student of your game through increased study, training and practice.

Remember, someone is selling something somewhere. iBi