Sales are down, operating expenses are up, management is crying that sales expenses are up. What should a salesperson do in such a situation?
These certainly are challenging times. I’ve been through enough of these to have learned some things. Even though I never liked going through difficult times, and would not wish them on anyone, I can honestly say that I always came out of them stronger, more confident, with more capabilities and more security than ever. You can, too.
Here are a few things that I have learned along the way…
I know this is easier said than done, but don’t worry about things you cannot control. You cannot single-handedly change the economic climate, nor can you single-handedly control your company’s response to this slow economy. The time, effort, and emotional energy you expend fretting over what might happen are wasted. The economy is going to do what it is going to do regardless of your efforts. So, don’t waste time worrying about it.
Instead, concentrate on what you can do, on the things that you can control. You can control your attitude, and you can control your behavior.
Work on keeping your attitude positive. A positive attitude for a salesperson is more than just a warm and fuzzy thing. It has very real, practical value. When you have a positive attitude, you look for opportunities and good things to happen. Since you are expecting them and looking for them, you see them. If your attitude is negative and pessimistic, you don’t expect opportunities to present themselves. Since you don’t expect them, you don’t see them when they develop. As a result, you pass over opportunities, and your negative attitude becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Expose yourself to positive thoughts. Get a good sales book to read, and try to implement some of the ideas. My Question Your Way to Sales Success book would be a great place to start.
In addition to attending to your attitude, you can control your behavior. Focus on doing your job more effectively. Make sure you are digging deeper into your good accounts and finding additional opportunities to expand the business. In the profession of sales, you are never as good as you can be. So, work on becoming better.
Now is also the time to be very sensitive to what your competitors are doing. They may be cutting back on their service or reducing their workforce, and those actions may open up opportunities for you. Discipline yourself to make a certain number of cold calls on prospect accounts each week. There is nothing like new people, new situations, and new opportunities to energize you.
Pay attention to your personal financial situation. Now is not the time to make big purchases on your credit card. Now is also not the time to sign contracts, enter into long-term leases, etc. All of those turn into monthly obligations, and in times of uncertainty, monthly obligations multiply your stress and reduce your options.
Here’s one more that may surprise you.
Exercise. Put yourself on a disciplined exercise program. Exercise is one of only a handful of practices that have been proven to reduce stress for salespeople. You’ll feel better, have more energy and less stress, think clearer, and be more emotionally stable if you exercise regularly.
It really is the difficult times that shape your character and defined your success. Anyone can do well when the market is growing all around you. It takes a true professional to survive and thrive in a time of adversity.
Another great lesson. I am in a unique situation as owner of a manufacturing company with long lasting repeat accounts. Not everyone is in this situation and I realize that. But, I am the only salesperson for our company with around $10,000,000 sales (almost $11 in 2014, then sliding the last two years). I am able to have my hand on the pulse of my customers with regularly scheduled meetings with each of my primary customers. We have 5 or 6 bigger customers and this is all we really want because we thrive on taking very good care of them. I have used your saying from an earlier teaching many times, (my paraphrase) “We are not looking for jobs, we are not looking for customers, we are looking for long relationships”.
I agree with your comment above, “I can honestly say that I always came out of them stronger, more confident, with more capabilities and more security than ever.” Sounds funny, but I have learned that we “don’t want to pass up a good recession”. Every time we come out bigger and stronger because we pick up more work in the down time which translates into a lot more work when things turn positive.
Good teaching from your lessons!
Great insights, Gary. Thanks for sharing them.