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An Economic Slowdown is the Perfect Opportunity for Top Salespeople to Shine
by Neil Shorney

During times of economic turbulence, budgets are cut, spending reduced, and for salespeople, life becomes a lot harder. Many fall off the career ladder, lacking the skills to survive in the tough times. Motivation levels drop and mutterings about missing targets become self-fulfilling prophesies. It's the usual story: whether you think you can or you can't, you're right! Salespeople start telling themselves things to make them feel better:

  • it's not me, it's the marketplace
  • it's not only me - my colleagues are also struggling
  • it'll all blow over soon enough

These thoughts help absolutely no-one. When new salespeople join my team, one of the first lessons is: there's only one person responsible for your success - YOU! As long as salespeople have convinced themselves there's an excuse for poor performance, they'll never get anywhere.

Recent news has sent shivers down the spines of purchasers everywhere, from multi-national corporations to the man (or woman!) on the street. People are cutting back on many things, wondering how to weather the current storm. In many cases this is prudent, cutting spending to make up for a shortfall in sales. However, there are still buyers out there - it's just that quality, value and return on investment have become more important than ever. It's no longer enough to buy the first thing that comes along. Buyers are more aware of the price of goods and services, and the benefits they will get for their money. Sales-focused companies need to be focusing on the positives. For example, whilst the current weakness of the British pound makes holidays abroad a lot more expensive, it does make our products cheaper for foreign customers, so we need to change our sales strategy to capitalise on this.

So what does this mean to your average sales-focused organisation? Well, it means you can no longer sit back and expect customers come to you. It means you have to look after your customers harder and with more real value-adds. It doesn't mean you have to hire more executive boxes at sports games to do some corporate entertaining, as this isn't going to build any value at all in your product. No, it means showing them that their money is well spent with you, that you genuinely care that they benefit from your product, and that you're the best there is in your industry.

Now this, I hear you say, is easier said than done. This may be fine with existing clients who know what you're like, but how do you demonstrate this to prospects? And the answer to this is... through your salespeople! Back now to the title of this article, which is that now is the time for top salespeople to do better than ever. When purchases are being looked with so much more scrutiny, it's now that the salesperson can really make the difference. The perception a customer has of the salesperson is likely to affect the perception they have of the company and the product. Also, the salespeople who excel in a recession are going to be highly marketable when the economy picks up again. nsales has the following tips to be the best:

  1. Make more effort! Sales is partly a numbers game, and logic dictates that the more people you contact, the more potential customers you'll reach. Make twice as many cold calls. The customers are still out there, but you might have to look a little harder to find them.

  2. Build that relationship! One call won't make anyone remember you. Follow each call with a succinct, to-the-point email summarising the conversation and alluding to a next step. When you receive an email from a client, reply by telephone - relationship building is much more effective in spoken communication and you become a real person with a real personality, rather than someone who sends emails.

  3. Build that relationship further! Put a note in your diary to call the prospect again to discuss the subject further. Don't let prospects go cold through slow responses or slow next steps - strike while the iron's hot - your competitors will!

  4. Build that personal relationship! Remember the small-talk. What's going on in your prospect's life? One of mine has a baby on the way, cue note in diary in December to wish them well. Another's having a house delivered (!). Whatever that means, I'll be calling in a few weeks to see what it's about and take a genuine interest.

  5. Remember - people want to give you lots of money, so make this as easy as possible for them! Go the extra mile to save them time. Do you need an order form? Send it part-completed. Provide a SERVICE from which they will benefit. Make their life easier and they'll feel that your product will do the same.

  6. Questions, questions, questions! The more you understand about your prospect, the better you'll understand what's important to them in a buying decision. The more you understand, the more closely you can match the product to the customer, and the more value they'll see in it.

  7. ABC - Always Be Closing! Close the customer of every aspect of your product and you should get a "yes" at the end.

  8. Referrals! When leads may be thinner on the ground, client referrals become even more important, so ask, even if your prospect doesn't buy from you. Sound crazy? Not really. A prospect may be really interested but have no budget, so ask if s/he has friends or colleagues who might be in a position to buy.

  9. Develop your skills! Don't stand still - subscribe to sales newsletter and articles, such as those at - the more tools you have at your disposal, the more successful you'll be.

  10. NEVER give up!

Let's sell something TODAY!


The Author

Neil Shorney

Neil Shorney BMus (Hons) has 10 years' experience working in business-to-business sales and 5 years in sales management. Currently managing a team of 8 salespeople at ESI International (the world's largest project management training company and part of Informa plc) covering the EMEA region, Neil is an absolute believer in the value of consultative, rather than prescriptive selling and of putting the customer first. He always recruits graduates with no previous sales experience, so spends a lot of his time training them to be effective salespeople. Neil has not lost a member of his team (other than through promotion) for 3 years and has never employed someone who has not become a successful sales professional. Neil also runs a successful sales website at offering useful articles and tools for sales professionals.
Many more articles in Sales & Marketing in The CEO Refresher Archives
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Copyright 2009 by Neil Shorney. All rights reserved.

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