In a recession, you can’t afford to take your eye off the ball – business is tougher, existing clients beat you down on price, and you risk losing valuable profit.
Customers are afraid of making a wrong decision, so take much longer to decide whether or not to proceed with your proposal. Even people not directly affected by the recession start to hold onto their cash ‘just in case’.
So, are your sales skills sharp enough to cope?
Most small business owners I speak to are not traditional salespeople, haven’t been through weeks and months of rigorous sales training, and don’t continually practice their skills by selling full time. In fact, these small business owners would hate to call themselves ‘salespeople’, and because of everything else they have to do in the business – strategy, leadership, production, distribution, delivery, accounts etc, sales is traditionally only a small part of what they do.
Therefore if you want to thrive, or even survive, the economic conditions we’re experiencing, you’ll need to look at your sales skills, at the very least in the following areas:
Sales Skills Area Number 3 – Cold Calling or Follow Up Calls
I know. You hate cold calling don’t you? Most of you probably have avoided doing it altogether, or only done it when times are hard and you’re more desperate.
The question is, what else are you doing as a pro-active new business development activity. When I’ve asked this question to business owners in the past, people have said to me ‘oh but Andy, I have a website’, ‘I get all my business through networking’ and ‘I don’t go after new business, I just deal with my existing clients’.
Aha. Those would be the people that will be struggling in the current conditions, wouldn’t they?! Incoming enquiries are drying up, people are putting off making purchasing decisions, you’re being driven down to almost no profit on your prices, and you’re still sat there, wondering if the phone is going to ring?
You’ve got to do some sort of pro-active new business development activity in the current market, but how prepared are you to do good follow up calls, let alone cold calls?
Sales Skills Area Number 4 – Questioning and Uncovering Needs
Most professional salespeople are poor at questioning, so this is another area where you need to take a close look at your current skill levels. Most business owners I meet commit the ‘cardinal sin’ of talking too much about their product or service too early in the sale! The end result being is that most decision makers switch off from that sort of sales approach and the business owner wonders why more people don’t buy from them!
In addition, most business owners only ask information based questions of the potential client, questions that give the business owner more idea if they can sell their product or service to the potential client, but have little or no value for the decision maker whatsoever, resulting in the decision maker being bored at best, or having very short meetings at least! Again, neither of these is a great result for the business owner!
Sales Skills Area Number 5 – Closing
Now this is the biggie! The most misunderstood and poorly executed part of selling, closing and closing skills will be one of the biggest things that causes success or failure of many businesses in the current climate.
Again, even professional salespeople struggle with this part, so business owners will definitely need to work on this area. However, most of them find this part a challenge, as it’s not something that comes naturally to them or they don’t feel a huge amount of confidence in doing.
The challenge is, if you can’t master the closing part of the sales process, you’re probably missing out on a lot of deals. This isn’t a big problem when you’ve got a huge amount of prospects, or lots of business is coming from existing clients. However, in the current market conditions, not many people are lucky enough for that to be the case. The problem is, it may have been a few months ago, but now you have to adapt.
If you struggle with closing, clients will procrastinate over making a buying decision, more so now than ever before, because their fear of taking risks has risen in the current economic conditions and also they’re looking to hang onto their cash more – all bad news for you if you’re trying to get business off them.
In summary, in a negative market, if you don’t work on your selling skills and keep them sharp, you’re virtually handing business to your competition on a plate and allowing yourself to struggle to survive. When would be a good time to work on your sales skills do you think?!
Follow the tips above and watch your sales soar! I look forward to hearing how you got on.