Monday, October 27, 2008

Selling in an Economic Downturn

“When the going gets tough the tough get going.” - Joseph P. Kennedy (JFK's Father)

We are entering a period of enormous change and uncertainty. We are witnessing the emergence of a new world order and a new business era. The Financial Crisis will impact the global economy, but where, when and by how much we don’t yet know. One thing is for sure. The “New World” will be less tolerant and less forgiving of much of our current “Old World” sales practices. In a downturn, customers will reassess their activities, expenditures, suppliers and business relationships to see where they can make savings, streamline their business and find new levels of operational efficiency to drive down costs. This presents the New Era Sales Professional with an unparalleled opportunity to take the lead by helping guide their customers through this reassessment process.

A simple and effective way to move your thinking to a NESP (New Era Sales Professional) is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • What will help my customer’s business in the new world economy?
  • How can I leverage my understanding of my customer's business, my knowledge of their industry and my products/services to do this?

A Five Point Plan to protect your existing business and maximize your sales in an economic downturn:

1. Keep cool. Stay positive, confident and motivated. We are entering a radically new business environment. Things are going to be difficult (maybe), different (definitely). Your ability to maintain your energy, enthusiasm and conviction are vital. A positive mindset determines your ability to achieve and to succeed by overcoming obstacles, barriers and constraints that are going to appear to surround you. The first victory is over one’s self.

2. Keep close to your customers. Look for new and innovative ways to make your customers more competitive by demonstrating how you can save them money. Gain a deeper understanding of what is truly important and of value to your customers - and know why. Visit your customers more often. Get to meet and know more people in the customer’s organization. Set a goal to meet 2 new contacts on each visit you make. Call high and wide. Know your customers better than anyone else.

3. Keep focused on customer value. To succeed in the New World of business stay focused on 2 critical things: 1. the customer and 2. the customer’s unending pursuit of performance improvement. In the New World business value will captured in 3 areas: i) achieving lower costs, ii) gaining high levels of productivity from smaller organizations, and iii) striving to create sustainable competitive advantage. Look for new and innovative ways to better serve your customers. Innovate and re-validate your current product/service value proposition. Actively seek ways to add value to your customers above and beyond your current product and service offerings.

4. Keep prospecting. Selectively target new clients. Prospecting has and always will be the base metric of success in sales. In the New World the focus shifts from prospecting to prospecting effectiveness. Quantity (Old World) yields to quality (New World). New Era prospecting means being ruthless in deciding how and where to invest your time and effort to develop new business opportunities. That means deciding which prospects and which prospecting activities you are going to stop so that you can concentrate on New Era Prospecting.

5. Keep growing. Invest in yourself. Develop your New Era Sales Skills and your personal value proposition. It may seem counter-intuitive, but when it gets harder and harder to fell big trees it is time to stop and sharpen the saw. Sharpening your sales skills means setting aside time to develop your skills through reading, listening to podcasts, attending seminars and conferences, participating in training programs and joining expert groups. In the New World you are responsible for your own self development.

By finding ways to deliver new levels of business value to your customers, above and beyond what they are used to today, you will stand out from the crowd especially during an economic downturn.


Perperitus Ltd said...

David, a good article, the point about staying positive is the most significant for me. No one wants to see an SE who has already given up as they walk through the door.
Regards Dave

David Batup
Founder and COO
Perperitus Ltd

Jeniay said...

Exellent article i send this to my colleauges at work and some of them claim that the famous quote When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going was uttered by Joseph P. Kennedy, father of JFK, not by “anonymous” .

Best regards

Rohit said...

excellent the thing about stay positive and enthusiastic.

Diego said...


The article is great. I will share with my sales team. Everyday I ask them for keep focus in our goals, more contacts and to be positive.
Now, this article support my request.

Many thanks,


rishi said...

excellent article. apt for current situation

Prabhat said...


Excellent article and 5 K's!!!
I would add "Keep executing" to drive excellence in performance of your sales efforts.

Prabhat Kumar
Independent Consultant
Telecom and Cable
New Jersey, USA

SALMAN68 said...

Dear David,

I have to agree with the rest of the comments on how great your article is. PLease continue to write! Being new in the sales force of my company, I find this to be of great help to start.

Your last point mentioned about sharpening skills. This is one of the benefit that I get from joining Linked in! Thank you!

divySinwer said...

emphasising more on your customers' requirement will be more helpful.

Allan Himmelstein said...

Hi David,
Some good points. I would like to add more. 1. Business owners and managers get out of the office and tell your present customers how much you care. Don’t rely on your salesperson being the only contact point. 2. Help your salespeople look for low hanging fruit. 3. Go to lost customers and ask how you could of done things better and take action. 4. Don't assume that you know why customers are buying from you. Ask them, and utilize the information to help strengthen the vision and sales message across the board. I have also written an article on GROWING YOUR SALES IN A DOWN ECONOMY on my blog- . We are of like mind. All the best.

Anonymous said...

you're points are spot on.... your content, combined with the excellent article, is all a new business sales person needs to get out there and maximise his position today

Rafel said...

I think you did a great job with this article.
In fact, you are not inventing nothing new but just reminding us that, like in Maths 2+2=4, in Sales, the basics, the headlines are the most important... I see how too many times the teams waste time and money in complicated comparisons... when the reality is much simpler.
Congratulations for your clarity and easy and comprehensive way of putting it here...


Peter G' said...

Excellent Article... I enjoyed reading it and found it informative and inspiring...

Anonymous said...


Challenge = Opportunity

While I think it's important to try to stay "positive", I would tie it to motivation. Kennedy's quote isn't really "positive", but the results of "getting going" certainly can be.

INtegra FinServe said...

The tough times that we undergo is fuel for me... I have a vision to tell all, that I left my high paying job during the worst recession & have come out Super Successful. Its only a matter of time & efforts in the manner suggested by YOU in this superb article that will take me there. Thank you for these motivating tips.

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