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What Sales People Need in a Down Economy

Feb 29, 2008
It takes something special to sell in a down economy. Unless sales people are properly equipped, it's easy for them to get discouraged and give up, perhaps before they even get started. When salespeople stop selling, falling revenues eventually cause pain for all employees and can threaten the very existence of the business. That's why it's in everybody's best interest to ensure that every salesperson has the one thing that will keep them producing sales in a down economy.

Clue Me Down

First, how can we be sure we're experiencing a down economy? Here are some headlines that appeared in newspapers over the last 30 days:
-- Home foreclosure rate soars in 2007
-- State's unemployment rate jumps
-- Bankruptcy filings up 24% in Georgia

Statistics like that could easily discourage any sales person. The changing environment means they'll soon be facing unfamiliar selling challenges they are not confident they can handle. Any salesperson could righteously proclaim, "The economy is killing me!"

If that were true, I should already be dead.

Leggo My Ego

As I share this story from my past, please don't discount it as self-serving ego aggrandizement. I offer it to give perspective. Besides, facts are facts, and these are the facts.

I started my direct selling career in 1979. In 1981 and 1982, I was an award-winning sales leader at my company (ask me, and I'll show you my diamond ring, earned through an incentive program. Actually, I earned two diamonds; my wife claimed the bigger one). Here are some indicators of how the economy of 1981 compared to 2007:

2007:
-- 6.34% = Mortgage Interest Rate
-- 4.61% = Unemployment Rate
-- 2.85% = Inflation Rate

1981:
-- 16.63% = Mortgage Interest Rate
-- 7.62% = Unemployment Rate
-- 10.35% = Inflation Rate

To come close to duplicating the horrific economy of 1981, you'd have to go back to the Great Depression of the 1930's. Yet here I was, a "newbie" salesperson facing an economy that could easily kill off my new sales career. Yet I had something that enabled me to not just survive, but thrive in a difficult environment.

Sell Yourself with Critical Thinking

My competitors may have gotten discouraged, but the daily news didn't bother me much. I learned to use critical thinking skills to evaluate what I was reading in the newspaper. When I saw "state's unemployment rate jumps," I looked closer. The "jump" was from 4.2% to 4.6%, a 9.5% increase in just one month... pretty alarming. But what does that really mean to me as a salesperson? It means that last month, out of 250 people, 10.5 were unemployed. This month, 11.5 are unemployed. We lost one suspect out of every 250 people. Should that slow down our selling efforts? I don't think so.

What about "home foreclosure rate soars in 2007"? The article reveals that the rate is 79 percent higher in 2007 compared to 2006. While that's a sizable increase, it still means that 99 percent of all U.S. households are NOT facing foreclosure, leaving them as potential suspects for you.

Check out the bankruptcy filing statistics, and in a like manner you'll find that the vast majority of people still have jobs. They are earning money they can spend on your products and services... if you have what it takes to stay in the selling game despite a down economy.

Get Rid of Dis

When you're feeling discouraged with the down economy, you need only one thing to "sell the lights out": courage. The difference between where you are and what you need is simply dis. Remove dis, and you can replace discourage with courage. You can gain all the courage you need to succeed through Perspective, Plan and Persistence.

Create Your Own Courage

PERSPECTIVE involves using your critical thinking skills to evaluate the reality of your situation. Reporters write headlines to sell newspapers, not to help you keep an optimistic outlook. Use critical thinking skills as in the examples above to ensure you keep proper perspective. This down economy, like every other one before, is temporary.

PLAN a way to deal with the challenges that a down economy can bring. Write down your goals and objectives, and find ways to gather and measure feedback as you execute. Retain flexibility so you can make course corrections and adjust your plan as you learn what's working in a down economy.

PERSISTENCE is perhaps most important of all. It means getting up every day and putting your plan into action. It means continuing to sell even when the headlines suck. It means being too busy selling to even bother reading the headlines.

Make Time for P's

It's easy to get discouraged in a down economy. Everyday the media is happy to tell us why things are so terrible. As Nicholas Murray Butler noted, "Optimism is the foundation of courage."

Discouraged, you fail. With courage, you succeed. The difference is simply dis.

Salespeople can find courage to thrive by beginning each selling day with a review of the importance of Perspective, Plan, and Persistence. Do that and you can find diamonds in any down economy.

Copyright 2008 Paul Johnson
About the Author
Paul Johnson is Founder of ConsultativeSelling.com and a keynote speaker. He works with organizations like ADP, Nortel Networks and AutoNation to convert sales trouble into double and triple digit performance breakthroughs. Learn how to apply Consultative Selling at http://ConsultativeSelling.com/.
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