Sales and Sales Management Blog

January 12, 2008

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst: Selling in 2008


It appears that 2008 may be stacking up as a critical year in the careers of millions of salespeople, professionals, and small business owners.  Unless there are radical changes in the very near future, this year may be the worst year for salespeople in almost a decade.

The financial markets are in a mess.  More and more foreign cash from Europe, China, the Middle East and Japan is flowing into American companies, in particular banks and brokerage houses, to stabilize them due to their losses from the mortgage fiasco.  Mortgage companies are failing by the droves.  Personal credit use is soaring, while late payments and defaults on credit cards are rising.  The Fed is cutting interest rates to keep things afloat.  The government is pumping money into the financial markets like crazy.  Yet, daily we read of more financial woes and new segments of the market beginning to show signs of weakness.

Some economists are predicting recession.  Others claim we’re already in a recession.  A few are predicting a depression, a few others stagflation as we experienced in the 70’s.  A very small minority are trying to convince us that the economy is solid and everything is just fine.

Recession, depression, stagflation, or things as usual, I’m not sure anyone knows where we’re going to end up a year from now.  But I do know that businesses and individual consumers are watching the economy with great anxiety.  As the anxiety grows, spending will eventually slow.  Purchases will become more deliberate.  Prying money from a buyer’s fist will become more difficult. 

Just finding and having the opportunity to speak with a real qualified prospect will become more difficult.  And this is where the majority of salespeople, professionals, and small business owners will hit a wall that if they don’t learn to overcome will drive them out of business. 

As the economy slows and sales get tougher, the natural reaction of salespeople and companies will be to ratchet up their marketing.  The number of cold calls will dramatically increase.  Direct mail and advertising messages will become shriller.  The number of fliers on vehicle windshields will explode as salespeople and small business owners look for cheap ways to get their word out.

Nevertheless, the result of all this marketing will be a steady decrease in sales. 

Surprisingly, there will be salespeople and small businesses that do well during this time of crisis.  Not only will they suffer far less than their competition, many will actually see their business increase. 

Those salespeople and business owners who understand that consumers, both individuals and businesses, are sick of all the marketing—the incessant cold calls, the ubiquitous direct mail, the inescapable advertising, and all the rest, and have learned how to connect with prospects in ways prospects respect and want to be communicated with will find their businesses stable and even growing while their competitors are withering. 

Although the natural reaction by most to the changing economy will be panic, followed by trying to beat prospects over the head with more unwanted marketing, those who understand that today’s consumer wants real information and unbiased guidance and advice and who develop the skills to reach out to consumers in more creative ways will thrive.

Certainly, hope for the best for the economy, but prepare for the worst.  Learn how to connect with your prospects in the ways they want to be connected with rather than following the crowd trying to scream louder and more often than the next guy.  Marketing for the individual salesperson, professional and small business owner is increasingly becoming more sophisticated than the traditional cold call and flier.  To compete—especially in what appears to be a much weaker economy, you need to upgrade your marketing methods.  If you aren’t, your competitors are. 

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5 Comments »

  1. Paul –

    Yes, I too think that this year could be very difficult for sales folks who are not prepared and who are selling products/services that don’t make sense. Clients will be looking to reduce costs while generating revenue. If a company can PROVE that they can provide these things to the intended constituency – they will have a good change at being a winner in a down market. Unfortunately, many companies will do what they always do – not properly train their team on how to sell in a down market and not align sales and marketing. As we know from past experience many will fire team members in mass and rush to hire bodies with a current salesforce.ccom list of desired prospects. They will retain them for 90 to 120 days and start over. Maybe your books and some of your referral book will help to get the word out and get people properly trained for this type of selling.

    Comment by askbusinesscoach — January 12, 2008 @ 10:39 am | Reply

  2. Askbusinesscoach,

    I certainly believe that referrals are the best marketing method a salesperson, professional or business owner has and the surest way to insulate oneself from an economic downturn. But there are other methods that also work. They just aren’t the ones most salespeople and companies will turn to.

    Unfortunately, you’re right. Many companies will react by moving the cattle through the doors hoping that some make it. The revolving door strategy that is so often employed is not only far more expensive that investing in real sales training, it creates an atmosphere of distrust and anxiety on the part of the sales team, making it even more difficult for them to perform.

    I’ve been stressing for a year and a half that companies–and salespeople–need to be preparing for the coming downturn in the market. My first encouragements were in my newsletter and communications to my corporate clients, however since the Jan 13 post of last year I’ve been preaching about the upcoming downturn here on the blog. Few have taken advantage of the good economy to prepare for the downturn. Now, as time appears to be running out, the real challenge must be met.

    Companies and salespeople can do well in a down market–they just can’t do it by doing the same stuff everybody else is doing.

    Comment by pmccord — January 12, 2008 @ 11:30 am | Reply

  3. Paul,

    I found your blog to have great information about sales in general. But, I would like to share with you from working in New York City for the past five years in Telecom sales and in the real estate industry, no matter what type of methods you use in order to get in front of the prospect and you are not knowledgeable when the time comes to present your product or services, there’s nothing that will get you the sale. Preparation is the key, but preparation only is not enough if you don’t know your products in and out.

    Best,

    Marvin V.
    http://www.marvinvasquez.ws
    http://www.squidoo.com/mymillionairejourney

    Comment by Marvin — January 13, 2008 @ 12:48 am | Reply

  4. Martin,

    Although this blog deals primarily with prospecting and marketing, in no way do I think that one can sell without being proficient in many other areas besides marketing. Certainly product and service expertise is a necessary skill. Part of the preparation for selling is gaining expertise in one’s product area.

    Comment by pmccord — January 13, 2008 @ 8:29 am | Reply

  5. I agree with you. If you want to be prepared for the worse, you need to have a plan and also a back up company. Now is the time to lay the ground work for your side venture, not when you are up to your ears in debt, without an income and entering a recession. Through proper planning and execution, you can infuse your new business with business lines of credit, you can harvest previous years taxes to spur growth. I have worked with lots of wealthy clients, and the one thing that they all did was to ensure that they had multiple sources or income and always had a back up plan and access to financing not in there name. If you are in sales, maybe it is time to start thinking about your future, (do you have a solid income replacement plan, are your retirement goals on track, have you minimized your taxes?) These are all questions that you need to ask yourself, before things get too bad and you do not have access to the resources. People do not want to loan you money when you need it the most.

    Plan for the what-if’s and then they will not be a surprise. If your advisor does not know how to do it all, maybe it’s time for a better advisor? If you advisor only helps you with investments or insurance, (why do they not help you with the other 5 asset classes?) Here is a question I pose to all of you why do wealthy people have CPAs, Attorneys, & RIAs? Because it works!

    If you do not have a solid team of coaches, advisors and tax minimization specialists, you are going to end up with the rest of the herd.

    Best of Luck,

    Michael J. Fitzgerald, CPA/PFS, CFP, MST
    President & Founder of Fitzgerald Financial Partners, LLC
    Registered Investment Advisory & Wealth Management Firm For Busy People
    100% Income Replacement Strategies
    http://www.fitzfp-llc.com

    Comment by Michael J. Fitzgerald, CPA/PFS, CFP, MsT — January 13, 2008 @ 12:17 pm | Reply


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