Sales and Sales Management Blog

October 7, 2008

Guest Article: “Top 10 Tips to Stay in Control When Your Market Feels Out of Control,” by Paul Cherry

Filed under: sales — Paul McCord @ 5:09 am
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Top 10 Tips To Stay In Control When Your Market Feels Out Of Control
By Paul Cherry

When the economy seems unstable, businesspeople can feel shaky. Hysteria sets in, sending sales people, managers and CEOs running for cover, making panic moves that cause more problems than they solve. Avoid making costly mistakes by learning how to implement the top 10 tips to stay in control when your market feels out of control:

1. Stay focused on your most profitable business. Is there something you’re leaving on the table with your customers that you should be providing? Start asking those tough questions to help you become a more effective strategist for them. Your most successful customers already have faith in you, so reinforce the value they see in your solutions. What additional tasks or solutions can you explore or provide for them to make you their partner, not just their vendor?

2. Go deeper, broader, and as high as you can within your established accounts. Companies change because their people change. As soon as you think you’ve gotten yourself entrenched within an account, you’d be wise to start networking. For instance, two years ago, things were going great with my biggest and best account. I felt like I had it made because I had open-door access to that firm’s top management brass. But what a difference six months can make! Within that time period, the entire senior management team was wiped out, and a new team was formed. With “new regime syndrome” spreading like the flu, I got swept out with the old team. I could have avoided that if I’d formed more relationships at that company while things were going well, but I let myself get too comfortable. This brings us to another way to make it through hard times:

3. Be willing to relinquish and look beyond what you’re comfortable with. For example, back in 1998, I worked with a plastic injection molding company that was getting squeezed by the big auto manufacturers. They saw the pain these manufacturers were beginning to inflict on their suppliers, and made the decision early to change course and actively pursue new market opportunities. 90% of this company’s business came from the auto industry in 1998, but today, 70% of their business is with the lucrative medical device industry. Meanwhile, more than half of the suppliers serving the auto manufacturing industry in 1998 are out of business today because they decided to stay the course.

4. Go after the big fish. Or in some cases, the big salami. Take Boar’s Head Brand Provisions Company. Why is it that this small deli meat manufacturer can sell lunchmeat for four times what their biggest competitor charges? It’s because Boar’s Head Brand has a well defined value proposition. When they meet with high level executives, they don’t talk lunchmeat; rather, they drive home how they’re going to increase profit margins, reduce overhead, and bring about greater productivity. (Oh yeah, it also doesn’t hurt that they have quality products.) How comfortable are you in engaging your customers on solutions, rather than your product? Some of the best salespeople don’t even get around to discussing their product!

5. When customers/prospects try to get you to come down on price, discuss value. Sidestep their price-squeezing tactics, tell them to put price aside for the moment, and ask your customers and prospects how they define and determine real value. Other criteria will automatically come up, minimizing your chances of getting cornered on price.

6. Don’t get too cozy with purchasing agents and buyers. Remember, they get judged and rewarded for performance on getting the lowest price. A purchasing agent may be your best pal, but when it comes to business, you’re better off keeping them at a distance.

7. Stand up to bullies, even when they’re your customers. Some customers just don’t deserve your business; they end up costing you more in time and resources than they give back in business and profits. If you have customers who are bullies, confront them. If you can’t win with the bully because they’re their own worst enemy, or because their values are so out of sync with your own, walk away and invest your time on customers who appreciate the value you can bring to them.

8. Streamline the use of your time. For the next 8 weeks, stop using so much time on some of your daily routines; that is, stuff you no longer really think about, but just do out of habit. Take a good look at your daily routine, and you’ll probably find that you can save time with at least 10% of your daily tasks. For example, you could skip the morning newspaper and just scan the latest headlines online. Which of those face-to-face chats could be done on the phone instead? Is there one weekly meeting that you can delegate, put off, or just plain not do at all? When your boss asks you to do an administrative task during active selling hours, diplomatically work out terms that will satisfy both parties. Learn to say no nicely, or delegate it to someone else on your staff; they just might enjoy learning a new skill or facing a fresh challenge. Now you’re free to focus that time on generating revenue. With the average person putting in 50-hour work weeks, that’s five hours per week, or one hour a day, that you could put to better use by working on your established relationships or prospecting for new ones. By doing so, you’ll be able to:

9. Work smarter, not harder. Stick by your commitments to yourself and your loved ones. Call it a day at a humane, respectable time each and every day. When it comes to your work life, think of yourself as a farmer planting seeds: there’ll always be tomorrow to keep harvesting. Make sure you always get home and spend quality time with those you love. There’ll be no regrets. With Social Security in danger of being sucked dry in the next 20 years, it may not even matter; you could be working hard into your 70s. There’s plenty of time; savor it.

10. Don’t forget to recharge your emotional and creative batteries. If you’re not staying immersed in a hobby or activity to keep your batteries charged, go find one! Disconnect from work in an activity you genuinely enjoy, one where you can get lost in the moment, with even the thought of work totally on the back burner on “Low,” if not “Off.” There’s nothing like feeling refreshed and recharged to help you function better both at home and at work. One of my hobbies is whitewater kayaking. I get into the zone when I surf a hydraulic or river wave. There’s no time to being thinking about, say, that customer who drives me nuts with his unreasonable demands. When I return to work, I have a new attitude and I’m ready to tackle the daily challenges. There’s plenty of time, really; it’s just a matter of prioritizing.

The real key to your success is the belief you have in yourself and the willingness to say “I can.” Psychologists claim that 90% of the time, we are our own biggest barrier to success. Be willing to take risks (within reason) in order to grow and succeed, and confidence will mushroom.

Paul Cherry is principal assessor, trainer and motivational coach. He has more than 19 years of experience in sales, management, executive leadership and performance improvement strategies.  His expertise is in aligning individual behaviors with organizational strategies and values. To date he worked with over 1,200 organizations from leading Fortune 500 companies to small and medium sized companies in every major industry.  Paul has authored more than 125 articles and has written the AMACOM book, Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants. He teaches at Lehigh University in the areas of leadership, critical thinking and business ethics.  Visit his website at http://www.pbresults.com

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