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Selling In A Down Economy

The new century has brought with it an economic downturn (some might call it a "market correction"), the likes of which we have not experienced since the very early 1990's. Package together with the tragic events of September 11th and the after-effects that resulted, and most people I talk to are going through some tough times in their businesses and personal finances.

But there are some things we can do to be more effective in our sales activities, so that we do not have to accept poor numbers:

Show Uncommon Empathy - Your prospects aren't interested in you, they are interested in themselves. In order to get their attention, you need to know their pains, pleasures, and fears. These are the emotions that make people buy, not "needs" or "wants". Pain, pleasure and fear are strong, passionate forces that supercede any economic climate. If you are others-oriented, you will ask the questions in a way that will extract the feelings that will enable you to be truly empathetic. Remember - it's the relationship, not the price, and relationships are long-term. Help your customers build their businesses, and they will help you.

Take a Different Approach - Be disarmingly honest! Don't look, act, sound, feel like just another salesperson, or you'll be treated like one! Treat every customer and prospect like a celebrity, like the most important person you'll meet that day. Give them value up front, and don't expect a return right away. Be creative and do things a little differently. Breakfast and lunch meetings can be very productive, getting your prospect away from distractions and letting them relax and communicate better. Have some fun with your customers and prospects!

Be Passionate, Not Enthusiastic - True passion comes through as genuine when delivered professionally. Enthusiasm is too easily mistaken for false salesmanship. Practice your presentations, talks and demonstrations, even if you've been doing them for years. Pay attention to your speaking habits. Most people don't know that they say "ah" or "you know" or "I was, like." over and over while selling. Nothing is more annoying to the listener! Work harder and smarter than your competition.

Don't Quit on a Unique Idea Too Soon - When the economy is slower, ideas sometimes need more time to take hold. Have faith, know what you are about, and stay with it. Plan each day and work your plan, holding true to your long-term goals. Be a warrior and go after your goals. Foster loyalty in your customers, it's more important to you even than their satisfaction.

Ask Everyone for Referrals - I don't care if you just closed a huge deal or struck out swinging - ask that person the magic question: "who do you know, that could benefit from what I do?" It takes just a few moments, and could turn into your next big sale. So ask the question!

Sure, times are tough, but we still live in a wonderful country where we are free to pursue happiness and security in our own ways - within reason - so take advantage of that freedom. We all have a choice: Let the economy keep us down, or get out there and do things a little differently, a little better, a little more passionately, and have some fun!

By Al Simon, President, Business Development Improvement, Inc., an authorized licensee of the Sandler Sales Institute