Sales Strategies in Challenging Times: What I’m Telling My Clients

It is really hard to sell products and services when the economic news is bleak. Besides knowing that your prospects and clients are being reminded regularly that prosperous times are no longer on the horizon, you, as a salesperson or company leader can’t help but be affected by all of this negativity.

It is almost as if you are waiting for the prospect / client to turn your proposal down – and frankly, as a rational person, you can understand why they would decline your proposal.

So what to do?

What I am telling my clients is that there is opportunity in a downturn but it requires a different type of selling – one that embraces with sensitivity the needs of those companies and business relationships that we value. This is precisely the time to open up conversations with your strategic partners, centers of influence and existing clients. And it is an excellent time to engage in some low cost marketing as well.

Let’s discuss the opportunities within each of these groups.

For purposes of this example, we’ll envision that our company provides managed IT services, that is, we support a critical component of a business’ infrastructure.

Strategic partners and centers of influence (e.g. accounting and legal firms, associations, etc.) have a strong need and moral obligation to help their clients navigate turbulent economic waters. Now is an excellent time for our managed IT services company to ask these partners if their clients would benefit from having their infrastructure evaluated at little or no cost in order to identify key risks and prioritize needs. If the company that we are evaluating seems like a good candidate to survive the downturn, this type of advice coupled with prescriptions for meaningful solutions and favorable payment terms may result in a new business relationship.

In order to survive, some of these companies may be forced to make difficult personnel decisions and they may be looking for ways to ease the pain associated with these decisions. Our managed services company can assist here as well.

When there is economic hardship, people who become unemployed often turn to consulting. Our managed services company can create a lower cost start-up bundle of equipment and services to help those who are so inclined to pursue this path. By providing people with an alternate future, we are also providing encouragement, faith and support. And as a managed services company, our business can assume some of the IT responsibilities within the company so that the rest of its workforce can function productively.

Contacting existing clients and reaffirming the commitment that we have to their growth and future is another way to strengthen and forge a long-term relationship. These companies may also benefit from a low cost IT risk evaluation. After all, the suppliers and vendors that support us when times are bad are more likely to be the partners that we choose to work with when times are good.

As to marketing, there are several low cost strategies that can be used. Speaking engagements are one way. One of my former colleagues started a wonderful business called Speakermatch. It is a great way to get in front of the audiences that are interested in what you have to say.

There are also companies who will work with your staff to write and place business articles in trade publications. These articles help to generate business but also forward the credibility of your people and the solutions that they provide. Companies like this one, Andover Communications, can help you get placed in trade publications and ultimately become presenters at conferences.

Now is the time to take the initiative and reach out with sensitivity and care. Please share ways that you think a business can make a positive difference for others during these difficult times.

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