Posted tagged ‘Financial Crisis’

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

October 17, 2008

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.


The Financial Crisis, Early Warning Systems and the Leader’s Role

September 18, 2008

Crises just don’t happen.

As with any difficult time, the challenge is always how to learn from the experience to assure that it doesn’t happen again. Clearly, there will be some very provocative analysis. Some will attribute the root cause to greed. Others will state that the lack of regulatory oversight contributed to this problem. However, I feel that the very root cause may be elsewhere.

Every business leader must install four components by which they can operate their company.

The first is, of course, a strategy and operation plan. Strategy, as we already know, provides the corporate direction and the operational plan provides that tactics that we are to follow that will get is to the strategic destination. Together, they tell our organization what we must do.

If the strategy and operational plan detail the “what,” then it is the management philosophy that details the “how.” Every business begins and ends with people and their behaviors. A company must recognize the mutual opportunities and responsibilities with its customers, employees, stockholders, suppliers, communities and the public.

This recognition leads us to believe that it is desirable to have a common philosophy. The company’s philosophy should be the basis for actions by managers at all levels of the organization.

An effective management philosophy details

  • What the company is and what it will become
  • How the business will be managed
  • The basic responsibility for each employee
  • The human values that we will live by
  • The company image

The third pillar that must be in place is the compensation program. It should motivate people to properly deliver on corporate tactics consistent with the management philosophy. It serves as a means by which employees will wish to stay within the organization.

Finally, a set of steering mechanisms must be in place. Think of it as more than key performance indicators. It is the dashboard that illustrates how the business is “flying” in all areas and allows for early recognition of difficulties so that course corrections may be easily made and made as early as possible.

So , from a management and leadership perspective, what likely went wrong that caused this crisis?

It is likely that the failures that triggered this crisis are a result of deficiencies in all of the above areas.

  • The strategic and tactical plan may have been flawed in that it took on too much inappropriate risk.
  • The management philosophy may have either ignored or encouraged the achievement of short-term profits at the expense of long-term growth and therefore encouraged irresponsible behaviors and actions.
  • The compensation program may have rewarded results that were produced without consideration to proper behaviors.
  • The steering mechanisms may have been ignored at the earliest stages and therefore corrective actions could not be taken soon enough

The management lesson for all of us then is to place and actively reinforce these elements within our business. It is surest way to avoid catastrophe and the friendliest path to growth and success.

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