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Winning sales in a losing economy. Finding the upside in the economic downturn

May 1, 2009
By Don Schmincke and Theresa Rose


Winning Sales In A Losing Economy. Finding The Upside In The Economic Downturn

No one knows stress better than a salesperson who is trying to close deals during a global financial collapse.

How is the retrenching affecting your resources to deliver? Is the competition hiring newly unemployed sales talent – those who are extra hungry … and extra talented? What is your customer really thinking about now – your features and benefits, or saving his job? And, as if it wasn’t stressful enough, you’re under pressure to achieve seemingly impossible goals.

What can a sales professional do? Sales 101 methods like better closing techniques or prospect management strategies are important, but experienced professionals want more.


Climbing out of bed to sell in this economy becomes easier by studying … well, climbers. Climbers in death zones – that altitude above 26,000 feet where lack of oxygen makes long-term survival impossible – also surmount seemingly impossible goals; and they bear an uncanny resemblance to salespeople.

Some are deeply humble, while others are psychotic narcissists. They come with all levels of competence, from naive wannabes to elite athletes. And when put to the test, they react like all of us: sometimes like heroes, other times self-destructively. But when they “close” the summit, how do they do it? And how can we use these lessons to push sales higher?

Take smaller steps.
When climbing you don’t break any land speed records. But all climbers succeed doing the same thing – taking just one more step. A small step, one foot in front of the other, gets you higher.

But many salespeople leap too far too fast in a recession. It’s much better to follow the advice: “Never try to cross a chasm in two leaps!”

Today, customers want to take their time. They are fearful and uncertain about what’s next. So, in turn, you must slow down to increase your sales.

Are you running to a solution too soon when you haven’t yet taken the next small step to understand their new challenges and anxieties? What may have been a five-step sales cycle may be a 10-step journey now. Re-assess and tune up your sales strategy for a different route to the top by doing the following:
1) Write down your current sales process steps.
2) See where you can break apart each step into smaller ones (“Build rapport” can be broken into “send article,” “get a meeting on the calendar,” “mail handwritten thank-you card for their time,” etc.).
3) Put the new list to work by creating a spreadsheet with the steps as column titles and then list each prospect down the first column. Assess where you are for each prospect and notice missing steps or areas to redefine your approach.

Sell passion not product.
Passion drives climbers to “buy” into the sport. A passion also drives your prospects.

A resistant client in the high tech industry shocked the salesperson when he admitted, “we like your product, but we just don’t get your story.” They needed vendors who added to the brand, mystique and “remarkablility” of their products. When the stunned salesperson returned with a new presentation of their product direction, innovative philosophy and company culture, they were able to close the deal.

Are your prospects looking for more than just a shallow pitch?
1) List your top prospects.
2) Identify at least three things that excite them or cause them great pain – and explain how your product or service addresses these issues.
3) Create a “story” about your offering using the themes and phrases in Step 2. What’s passionate about your product or service? And don’t fall off the cliff because you think you sell a commodity product. Just look at the stories created around commodities like coffee and tennis shoes!

If the load is too great, climbers separate out the gear and move it in smaller loads. You should, too.
One business deal was being stifled because the salesperson had the whole package, but the recession was driving price into the equation. The client only needed pieces of the solution for now to get through the year.
Unbundling the offering delighted the client, and they closed the deal.
1) Collect and categorize the main customer complaints, objections or other reasons for not buying.
2) Schedule a meeting with relevant company functions that can impact the customer end-product (manufacturing, design, R&D, service delivery, field maintenance, etc.)
3) At the meeting review the categories you created in Step 1, and brainstorm innovative ways to help the customer (what can be unbundled, repackaged, re-priced, delivered differently, combined, etc.)
As a salesperson, now is the time to go in, play harder and take some innovative risks. Climb higher in sales during turbulent times by applying better climbing techniques. What do you have to lose?

A dynamic keynote speaker and author, Don Schmincke, began his career as a scientist and engineer. After graduating from MIT and Johns Hopkins University, he spent decades researching and applying anthropology and evolutionary genetics to management theories. Schmincke is also the author of the bestseller “The Code Of The Executive” and “High Altitude Leadership” with co-author Chris Warner. Visit for a free team assessment exercise, and to view their remarkable strategic, leadership and organizational change programs.

Finding The Upside In The Economic Downturn
By Theresa Rose

Yep, it’s really bad out there. It seems like not a day goes by without another story of doom and gloom hitting the airwaves or being whispered around the vending machine.

We are living in the most challenging time in recent memory: people across the country are losing their health insurance, jobs, homes, and retirement savings. The negative effect of the current circumstances in which we live – both on a financial and an emotional level – cannot be underestimated.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot we as individuals can do to change the global financial system. However, constantly reminding ourselves of how uncertain our future is does a great disservice to our professional lives, as well as wreaks havoc on our attitudes, relationships and health.

Despite the bleak forecasts, all is not lost. In fact, contrary to conventional wisdom, the financial crisis may actually contain several profound benefits buried beneath the bad news. If you want to survive the economic maelstrom with your job, relationships and health intact, consider acknowledging the potential gifts the downturn has provided:

1. Clarifying priorities.

There’s no doubt about it; the wake-up call has been made. We have been forced to re-evaluate what truly matters. What is really important to you right now? Is it the big house filled with big stuff or the precious people in your life? Is it the numbers on the account statement or your blood pressure numbers?

By realizing that our health and family are far more important than anything else, we are able to separate distractions from necessity. What good is obsessing over our jobs if the price we are paying is our well-being and relationships?

2. Making better choices.
Our tighter wallets are forcing us to consume less and conserve more. Recycling and reusing are becoming more than popular catchphrases; they have become an integral part of our everyday lives.

We are driving less in order to save on gas, eating last night’s leftovers for lunch instead of going out to eat, and being more conscious of what we throw away. Whether it is an overhaul of all business expenditures or simply refilling the printer toner instead of buying a new one, this unintended shift of consciousness is not only benefiting our financial future but also the health and sustainability of the Earth.

How can operators take advantage of these shifts?

3. Staying put.
Many people are enjoying “staycations” as opposed to vacations, opting to spend quality recreational time at home or nearby. Investigate the local attractions for opportunities to expand your business.

4. Feeling more interconnected.
Everyone is feeling the pain of our national crisis; there is no longer a nameless, faceless “other” who is affected. We have moved away from the “me, me, me” mentality toward a “me too” mentality.

5. Getting better.
This is the perfect time to build upon your skill set. What technical skills can you brush up on to solidify your organizational value or make yourself more marketable? There is a multitude of hidden opportunities for growth and prosperity if we open ourselves to them.

6. Expressing gratitude.
No matter how bad the situation, we can always find things to appreciate in our lives. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you have a job? Do you have a home? Do you have people who love you? Are you healthy? Sometimes we need major difficulties to remind us of how rich we truly are.

It doesn’t take very much effort to find someone who has it worse than you. Now is the ideal time to be grateful for the countless blessings.

This moment offers us a chance to move into uncharted territory instead of shrinking into the collective fear. Now is the time to discover the best of who we are, not allow the worst of ourselves to appear. When we shift our inner focus from depression to appreciation, everything around us begins to change as well. We position ourselves at the forefront of the recovery effort.

Most importantly, we realize that we are responsible for our own happiness, not the latest economic report or a sound byte from a cable news show. Remember: this too shall pass.
How do you want to experience this critical juncture?

Theresa Rose is an inspirational speaker and award-winning author of the new book, “Opening the Kimono.” As the founder of Serious Mojo Publications, Theresa specializes in fresh approaches to energy management, productivity and creative development. Her experience includes owning a healing centre, senior manager of a Fortune 100 firm, and vice-president of a consulting firm. For more information, visit .

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