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How to gain advantage in a down market

Alice Heiman

Everyone is complaining about the market.

Things are bad; the worst I’ve seen.

Business is slow and yet all of my clients are

doing well. They will survive this market and

come out strong on the other end. What are

they doing? So how can your company compete

and gain the advantage in this market?

Here is a peek:

* Extraordinary customer service

* Consistently asking for referrals

* Refining processes to become more efficient

* Consistently coaching salespeople

* Keeping salespeople focused on selling

by reassigning non-revenue generating activities

* Releasing salespeople with a bad attitude

and poor sales results

* Hiring the great salespeople that have

come available in this market

* Staying focused on the positive

* Telling success stories

* Finding the good news in the industry

and sharing it with customers

Be the best you can be. Are you giving

your customers extraordinary customer service?

Not sure? Ask them. Your best source of

business is always more business from your

existing customers. If they are happy they

continue to buy, and if they are really happy

they tell everyone they know. Turn your customers

into walking advertisements by giving

them extraordinary customer service.

Capitalize on happy customers. Do your

salespeople consistently ask for referrals? I

can answer that for you: if they ask, it is less

than 10 percent of the time. Why wouldn’t

they ask for a referral? Most likely because the

customer is not completely satisfied and they

are nervous about asking. The other most

likely reason is because they don’t think about

doing it. Now more than ever, they need to get

in the habit. Satisfied customers usually will

give a referral when asked.

If things have slowed down a bit at your

company it is a good time to clean house. Go

through your processes and do what you can

to refine them. You can hire an outside consultant,

but I will bet you have all the knowledge

you need in your workforce. Do a brainstorming

session. Ask them how processes can

be improved, ask them to help make the needed

changes, and reward them for doing it.

Are your sales managers really coaching

your salespeople or are they busy doing

reports, putting out fires, attending meetings

and selling because sales are down? Sales

managers need to spend 80 percent of their

time coaching their salespeople to close business.

If they are doing anything else you are

missing out on revenue.

Are your salespeople focused on sales?

How much time are your salespeople spending

in your office doing paperwork or following

up to see that orders are processed and

delivered? Your salespeople need time to be in

front of their customers learning about their

goals and needs, and doing what they can to

meet those. They need to increase the number

of customer visits each week. They need

to increase the number of prospects they see

each week. How can they do that if they are

sitting in the office doing paperwork?

Tired of the poor results some of your

salespeople are getting? If you are coaching

them properly, giving them time to sell, and

their results are still poor, it is time to cut

them loose, especially if they have a bad attitude.

I can’t tell you how many times I ask

clients,”Why do you keep this salesperson?” I

get a wide variety of excuses, but when it

comes right down to it, they know they should

have let the person go months ago. Not only is

the salesperson doing a bad job, but the “ick”

being spread by the bad attitude is upsetting

the other employees. Get rid of the ick!

Why would you hire in a down market? To

get a fantastic salesperson you might otherwise

not be able to get. Don’t be hasty though,

do a very thorough job. You don’t want to hire

another company’s problem. I caution you to

use a professional when hiring salespeople.

Focus is powerful. Get your whole company

focused on the positive. Positive words

need to come from everywhere in an organization.

If you don’t like the situation work

hard to improve it. If you can’t, get out.

Positive words need to flow freely throughout

a company. Everyone should be quick to recognize

a job well done. Senior level management

needs to show appreciation for work

well done. In fact, senior level managers

would do well to write at least one a week to

someone in their organization, especially

those who report to them. All employees

should be encouraged to speak up when they

see something good happening. We are so

quick to jump on the stuff people do wrong,

why not be quicker to jump on the stuff they

do right? Salespeople, especially, love appreciation.

They hear complaints all too often

about how all they do is take people to golf

and lunch. Every sale should be cause for a

celebration.

Success stories should abound in your

company. They are everywhere. Success that

employees have with projects, success with

difficult situations, sales success, customer

success. It is hard to have a lot of grumbling

and complaining when you are telling success

stories. And why not focus on success? It is

well known that we get what we focus on. I

would rather have success than failure, so it

always bewilders me when companies are

focused on what is wrong with their operation

rather than what is right. Of course, we have

to continuously improve, but focus on what is

being done right. Share that, do more of it,

and gently correct the things that need to be

corrected, without bludgeoning anyone. If

they need to be bludgeoned, they probably

shouldn’t be working there!

Doom and gloom doesn’t usually put people

in a buying mood. All of the media attention

on what is going wrong affects the economy

in and of itself. There is plenty of good

news in your industry to share. Find it and

share it with your customers. Help them

understand what is happening in your industry

and dispel rumors. Be sure and combat

the bad news with the good news. This means

you will need to read your industry journals

and keep up with the media. Salespeople can

ask for success stories to share when they are

out visiting customers.

Stop complaining about the economy, the

market, your industry, slow business and start

making the changes needed to increase your

sales.