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The Secret to Sales Success - Even When Times are Tough

"I get so frustrated," Melissa said. "My company is small. No one knows who we are. It's just about impossible to get prospects to call me back when I'm cold calling. If only we were a household name, selling would be a whole lot easier."

I know how she feels. I spent many years toiling in obscurity as a small one-person firm. Cold calling new customers was always a challenge.

Andrew didn't have much sympathy for Melissa. "You're the lucky one," he said. "Everyone knows the company I work for. When I try to get appointments, prospects immediately say we're too expensive or sophisticated for them. If only I worked for a less recognizable firm, selling would be a whole lot easier."

Of course, he's totally right. I used to work for Xerox. The minute I'd say that, prospects would blurt out, "We don't need any copiers" and hang up the phone. It was tough.

But, the reality is, the grass is always greener on the other side. Sellers from no-name companies win big deals all the time. So do sellers from well-known companies.

No matter where you look, you'll find sellers who succeed despite insurmountable odds. Some may work in declining industries or depressed economies, yet they still bring in orders. Others succeed selling cutthroat commodities or complex, over-priced offerings.

How do they do it? Don't they understand they're in a no-win sales situation?

The truth is, you can be successful in just about any situation. However, to make it happen, you'll likely need to change your sales strategies, techniques and mindset.

Certainly, it's much easier to keep doing what you're comfortable with. But, as Dr. Phil says to the self-righteous complainers who appear on his show,

"So how's that working for you?"

Or, you could find a different company to work for. While that might make things better in the short term, it still doesn't teach you how to handle adversity in your sales career. Believe me, you'll have these tough times again!

In my opinion, there's only one viable option. Get out of the "if only" trap - or should I say cut the "if only" crap?

Banish those self-sabotaging words from your vocabulary now. Then, commit to figuring out how to succeed right where you're at. Even if you're working for a no-name company. Even if you're selling non-differentiated products or services. Even though your offering isn't the best or the cheapest.

In my book, Selling to Big Companies, I share how I had to entirely re-invent my cold calling strategies because they were no longer effective. I felt grossly uncomfortable trying new approaches. On many occasions, I blew it badly.

There were even days when I feared my mojo was gone and that I'd never land another corporate client again.

I'd think to myself: If only my prospects would answer their phone. If only Wall Street would stop their never-ending pursuit of profits. If only the economy would turn around.

Shoot! I even lived in Fantasy Land for a while: If only a perfect client with massive needs for my services would call me from out of nowhere.

My back luck finally came to a halt when I stopped playing the "if only" blame game and decided to figure out how to be successful again.

The pivotal first step was to accept the situation as it was, not bemoaning or fighting it. Customers weren't answering the phone. Wall Street wasn't going to change any time soon. The economy stunk, but it was out of my control.

Then I started searching for the solution. I knew it was there, because other sellers were overcoming the account entry barriers. Ultimately, I found it and my career took off again.

So back to those people who are doing well in your company or industry right now.

Rather than diminishing their success by your "if only" thinking, look at them as beacons.

Success is possible! If they can achieve it, so can you!


Jill Konrath, sales strategist and bestselling author of Selling to Big Companies and SNAP Selling, is a frequent speaker at annual sales meetings, kick-off events and professional conferences.

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