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How to Immunize Yourself Against Tough Economic Times

Selling in today's economy is tough. And, it's likely going to get a lot tougher in the upcoming months. That's not news that we want to hear, but it is the reality we face so it makes sense to address it head on.

Recently I noticed that 465 fewer sellers get my newsletter today than 3 months ago, even though I've added tons of new subscribers. Why? Dead email addresses. I can only surmise that these sellers have lost their jobs. Ouch!

So let me ask this: What are you doing about it?

I can tell you right now that I'm taking action. Tough times call for different sales approaches, new offerings and stronger business cases. It's not enough to just make more calls or have more meetings. We have to be better than we've ever been - in every aspect.

But let's talk about you right now. Are you hoping you can hang in there for a while longer? Hoping that you'll still have customers? Hoping that you'll make your numbers?
As Rick Page says, "Hope is not a strategy." As far as I'm concerned, there's only ONE thing that makes sense right now. It's time to take charge of your own career.
You can't count on your employer to take care of you. That's a brutal statement, but true.
Whether you work for a big organization or an upstart firm, you could lose your job tomorrow. Even if your boss really cares about you! Even if your company is still doing okay. Of course, you realize that it's not personal. It's just a business decision.
But it is personal. It's your life, your career, and your family that's at risk. I don't mean to be an alarmist. I just want you to wake up and take responsibility for your future now so you can minimize the effects of this economic downturn.
Too many sellers I know are complacent, coasting, doing what's expected of them but not a whole lot more. If this continues, it will be their downfall.
When companies hit tough times, mediocre sellers are the first to go. Doing an "okay" job or being "average" is no longer an acceptable contribution.
If you're mediocre, you're also disposable to your customers. Being knowledgeable about your product or service is no longer enough. All that information is online, so you don't bring value. When that happens, they replace you with a lower cost solution.

Customers want to work with experts who understand their business and can help them achieve their objectives. To do that well, you need to be a problem solving, critical thinking person who can synthesize lots of information and turn it into invaluable, actionable ideas.

In tough times, you have to sharpen your sales skills and bring expertise to your customers. Doing just one is not sufficient. Whew! That's asking a lot.
You just have to keep getting smarter and better in order to stay in the game. If that's not your focus, you're vulnerable to the ravages of these tough times.
Don't let it happen to you. Give yourself a booster shot! It's time to invest in your own professional development program. Don't wait for your company to send you to training programs to upgrade your knowledge and skills. You're not #1 on their priority list.

But you are #1 on your own priority list. So, wake up. Get going. Your livelihood depends on it.

Booster Shot 1: Open Your Mind to New Thinking

When was the last time you read a book that offered fresh perspectives on how you can be a valuable resource and/or a top seller? Honestly? What are you waiting for?

Here are several books I've found stimulating:
  • A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink: Skills needed in a changing economy
  • Good in a Room, Stephanie Power: Fresh observations and useful advice
  • Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds: Tantalize with your presentations
  • Made to Stick, Chip & Dan Heath: What makes (sales) stories memorable
  • Back of the Napkin, Dan Roam: Strategies to really engage your prospects
  • Metaphorically Selling, Anne Miller: New ways to make what you say, pay
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Selling to Big Companies. It challenges your entire process for getting into corporate accounts and shows you what's required. If you haven't read it yet, you're missing out.

Blogs are also a great place to get fresh perspectives. I regularly read blogs about sales, marketing, business development, creativity, writing and more.

Booster Shot 2: Increase Your Personal Productivity

Virtually every seller I know could get much more done in less time if they leveraged technology better. Not only that, but you'd be a whole lot savvier when you're with your customers - which should directly correlate to increased sales success.

There's no excuse any more for not using these resources. In fact, if you don't know about them or can't use them, it's time to get educated. Here's what I recommend for:
  • Finding contacts: Jigsaw, Netprospex, LinkedIn
  • Triggering event updates: InsideView, Google & BizJournals Alerts
  • Account research: Hoovers, D&B;, ZoomInfo
  • Industry intelligence: First Research
  • Email intelligence: Genius
  • Sales productivity: Landslide
  • Online Meetings: GoToMeeting, Webex
All these resources are affordable to everyone. If your company doesn't pay for these services, use your own money. The value that you get from them far outweighs the expense. You'll save so much time, plus learn critical insights that can be leveraged for business success.

Booster Shot 3: Get Connected - and Stay Connected


The worst time to build your personal network is when you're desperate. No matter how hard you try to sound normal, every contact oozes with your neediness.

Start by creating or updating your LinkedIn profile. From a business perspective, it's the place to be. If you're not sure what to do, check out my profile at www.linkedin.com/in/jillkonrath. Once yours is ready for prime time, you can:
  • Ask your boss, co-workers and clients to recommend you. Do it now, not when you need it.
  • Invite your customers to connect with you online. That way, if anyone changes jobs, you can keep in touch.
  • Look up former colleagues (classmates, friends, etc.) and invite them to connect.

Get out from your self-imposed isolation too! I know you're busy. But it's important to talk or meet with people from outside your own company. Arrange breakfast meetings. Attend industry events. Take a former colleague to lunch. My favorite? Meet for coffee over the phone! It saves so much time, but it gives you a dedicated time to talk.

Finally, remember that networking is not a one-way street. You'll find people much more willing to help you out if you're a GIVER first. You can share insights, refer potential customers, make connections, or offer genuine assistance in any area. As a bonus, giving makes you feel good inside too!

In Conclusion
While these booster shots can't protect you against everything, they will give you the best immunity possible for these tough times. Plus, when you make them a part of your life, your success is truly guaranteed - in tough times and in good times!

Everything is within your control. That's why it should be your focus right now. Because it is what you can do. Because it will make you a better seller. Because it changes your life & your career.

______

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.

For more articles like this, visit www.SellingtoBigCompanies.com. Sign up for the newsletter and get a BONUS Sales Call Planning Guide.






 
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