Customers are afraid of making a wrong decision, so take much longer to decide whether or not to proceed with your proposal. Even people not directly affected by the recession start to hold onto their cash just in case. Are your sales skills sharp enough to cope?
In a recession, sales skills come to the fore. More so than in any other market conditions, right now if you’re struggling to win profitable business then it’s probably down in no small part to your lack of sales skills. Most small business owners I speak to are not traditional salespeople, haven’t been through weeks and months of rigorous sales training, and don’t continually practice their skills by selling full time.
Most small business owners I speak to would hate to call themselves salespeople, and because of everything else they have to do in the business – strategy, leadership, production, distribution, delivery, accounts etc., sales is traditionally only a small part of what they do.
Therefore if you want to thrive (or even survive!) the economic conditions we’re experiencing, you’ll need to look at your sales skills, at the very least in the following areas….
Sales Skills Area Number 1 – Objection Handling
How good are your objection handling skills? Most full-time salespeople are not great in this area, so as a small business owner, how do you rate yourself? Are you used to dealing with rejection and objections? Are you prepared for objections like “we don’t have the budget for that at the moment” or “call me back in 6 months”, “that’s too expensive or “leave it with us and we’ll come back to you when we’re going ahead”?
Then, can you deliver credible answers to those confidently and with certainty, bringing the conversation back on track, position more value and then close with conviction?
Sales Skills Area Number 2 – Negotiation
You know people are going to negotiate with you in the current market, because your existing clients have already started to negotiate with you, haven’t they? In market conditions like these, clients become more price-focused than ever, and start to look around more and evaluate other options before making a decision (or putting it off entirely!).
You know you’re going to get existing clients and potential clients negotiating with you, particularly on price and payment terms in the current market – are you properly prepared for this? Or do you find yourself ‘caught out’, suddenly caught in the middle of a negotiation before you realise what’s happened?
That is only going to result in a poor end to the negotiation for you – either you don’t get the business, or you end up giving away most of your profit in your desperation to at least ‘win’ the deal. Neither of those is a great result for you.
Sales Skills Area Number 3 – Cold Calling or Follow Up Calls
Now I know, I know. You hate cold calling don’t you? Most of you probably have avoided doing it altogether or only done it when times are hard and you’re more desperate. Right now would be one of those times (or very shortly!).
The question is: what else are you doing as a pro-active new business development activity? When I’ve asked this question to business owners in the past, people have said to me “oh but Andy, I have a website”, “I get all my business through networking” and “I don’t go after new business, I just deal with my existing clients”.
Aha. Those would be the people that will be struggling in the current conditions, wouldn’t they?! Incoming enquiries are drying up, people are putting off making purchasing decisions, you’re being driven down to almost no profit on your prices, and you’re still sat there, wondering if the phone is going to ring?
You’ve got to do some sort of pro-active new business development activity in the current market, but how prepared are you to do good follow up calls, let alone cold calls?
Stay tuned for part two coming soon where I’ll talk you through following up calls, asking the right questions and closing deals!