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Selling Your Services

Selling in a Recession:
5 Strategies for Selling in Tough Markets

by Gavin Ingham (adapted for power sweeping by Ranger Kidwell-Ross)
Posted in July, 2008.

There are steps you can take to make sure the impact on your sales are minimized during a downturn in the economy. These are also valid when there has been a downturn in your sales for any reason and you want to give your sales program a boost.

Strategy #1: Believe you can and stay positive!

One of the problems with all of this talk about recession is that once people believe there is going to be a recession they start to feel negative about their business prospects.

Next they tend to see what they now believe, rather than believing what they see. Once you believe that there is going to be a recession you tend to only notice articles, comments and statistics that support your beliefs.

What's more, your negative beliefs quickly affect your outlook and the way that you feel about your business prospects.

If you thought the upcoming year was going to be a great year for business, your best year yet, how would you feel and act?

Conversely, if you thought the next year was going to see a major recession and that it was going to hit you and your business hard, how would you feel or act differently?

Mighty different huh? And remember, nothing's changed here other than your belief. Having a positive and supportive belief structure is essential if you want to succeed in any market; it is vitally essential if you want to keep on selling in a tough one.

However, having a winning belief system does not mean that you need to be deluded! In the middle of the darkest recession you don't want to have your eyes shut! You do need to realize that, in a recession, people want to work with the best suppliers. Suppliers that they can rely on. Suppliers that support them. Suppliers who are going to be around tomorrow. And, if your competitors struggle (or even appear to be doing so), that means more sales and more business for you.

Strategy #2: Get proactive

You need to be more proactive in even a slightly downturned economy. Much more proactive. You need to do more marketing and more selling. You need to attend more events and do more networking. You need to do more promotion and more contacting of prospects. You need to increase your sales-related activities, maybe dramatically.

In a recession many companies cut their sales activites. They figure, "If we're not going to sell anything, what's the point?" Many individual salespeople do this too.

Cut your activity and you will cut your sales. You're a living, breathing, self-fulfilling prophecy! If you believe there is not much business out there, you will feel negative. That, in turn, negatively affects your activity and your activity destroys your sales results.

Even if there isn't as much business out there, then you need to be more active, more focused and more targeted. If your competitors are easing off a little, now is the time to up the ante and make sure you're both keeping your share of the market and grabbing a share of the market that currently belongs to your competitors. Even if sales do slow down temporarily, you will be in pole position when things pick up again.

One of my friends went down to our local estate agent recently to put his house on the market. He was told that maybe he should wait as he might not get the price he wants right now. They told him the market was quiet and that might not be able to sell the house at all. Better to wait for the market to pick up.

I walked past their offices later on that day. They were all sitting, chatting and drinking coffee. They were probably moaning about what a bad year it's going to be. If I'd have been in that office, I'd have been on the phone drumming up some viewings. 50 calls, 100, calls, 500 calls... Whatever it takes. I'd have found someone to interest.

Talk about killing your own market! If you see less business then you need to do more sales and marketing, not less. That's common sense.

Strategy #3: Sharpen your sales skills

Most salespeople do not spend enough time working on improving their sales skills and techniques.

If a workman needs a spade and a farmer needs a horse; what do salespeople need? The answer is... professional sales skills. Sales training and development is not something that many salespeople spend their time on out of choice. Perhaps they can get away with this in a booming marrket when sales are easy. Perhaps not. But things will always change if the market tightens.

Sales success will go to the salesperson who really understands why people buy and can help people make the right business decisions. Salespeople of this caliber stand to benefit from possible changes ahead because there will be more business for them as their competition falls by the wayside.

Tougher sales will not go to the journeyman salesperson, the mediocre wannabee or the 9-5 order taker. Salespeople like these could well be in for a rough time.

When did you (or your salespeople) last read a sales training book on selling? How many sales training audios have you/they listened to over the last month? How many sales training seminars have you atteneded in the last 6 months? For 80% of salespeople reading this, the answer will be "Zero."

Strategy #4: Improve your service and focus on relationships

As I write this many companies will be working out how to cut corners. This is not a good idea.

They will try to save money by tinkering with their business offerings. They will try and provide a reduced level of service so they can squeeze extra profits out of their clients via cutting the bells and whistles from their offerings. They'll provide fewer minutes of sweeping per night, not blow out the landscaping each sweep cycle, omit fencelines, etc. Remember: A Swiss cow with no bells is just a cow and no one would send postcards of them home!

If business is tight you want to be wowing your clients with the best service that they have ever had, from you or from any of your competitors. You need to be going the extra mile.

If a recession bites, many companies will try and discount their service level in order to survive. Don't be one of them. And, if you do have to cut corners, discuss the options with your customers prior to simply having them see you're now doing a lackluster job where it used to be great.

Those who reduce their services without prior notice to customers probably won't survive, but you don't want your clients going to them as they try to keep their heads above water! In downtimes, especially, you need to "lock in" your existing clients so that they won't even think about going anywhere else.

Spend time with your clients. Build stronger relationships with your clients. Make sure you truly understand them, their concerns and their businesses. Find ways to help them and add value over and above what they could have ever expected. If possible, sell them on additional services you provide over and above sweeping. Sales to existing clients are easier, because you already have a track record with them.

Strategy #5: Leverage your efforts

In a soft market many salespeople only chase the easy stuff. They don't chase the tough stuff. Hey, they're doing alright and they don't need to. They're making sales right? Wrong.

Most salespeople have all sorts of opportunities, which they squander every day and every month because there are seemingly easier things that they can be doing. This is particularly true in an industry or a company where leads have been relatively easy to come by, where sales targets are relatively soft or where salespeople are overpaid enough that they don't crave getting more business.

In a tough market you must leverage all of your efforts. This is basic sales 101 and should be stuff that you do every day anyway... Here are just a few final ideas.

Always ask for referrals. Referrals are great for business but most salespeople do not ask for them because clients often say no. Learn how to ask for a referral properly and then build asking for a referral into your sales process. Ask for one every time, whether at the time you make the sale or as part of your follow-up for new customers.

Upsell and cross-sell. Whether though laziness, lack of knowledge or lack of ability, many salespeople don't take full advantage of accounts that offer more potential business than they are currently leveraging. Extending your business with existing clients will not only make you more money, it will also strengthen your relationships with, and value to, them and their businesses.

Contact dormant accounts. Most companies have hundreds of "dormant" accounts. There may be multiple reasons for this, from changing business practices to fall-outs with the client. Dormant clients may well be redeemable and may have been "lost" purely because someone forgot to keep in touch with them or a salesperson moved on. Get in touch with them!

Follow up on all leads. I recently contacted 5 health insurance companies over the web. Only one replied. You should not be burning leads like this in any market. New clients are essential for any business in any market.

So there we are, 5 tips to help you to sell in a recession. This year may well prove to be an interesting year for some businesses and individuals. Some of this will be a result of the market itself. Much of it will be the result of how you react and respond to what might be a challenging year.

Here's my prediction for the year... There will be winners and there will be losers. You are going to be one of these; the question is, which are you going to be?

The author where the nucleus of this information was taken is Gavin Ingham, an England-based motivational speaker. For more info on him, visit You may also reach Gavin via email sent to: Because Mr. Ingham's article was keyed to general business,'s editor, Ranger Kidwell-Ross, adapted the information to fit power sweeping contractors.

You may also want to take a look at a related article entitled 'Recession Marketing: The Rules Change.'

If you have comments on this article, or new information to provide on this topic, let us know and we can add it in as an addendum to this article. (Be sure to note the web URL address for the article you're referencing.)

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