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Sales Technique Article - Selling in a slow market
Following recent media releases regarding the slowing down of the property market, subdued share prices, weakening dollar or just because it's closer to Christmas, everyone seems to be starting their seasonal slowdown a month early.
We all experience this in some form almost every year and there is always someone banging a gong about how the end is nigh for widgets or property or whatever.
In a slow market you need to re-focus on your business USP*, look at smaller business opportunities and not focus just on the larger clients.
*USP- more below.
Go over old files where you didn't win the business, see if they are still active or have other leads/requirements.
Word Of Mouth
This is probably the best time to start up networking sessions.
To do this you will need to call a team meeting, open the forum to include all staff not just the sales department and ask the question, "Who knows who in other businesses?" (either same industry as yours and how are they doing or people working for prospect clients). You are looking for openings, cracks in the armour so to speak. Don't allow the member of staff who does know someone of interest to work alone but pair them up with one of your sales team to work together and remember don't expect but inspect what you are being told (i.e. "I tried calling the prospect 3 times yesterday but couldn't get through" - as the decision maker in your team take ownership and phone the prospect yourself). This may lead you to either other large clients who have been let down once too often by their present supplier or to new smaller clients (possibly even start up's looking for support from your company, so long as you are not over exposed in this riskier market it's worth the effort).
Get back on the phones, set up a daily target of 5 (example) prospect calls a day to the actual decision maker. Why not set up a breakfast team who just make calls to the prospects before 9am (8:15 to 8:45am)? This tells your potential clients you start earlier than your competitors. Then have a late team who make more calls between 6:15 and 6:45 in the evening, as this sends the same message again, you work later than your competitors. Also in a slow market you will find your prospect may be working longer hours too.
With targets, don't work on previous targets but set new ones. Start off small and easily achieved with Champagne or chocolate, then increase the target with bigger wins (afternoon off, duvet day, weekend away for 2, star car for a month, £100 cash bonus, £500 gift vouchers).
In a busy market it is often all hands to the pump just to get through the day and meet the deadline, in a slower market the urgency has gone so now you can re-appraise the staff and performance review each member of staff. Don't make the mistake of removing someone with an influential client base just because his/her clients aren't active this month but do look at how he could expand his client base and again in particular smaller clients if not the big ones.
This is also a very good time to recruit new staff, obviously the best will be working for your competitor and can bring new clients, but not always. Sometimes a fresh face can bring in fresh ideas, a bit of life/competition and generally shakes things up a bit.
OK this is a lot riskier but makes a lot of sense. You have had (till now) a good run and have the money in the bank to keep things going for the next 12 months, but it makes sense to consider buying out a competitor. It widens your market and reduces the marketing/staffing costs where there are big overlaps.
If your USP is price and price alone can you shave anymore off the price? Can you increase the price and then offer bigger discounts?
If your USP is not price but still holds out well against competition then maybe you need to increase your marketing.
If you take your USP out of the equation, can you operate in other markets or have a duel approach working with your USP in one market and expanding into other markets without it?
Finally remember this. The company that employs sales staff to not leave any stone unturned will do better than the company that relies on working smart alone, working smart and working hard is best of all.
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