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Keep it Real Part 2: Selling in Tough Times

By Mark Deavall

I received a phone call yesterday that made me smile with pleasure. Earlier this year, my wife Hilda and I had occasion to buy some household furniture. After shopping around for a few weeks we finally found what we were looking for at House and Home in Eastgate shopping centre.

This call that I received was from the salesman that had dealt with us at House and Home in February. He reintroduced himself, enquired as to my satisfaction with the furniture bought, and then asked if I was in the market for any further furniture or household items.

The reason that I smiled when I received this call is because it is salespeople like this that keep the doors of business open. He was doing what good salespeople do when selling in tough times.

So what do good salespeople do when selling in tough times?

1) Leverage existing satisfied customers – it is always easier to sell to someone that has had a good experience with you, than to a total stranger. Always make sure that you know why your customer is buying something. It means that you can find further opportunities to sell to that customer later. You’re building sales for tough times.

2) Ask for referrals – your satisfied customers are your referral base. Ask them. Even ask them to write a letter of recommendation about you and the service that you offer.

3) Back off on the pressure – in tough times we want to close the deal NOW! That won’t work. In both the tough and the easy times, people want the time to make an educated decision. If you put pressure on them, they will be put off you. It tells them that you are desperate.

4) Focus on your best selling opportunities – when times are tough salespeople tend to want to up their activity rate. They prospect more, they phone more and they have more appointments. All great activities. But this often turns into a “spray and pray” situation. “If I shoot enough bullets, I’m bound to hit someone”. There is nothing wrong with increasing your activity rate, however make sure that out of all that prospecting, phoning and appointments, you are zoning in on your best opportunities. Be ruthless in this. Don’t hang on to names just because they make your prospect list look full.

5) Keep your pipeline full – prospecting is a daily activity in good and bad times. It’s a good practice to make sure that you put new “prospects” into your pipeline every day.

6) Sell reliability, peace-of-mind, security and safety as key client benefits – people buy benefits and not features. I don’t care that your Hi-Fi has 1000 mega watts of power. What does that do for me as someone that is going to listen to that Hi-Fi? What does a guarantee mean to me?

7) Become a problem solver – the easiest way to sell anything to someone is to have a product or service that solves their problem. Become a problem solver, and people will love you.

8) Ask questions – So often sales people start into a sale with telling the prospect about all the features of their product. The prospect really wants you to keep quiet and ask them about their needs and wants.

9) Be prepared – find out as much as you can about your prospect before you go and see them. You create a lot of credibility when your prospect realizes that you know something about them, their industry and business. The internet is great for this.

10) Network – always have business cards with you. Set a goal of meeting at least four new people every day, exchanging business cards with them and telling them what you do. This may not bring immediate business, but you’re planting for the future.

11) Believe in yourself – tough times are a fact of life but they are temporary. Tell yourself that “we have been here before and we will be here again. That we prospered and will prosper again.” Your “self-talk” will determine your level of success. Don’t entertain any negativity at all. Be fussy /selective with the news you watch and newspapers you read. What they communicate is mostly bad news anyway!

The job of selling has never been an easy one, and in these times it’s even more difficult. But stay focused, stay disciplined, stay optimistic and you will make quality sales in tough times.

Mark Deavall is the founder and managing director of Merit Business Institute, a company dedicated to increasing the productivity of people throughout the world. If you would like Mark to present a talk or training course for your company, please visit or contact us on 011 609-1264.

Should you wish to forward, copy or publish this article, please be sure to do so with the entire article including this line.

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