Selling In a Low Demand Economy
The economy continues to struggle. As austerity takes center stage, consumers continue cutting back. Corporations are profitable after earlier belt tightening but remain cautious due to uncertainty. Bank lending is almost nonexistent. Unemployment remains high. The result is sluggish growth. Forecasts for the long awaited economic recovery are grim. It could take years.
For many sales reps, the situation is more challenging than ever. Yet despite being dealt a bad hand there are positive, actionable steps individual sellers can and should take regardless of economic conditions. Effective sales tactics are always essential. In today’s environment, sales effectiveness is even more critical.
Here are five keys to sales effectiveness and success that are imperative in today’s low demand economy.
1. Add value first
Value is provided to customers and prospects to help them in some way without expectation. It could be insights about their business, their customers or market.
Bolting-on extra services to a proposal or offering price reductions are considered promotions, which buyers may appreciate but do not fit the value-add criteria. The ability to provide real value creates differentiation from competitors, especially important in a low demand economy.
The value-add approach works effectively with existing customers (continues to strengthen relationships) as well as with new contacts and prospects (builds trust). Sellers that add value first are more likely to get in front of decision makers than reps who do not.
2. Identify unmet needs
This requires on-going communication and interaction with customers and prospects.
It is important to find opportunities by listening and understanding client’s priorities and business needs. The emphasis is to use insights gained from listening to determine how your organization can best address customers’ and prospects’ key needs.
In many cases, the buyer may not know a need exists. Effective sellers can articulate the unseen need, implications for the business and how their solution can make a positive impact.
3. Secure base accounts
Existing customers are critical to retain. These accounts are most likely to get off the sidelines first once the economy picks up. They are also likely to continue buying (perhaps at lower volumes) while the economy continues to sputter.
Typically, the best opportunities for growth come from existing accounts. The ability to upsell or expand the offering by increasing account sales from additional services, products or new buyers is an effective sales strategy in all economies. Expanding sales by filling unmet needs or providing better solutions that displace competitors are classic ways to create the desired “win-win” − enduring customer relationships from value-add solutions that generate revenue for the seller’s organization.
Existing customers also provide the source of referrals necessary to maintain your pipeline under difficult market conditions.
4. Obtain referrals
While a referral doesn’t ensure demand creation, they do provide the best source of likely buyers to fill the pipeline. Referrals still require investment of time to establish a relationship and understanding of priorities and needs.
The advantage of customer referrals over cold calls or unqualified leads is well documented. Referring customers speak to potential buyers about the value received and generate creditability for the seller. It starts a new relationship from a position of strength and provides a significant advantage over competitors.
In addition to asking for referrals, the follow-up networking is also essential. Leveraging referrals and expanding your contacts is key especially in this high unemployment economy. Sophisticated social media tools are available today enabling efficient and effective ways for sales people to stay connected.
5. Deliver on the promise
It is essential for sales people to ensure the company delivers the agreed to solution. Execution and follow through reinforces the value and enhances the customer experience.
Effective delivery is also essential to obtaining referrals, securing the account and continuing to build and strengthen the relationship. Conversely, inability to deliver the proposed solution negates gains made in the four other steps.
When economic conditions are defined by uncertainty and dampened demand, these five steps to sales effectiveness provide sales reps a foundation to succeed as the economy continues to search for pathways to growth.