Normally I provide a brief excerpt with a direct link to the given source but, alas, I do not have a link to a recent blog post by Jeff Fox. He offers 30 practical suggestions about how to become a fierce (but principled) competitor when times are tough.
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Even in the best of economic times there are rough times. Markets go up and down. Customers come and go. Yesterday the real estate industry was in the dumps. Then it was computer chips. Today oil and gas is down the well. Tomorrow it will be casinos and gaming (if not already folding). There are always tough times somewhere. If your business is down due to tough market conditions, here is what you should do.
1. Fierce competitors see tough times as opportunities to gain market share, to get new customers, and to get closer to current customers.
2. When the times get tough, the tough don’t start selling; they ratchet up selling.
3. In the United States, since the panics of 1823, 1863, and 1906, the Great Depression, and the twelve recessions that followed, the facts are indisputable: those companies which outsell, out hustle, out innovate their competitors always emerge from the downturn in a stronger share and profit position.
4. Don’t cut sales training. Double sales training that works.
5. Don’t cut prices. Cutting prices does not stimulate derived demand. Add other values, such as a free video of the best biking trail with purchase of a new bike. Articulate those added values in dollars and cents.
6. Push to get more sales people making more face-to-face sales calls. In tough times, salespeople, like companies, have a tendency to withdraw from the market. There are lots of well-sounding excuses, like “the guy has zero money,” but into the market all must go. That’s where the business is.
7. Treat old customers like new customers.
8. Plan every sales call as if it were a first call.
9. Hire newly available talent, especially rainmakers. Rainmakers often work just for commissions.
10. Rush innovation. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of better.
11. Unless your products have 100% of the business in all your trading areas, there is business to get.
12. Avoid layoffs. Protect your investment in training and protect your experience cost curve. Cross-train. Teach waiters to be valet parkers. Teach tech service engineers to sell. Be ready to capitalize on rebounding markets.
13. Cut deadwood. Big companies may have more deadwood than small companies. Tough times are a good time to prune under performers. Under performers float with the tide in good times, but are uncovered in down times.
14. Cut consistently negative-profit customer facing people. Replace with go-getters.
15. Tie every job to revenues. Teach and train every single employee how their job helps get and keep profitable customers today and tomorrow.
16. Help the sales people. Soften rejection. Get them qualified leads and referrals. Make joint calls. Have lots of little contests and surprise awards. Give a bonus to the guy who hears the most “no’s” in a week. Give a bonus to the gal who visits the most brand new customers in a month.
17. Conduct daily sales meetings, even if you have a one-person company. One to ten minutes. Set a daily sales goal. Plan a pitch. Read a chapter in “How to Become a Rainmaker.” Practice handling an objection. Say aloud ten times, “Why don’t you give us a try?” Dollarize a product benefit.
Daily sales meetings put sales in priority and focus the sellers. Webinars, podcasts, conference calls, emails from the boss, whatever. Have daily sales meetings.
18. Sales managers, of whatever title, should spend 90% of their infield time with the superstars and high potential people. Spend only 10% of time giving a problematical person a last chance.
19. Sell on Friday afternoons. Customers are relaxed. Customers see giving commitments as revocable, and they are not. And no else is out there selling. Customers appreciate that and wish their sales people were selling as well.
20. Make three breakfast appoints with decision makers a week. Breakfasts are a one-way ride for customers…on their way to work. Low cost. No alcohol. Natural deadline for meeting.
21. Customer service is a survival strategy. Love the customers you have. Call on them. Help them improve their economics by investing in your products. Get referrals.
22. Sell dollarized value, not products. Sell the dollarized value of reduced downtime, improved yield, longer lasting components, fewer transactions, less inventory, and so on.
23. Increase commissions on high margin products. Give short-term rewards, one-time bonuses for acquiring new customers, for selling a strategic product, for getting a design spec.
24. Fish where the big fish are. Don’t waste selling time on minnows.
25. Show sales people why pre-call planning, in writing, reduces their call-to-close ratio by 20%. That 90% of all sales are won or lost in pre-call planning. Develop simple pre-call work sheets.
26. One pre-planned sales call on a decision maker is worth more than 100 cold calls.
27. Remind everyone, everyday, during the daily sales meeting, that as Carlos Gomez, the wonderful sales manager of Groupo Modelo says, “You can’t sell beer sitting behind a desk.”
28. Don’t cut travel-to-customers expenses. Insist that every breakfast, lunch and dinner include a customer. Lunches without a customer are a waste of selling time.
29. Don’t let email become evil-mail. 99% of emails that are not directly tied to getting and keeping a customer are thieves of selling time.
30. Leadership is not “pushership.” Set the example. Be fearless. Make the tough sales calls. Leaders get bloody and muddy. Leaders’ optimism and fearlessness is infectious. Go for it.
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In my opinion, those who effectively apply what they learn from Jeff Fox in any of his books will create value that is worth at least one hundred times the cost of that book…and probably more, much more.
For over 25 years, he has been helping clients grow revenues and increase gross margins. Jeff is founder of Fox & Company, a management consulting firm that shows clients how to dollarize their value proposition to overcome the price objection and to shorten the sales cycle. He has written eleven best-selling business books that have been translated into more than thirty languages.
To learn more about Jeff and his work, please click here.