The past couple of years have been very challenging on all businesses and especially sales organizations. The convergence of a shrinking economy, a more cautious customer combined with an ever expanding internet and increased competition causes the most successful of sales organizations to be challenged.
Selling is the key issue today and even New York Times is covering it. Sales people and sales organizations must understand that the following conditions are undeniable and will influence the sales cycle:
1) Companies are smaller today. Companies have cut back to bare bones from just a few years ago and this will be an ongoing factor for many years to come. Many companies scaled back excessively resulting in a leaner work force and increased uncertainty. This one factor can be a game changer and greatly effect the sales call. People are stretched in their job functions making it more difficult to get new projects considered.
2) Caution is King. Decision makers will now second guess all buying decisions believing controlling cost reigns supreme. Caution is now a standard business practice and will remain that way for years to come. Your product’s value-add proposition has to be 30% more compelling than just a few years ago to out-weigh the resistance to spend money. Your product’s benefits have to be more compelling than the decision maker’s caution.
3) Yesterday’s decision makers may no longer be decision makers. This will be shocking to you as you find that those that were able to sign-off on your projects 18 months ago can no longer do so. Their titles are the same but their buying authority has been removed! This situation is a bit complicated because typically John, the VP or GM, fails to tell you he can’t write a check now. Until last year he could approve any purchase under $20,000, now you present him with an invoice and you are the only one that doesn’t know he can’t sign.
Ask more questions during your presentation to discover what has changed organizationally. Who is involved in the approval process delicately ask about any changes in authority. “Who else is involved in making decisions now that there have been so many changes?”
4) Bottom feeder phenomenon. During contractions buyers become obsessed with price and believe they should be able to pay less because of the economy. Probably the single biggest mistake sales people make right now is to believe a lower price will make the sale. Now more than any other time you must keep your presentation focused on value not just price. The price of your product or service is the same for everyone but the value of your proposition changes for everyone. Ask high-value questions to determine exactly what is important. “What is most important to you and why?”
5) Excuses and bad attitudes are everywhere. Commit to a NO EXCUSE – NO NEGATIVITY attitude. Not even valid excuses will pay the bills or grow your company! Those that are prospering are not blaming the economy, the government or anyone else. They spend every moment and all the energy figuring out what they can do to increase their productivity. High levels of responsibility and positive attitudes during periods of intense negativity are compelling characteristics and will influence the sales cycle more than all technical factors.
Sales organizations and sales people will be impacted by each of the points above regardless of their product or service. This is not a typical contraction and its effects will last longer than most expect. Those that will prove successful will make the necessary changes to adapt the changes in the economy. Now is the time to train and motivate your sales team daily getting the organization focused on the basics and successfully selling despite the challenges.