Successful Selling in a Tough Economy – Transcending The Yard Sale Mindset

The so-called “Great Recession” continues to hover over all that we do (and sell) in 2012. There are more than a few pundits who see current trends as an indicator of “The New Economy,” rather than a phase we are passing through. Every day brings new opportunities and a new chance for professional Salespeople to stand firm on value in their sales efforts, rather than acquiescing to price-driven negotiations.

Whether the economy is strong or weak, prospects who buy strictly on the basis of price are generally the worst long-term choices for customers. If you offer a “discount” to a customer once, they will continually seek additional discounts. If you lower the price of your offering in order to pander to prospects who are price shopping, they will consistently attempt to lower your prices even further. They see a price concession as a victory, but seldom assign any value to what they have purchased. It’s a game of chess, of one-upsmanship. If you create new relationships with price shopping as a foundation, you will soon develop a roster of clients who only want more, more, more. They’ll never be satisfied, and as a professional Salesperson, neither will you.

Accepting the fact that price is an issue in this economy, how do you incorporate this into your sales efforts and retain your integrity (as well as your profit margins)? The answer is simple. You must assign an honest value to the products and services that you offer, and you must be able to articulate a value higher than what you are selling.

You may or may not be able to provide valid R.O.I. data in your proposal. As an example, you can propose the creation of a Website for a local restaurant that includes a creative and engaging design, full menus, custom photography of the restaurant’s signature menu items, an embedded Google map, and a contact page. What you can’t promise is a specific number of customers who will visit the restaurant and purchase a meal.

Clients have told me “If I pay you “X” amount of dollars to create the Website, I have to sell “X” amount of lunches / dinners just to break even.”

That’s not the way marketing works. Here are a few key factors to consider:

1). In the current economy (and the “Internet Age”), a professionally designed Website establishes the credibility of a business. A business which chooses to put together a Facebook page, rather than a professional Website, is viewed as “dabbling” in their business. Customers know the business owner most likely made the decision based on price, and a desire to circumvent paying for the services of a professional Web Designer. A business that is not willing to make the commitment to promote their products and services in a professional manner is a business that becomes “suspect” in the eyes of its potential customers.

2). Everyone else is doing it. If you are in a major city… San Francisco, for example… and there are 20 restaurants on your street, and 18 of them have professional Websites, the remaining 2 restaurants can’t say that they “don’t need” a Website. They need to stand neck-and-neck with their competition.

3). In the current economy, most consumers are extremely cautious about “luxury spending.” For some, that might mean dining out. They might go online and search for restaurant reviews and restaurant Websites. If they make their decision based on online menus and/or photos of the food being served, restaurants lacking an online presence will lose every time.

In this scenario, the Salesperson can’t guarantee a minimum number of customers sitting down for a meal. They can provide data on how many of their competitors have Websites, and how their lack of a Website puts them at the back of the pack.

The professional Salesperson must maximize the reality of the value found in their products and/or services. If the Salesperson can’t guarantee a bottom-line profit margin for their clients, they must be prepared to articulate the landscape on which their competitors stand. Regardless of the economy, every business owner wants something at least a little better than what is being enjoyed by their nearest competitor.

The Website example used in this article can be modified and adapted to any product or service you may wish to sell. You must know the market, know the competition, know the value of your product or service, and strategically position yourself in order to reap the highest profit margin possible.

In the long run, all weak economies get healthier… eventually. As a professional Salesperson, you can’t afford to wait. You must do the best you can with what you have today, and when the overall economic picture brightens, your sales will soar accordingly.

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