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Selling in Down Markets

Down markets can be difficult to sell in.   Let’s call them contracting markets, because that’s what markets do; they expand and contract.   We are in a contracting market right now.   What is the solution?   Get back to the basics:

Cast a wider net.   If we are to grow our business is contracting markets we will have to call more customers, not just the same customers more often.   Many of us who have established connections haven’t prospected in awhile.   This won’t play in a contracting market.   The good news is we are going to be better prospectors than we think we are.   We have experience.   We must use it.   An experienced seller will have a much better chance to break into accounts and break into them quicker than a rookie salesperson.   Prospect, you’ll be presently surprised by the results.

Go to customer need.   As sales people we need to get off the “Wow, this is a terrible market” conversations and start talking about customer need.   So many sellers jump on join in the negative conversations started by customers.   Don’t be one of them.   Negative, down market conversations do not lead to sales.   Get off the negative and talk about customer need.   We will have to dig.   If we find out that the person we are talking to doesn’t have an immediate need, let’s find out when they will have a need, end the conversation and move on.

Start positive. This may seem very simple, but is often overlooked by salespeople.   We need to go into conversations with a positive first sentence.   “John, I’ve got something that I know will make you money”. “Judy, I’ve got exactly what you’ve been looking for”. Even with negative of customers, we have control of our first sentence; we need to make it a positive one.

Treat contracting markets as opportunities. “Yes, some people have lost faith in this market.   Isn’t it great Mr. Customer? This is a great opportunity for us to make great deals.   Speaking of great deals…”

Pick something and promote it. Going to customers in any market and asking them, “Do you need anything?” is the worst salesperson’s opening of all time.   The “What are you needing?” opening is even worse in down markets.   We must promote something to our customers.   Even if customers deny our initial promotion, they will open up to us, and tell us what they do need.

Push for volume. When we reach agreement with customers on a price that works, we must push for volume. Tying customers down to a price can be difficult.   In contracting markets it can seem impossible, so when we do get our customers to agree on a price, we must push for one more, two more or a contract at the given price.   The rookie mistake is to be overly thankful or satisfied with the single order.   The professional seller pushes for volume on any agreement.

Take all offers. When markets are good we may fight for a better price.   This is good salesmanship.   When markets are contracting, we must take the offers we get and work them to death.   When we can’t meet the terms of our customers’ offers, it is imperative that we come back to our customers talking about the positives.   Three mistakes made by sellers when coming back to a customer on an offer whose specifications haven’t been met:

1.                           Starting with the negative.   “Well, John, we couldn’t get the price done …” it doesn’t matter what we say next.   We’ve started negative and have given our customer permission not to buy.   Instead of starting negative, let’s start positive, “John, great news, we got the tally you wanted, the shipment you wanted and we got very close to the price we are looking for…”

2.                           Acting embarrassed.   We are not embarrassed if the specifications aren’t met.   We accentuate the positive and keep selling. (With our heads high).

3.                           Stop asking for offers.   Many sellers will be embarrassed when they don’t meet their customers’ offers and will stop asking for offers.   This is a mistake.   Contracting markets call for offers.   Keep asking for them and keep working them.   Not all of them will work out, but some of them will.

Champion sellers will continue to sell in the face of negativity.   The rest will let the market dictate their success.

Which kind of seller are we?   Contracting markets will tell us.

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