In a Tough Market Hustle Will Win

By John H. Dean
A women jumping across a small river will running

Meeting sales goals is rarely easy. Even in the good times, no one ever beat a path to your door. So now it’s just harder. For people who sell in a bidding market, it’s a new ballgame. Bid lists that used to have three or four healthy competitors on them suddenly have 15 or 20 starving buzzards squawking for meat. So what do you do? Here are eight suggestions that may help.

Determine to Succeed

One problem in American business is our confusion between decision making and problem solving. When we set a goal (a decision) and fail to achieve it (a problem), we tend to fault the goal! Don’t just lower your goals and blame it on the economy. Be a leader. Be a problem solver. Clarify the obstacles. Find creative solutions and take appropriate action. R.B. Sheridan said, “The surest way not to fail is to determine to succeed.”

Put Everybody in Sales

Envelope entrepreneur Harvey Mackay says he has 350 employees and 350 of them are in sales. He’s maxing out the human resource potential he’s already paid for. OK, so your production manager would rather jump in front of a bus than call an old customer and ask for an order. You can help him. First, be sure that he knows why he’s doing it (to save his job), then help him with what to do (call 10 past customers a day) and how to do it (ask them what they need and what you can do to increase your business volume). Then be sure to reward him vigorously (verbal praise at a minimum, some sort of performance bonus at a maximum) and last, remember how hard it was when you first got into sales.

Never Lose a Customer

The old rule that it costs five times more to get a new customer than to keep an old one is obsolete. In a tough economy, it’s at least 10 times more. Service good customers as if they were your first and only. Go out of your way to exceed their expectations. Just imagine that your competitors are knocking on your customer’s door. (By the way, they probably are.)

Increase Market Research

If you lose a customer, find out why. If you win a customer, find out why. If you want a customer, find out what he really needs and provide it. Your mixture of “asks” and “tells” in the course of a day should be leaning toward questions. Don’t be bashful. Ask them. Play Columbo. Tug at loose edges. Try to get to the emotional levels of people’s buying motives. Break the rules and make the deal while your competitors try to figure out what happened. Ask, listen and respond to the information you get.

Focus on Relationships

When times are good, people will act out of convenience, but when times are tough, you find out who really cares. Over the next year or so, the value of relationships to success in sales will increase. Your job is to strengthen as many relationships as you possibly can – before it’s too late. Be honest. Be a good listener. Be helpful. Be there. Go the extra mile and stay in touch with people who change companies. They may be able to open new doors for you.

Help Others to Succeed

This is an attitude you must have to succeed. What you give out will come back. If you try to sell anything just because it’s a good deal for you, you’ll be in trouble. Think of it this way: Friends don’t sell things to their friends, but they do help them get what they want, and only your friends will tell you what they really want.

Think Big

The difficulty with this economy is only partly a function of money. It’s really more a function of change. People’s needs are changing. Business responds and changes. For every door that closes, another will open. For every relationship that ends, another can begin. If you focus on the negatives and constrict your thinking, you’ll miss some great opportunities. I promise they’re out there. In fact, fortunes will be made because of the tough economy. You just need to go make yours. So, think big for your long-term goals, but be realistic with your short-term goals. This opens your mind to possibilities while bolstering your confidence.

Hustle Your Bustle

In almost 20 years of experience in sales and athletic competition, I am certain of just one thing: In a close game, hustle beats raw talent every time. So go get ’em!