Selling in a Down Market


Local, national and world economies all tend to go up and down on an irregular cycle. When the economies that affect you are doing well, it usually results in a seller's market. Demand is high, so you may end up with prospects lining up to buy your product. But when the economy takes a nosedive, you'll find yourself in a buyer's market, with low demand and competitors trying to steal away your prospects and customers.

Economic woes are not the only thing that can cause a down market. If your company is in the throes of a major issue -- say, a competitor that starts offering rock-bottom prices or an industry-related disaster that scares off prospective buyers -- you may also find yourself suddenly having to fight for every sale. A down market is hard on salespeople because circumstances out of your control have now affected your job in a major way. Since staying in control is important to many salespeople, a situation like this can produce a level of pain all out of proportion to its effect on your bottom line.

You can't change the economy or solve your industry's problems, but you can change how you react to the situation. First, take the time to examine your sales approach from collecting leads all the way to closing the sale. You'll usually be able to think of a few ways to improve your sales strategies and make them more effective. As a rule of thumb, the worse a buyer's market gets, the more leads you'll need just to get the requires number of closed sales. So you need to ramp up your cold calling and other prospecting methods to get yourself in front of as many people as possible. If you normally aim for 50 cold calls per week, instead plan on making 75 cold calls a week for the next three weeks, and then count how many of those calls you were able to turn into appointments. If you still don't have enough appointments, bump your number of cold calls up to 100 per week and reevaluate.

Second, if the buyer's market is caused by a widespread problem such as a recession, your prospects are going to be affected by it in their own jobs or companies. They will probably be stressed and overworked just from keeping up with their financial issues. Revamp your sales presentation to emphasize safety, security and comfort. Frightened and over stressed prospects will tend to respond strongly to those kinds of benefits. And while you're at it, cut down your presentation by at least 25% -- frantic prospects will be less willing to sit still for a long presentation.

If you're in B2B sales you'll probably find yourself facing an even more complicated purchasing process than usual, especially if you're selling high-end, expensive products and services. Like consumers, businesses react to money shortages by cutting back on their spending. And they will often require more approvals or additional paperwork for purchasing anything costly. You might find that instead of convincing one CEO or purchasing officer, you now have to pitch to an entire buying committee, which means it's likely that your whole sales process will take much longer. And that means that having a solid sales plan is even more important than usual. If you find that your average sales cycle has doubled thanks to these challenges, you must take that into account when you're planning out your sales activities.

Finally, a tough marketplace is a great opportunity to build your relationships with your existing customers. After all, if you can't get as many new customers as usual, the only solution is to grab more wallet share from your current customer base. So during these times, customer service should be a major priority for you. If you've taken good care of your existing customers, they should already have a pretty high level of trust in you -- and as a result, they'll be more likely to consider upgrading their current product or buying a few additional ones despite the state of the marketplace.
Wendy Connick
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Wendy Connick> all articles
My first sales position was a summer job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. I continued through a variety of sales jobs ranging from retail sales for a storage company to selling bank products for a Fortune 500 financial institution.

As a small business owner, I now focuses on selling for my own company, Tailored Content, a website content provider. I write on a wide range of topics but my primary focus is sales and how to sell effectively.