6 Solutions to Increase Sales in a Recession

September 1st, 2009 by | Print



Excelling at sales is tough in both good times and in bad. Yes, when the economy is fat and the dollars are falling out of peoples’ pockets, customers are more willing to forgive some of the bad (and often annoying) habits of B-level and C-level salespeople. However, when the economy is anemic, it more often than not requires A-level talent just to keep your solopreneur doors open.


So what are some options for you to increase your sales during a recession?



1. Partner with a Professional

If selling isn’t your strong suit, you have two choices – see how long it takes for you to become a solid salesperson or partner with a professional. Now if the thought running through your head whilst you read this is, “I can’t afford to pay a salesperson”, I ask, “can you afford not to?”


Which would you rather have: 100% of the profit from one sale a month or a lesser percentage of multiple sales in a week? Depending on the sales cycle within your industry, I understand that some of these timeframes may change, but the concept is the same.


Realize that there are multiple different structures that you can create for partnering with a pro. Depending on their needs, you can offer exposure, commission or even equity in your solopreneur enterprise.


What you need to quickly and honestly assess is can your business survive while you take the time to become a solid salesperson or do you need to go with a pro now.



2. Questions are a Salesperson’s Best Friend

A recession often breeds desperation. Desperation often leads to pushing products instead of finding solutions. Realize that the customer base you are servicing still has needs. They may be tighter with their checkbook, but they are still looking for solutions to solve their problems.


When branching out trying to find new business, don’t give new customers the same desperate data dump that you get from the telemarketer that calls while you are eating dinner. You will more often than not cause a gag reflex with your new prospect by shoving your solution down their throat instead of serving them something that they really want. And once you’ve done this, you are done. You’ve burned a bridge and they typically won’t give you a second chance.


So what do you need to remember?


Questions are a salesperson’s best friend. Although your bottom line may be pushing you to close a sale now, keep your cool and remember to ask questions. You are a problem solver, not an indiscriminate snake oil slickster. You can’t solve a problem and build a long term relationship if you don’t know what a new customer really needs. Take a deep breath and don’t let your fear factor fog up your ability to ask appropriate questions.



3. You Don’t “Get” Another Opportunity, You “Make” Another Opportunity

So let’s say that you made the mistake in the previous section and you blew an opportunity. Do you sit around moping hoping that another opportunity will come along? Forgive yourself for being desperate and get on with making new opportunities.


You could give another go at the last customer as long as you didn’t burn the bridge, but make sure that you do your homework and prepare appropriate questions and solutions for solving their root need. However, if must pass on that prospect, get on with finding another.


With today’s ailing market, you can’t wait for customers to come to you. Don’t let past mistakes keep you from staying motivated and creating new opportunities. Learn from your previous mistakes and let that empower you to test out your newfound capabilities of building relationships and closing deals.



4. Create New Pricing Programs

Although the market may seem weak, the needs are often still there. Your customers may often still want and need your service, but packaged with a new pricing solution. So what are some options?


  • Short-term discounts in exchange for long-term contracts
  • Delayed payments
  • Payment installments


You need to assess each customer to determine their future worth and stability along with your current cash flow to choose the appropriate program. Just remember you have options. Don’t get stuck in the rut of the same old way of doing business. Get creative with your pricing and see what new opportunities it creates for you.



5. See What Else Your Current Customers Need

Extensive research consistently reveals that it cost more to capture a new customer than generating repeat business from those that already buy from you. So when was the last time that you asked your customer what other needs they have or what else keeps them from reaching their goals?


It’s far too easy to fall in the trap of assuming that your customers know what you have to offer and will ask when they need something. In my many years of sales experience and managing sales teams, I have often found that this assumption meant the customer was giving business to other vendors that we could have serviced.


You develop your long-term relationship by asking questions about your customers’ problems and needs. This needs to be an ongoing conversation. Additionally, your customers’ needs and problems change just as yours do. Don’t miss out on new opportunities; ask questions, get inquisitive.



6. If you Have Lemons, Do You Only Sell Lemonade

Let’s say you start a lemonade business because you are a lemon expert and have an excellent supply of the freshest lemons. Your business booms initially because you find thirsty customers that are amazed at the superiority of your fresh squeeze.


However, as the recession sets in, your customers decide that they can (and need to) live on free tap water. Do you give a go at trying to convince them that they would be better off drinking your lemonade?


Do you decide to go for the fear factor selling tactic of the harmful side effects of drinking tainted tap water versus the nutritional value of lemonade? Do you try to find a new pool of customers that you haven’t talked to yet? Or do you find a new end product for your lemons?


In a recession, unless you offer something that is a life necessity, chances are that you will have marginal success with the fear factor approach. People are more afraid of not paying their mortgage than what might be lurking in their tap water. Finding new customers is always an option, but as mentioned above, capturing new customers will cost you more.


So what if you created something new? Since you are a lemon expert, start with lemons. You wouldn’t be stepping outside of your core area of expertise which will minimize your time to market. This will minimize your risk, too. You just need to apply some creativity to turning those lemons (or whatever your product or service may be) into something else your market needs.


What if your customers want something freshen fruit fresh? Lemons can do that.

What if your customers want a “green” way for killing insects, removing stains, clearing up acne, soothing their sore throats, or boosting their metabolism? Lemons can do that.


You can start by offering all of these to your current customers, saving time and money, and then expand into new markets.



What is obvious is we are in a tough economic market. How to survive and grow your solopreneur business during these times may not be so obvious. I hope that these six tips offer you some insight and hope to options that you have.


And as always, I am here to help. So if you need some assistance with one or all of these steps, don’t be afraid to ask.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


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