It used to be that if a person wanted to make ‘big money’ fast (and they weren’t technology gurus, inventors or scientists), he or she became a salesperson. Case in point. During the most recent real estate boom, tens of thousands of people – who had never thought about selling or sold anything – flocked to the real estate market to make easy money. They became Realtors, new home salespeople, mortgage lenders, and the like. At most companies, top salespeople were treated like gold. Big firms sought to ‘lure’ the top producers away, offering bigger commissions, better benefits and nicer work conditions. Many of those leading performers became difficult to manage, as their egos inflated along with their commission checks.
Then, the real estate bubble burst. Credit markets collapsed. Foreclosures skyrocketed, and real estate sales plunged. The economy tail-spinned into Recession, with a capital R. Suddenly, no one wanted to be a salesperson any more. The Recession revealed that most real estate ‘salespeople’ had really been order takers, and many were bad ones at that. Realtors and mortgage lenders went back to school to get degrees in nursing, IT and special education. They went into marketing, search engine optimization and PR. Those who remained in sales, the truly excellent salespeople, were only about a quarter of the original sales force.
Now, as the economy rebounds, it is those truly top-notch salespeople who will be instrumental in getting sales going again. Real salespeople will be the ones to jumpstart the economic recovery… not well-meaning stimulus packages or misguided government programs. People aren’t randomly going to buy in a truly tough economy. They will be slow to act and careful to choose. It’s going to take a well-guided push to get the sale.
How? One simple tactic is to increase sales despite lower buying volume by just being there. Now that all the order takers have left, there are huge “sales gaps”. Think of them as gaping windows of opportunity. Top performers should be excited. Half the competition quit trying or quit all together. It is that much easier, then, to GET that business.
Another tactic is to remember that all sales are not down. Toilet paper sales remain the same as always. Not everything is up or down. That is even true for the real estate market. Some things sell better in a down economy. Products and services connected with security, safety, and risk reduction all do better in down economies. Thus, a key selling point will be to showcase the safety and security aspects of a product or service. This also holds true for salespeople. While coming across as a ‘cowboy’ or ‘trapeze artist’ may have worked in 2005, today’s image needs to be one of ‘sheriff’ or ‘triage doctor.’ Those whose image conveys support or security will do better.
A third strategy to increase sales in a recovery is to be the most knowledgeable in an industry. In order to capture a competitor’s business, top salespeople need to know their competitors’ weaknesses as well as the customers’ frustrations. Do competitors habitually miss deadlines? Does their phone system keep customers perpetually on hold? Are they able to handle last-minute requests? Is the quality of the product or service inferior? Top producers will know the most common complaints customers have about an industry or specific company and will move mountains to provide a better solution.
Another strategy that is particularly effective to boost sales during a recovery is to add to the company’s products or services. Provide something that is perhaps already offered but rendered in a new light or different approach. To make it particularly enticing, add it as part of an exclusive membership to VIPs. It will take creativity to find ways to make this work from business to business, but “repackaging” to different sizes, weights, values, delivery, or sequence can provide something new of value.
Selling in an economic recovery takes research, optimism, creativity and persistence. There is less competition vying to capture business today. The market is ripe for new and existing customers to be treated better for the same price. It just takes real salespeople to make it happen.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Sales are contingent upon the attitude of the salesman—not the attitude of the prospect.” W. Clement Stone
© 2010 – 2011, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.