Monday Mornings with Madison

Supercharging Sales in Tough Times

Word Count: 1,293
Estimated Read Time: 5 min.

In the past, if someone needed to earn big money fast – and the person wasn’t a technology genius, inventor, insightful stock trader or creative scientist — he or she might become a salesperson.  Accomplished salespeople usually make a very good living.  Until March of this year, countless people were involved in sales.  Some were in real estate sales making big money.  They were Realtors, new home salespeople, mortgage lenders, and the like. Some were in technology, selling software as a service, Google Ads or hawking products on Amazon.   Still others were in traditional mediums such as luxury vehicle and jewelry sales.  At companies from Facebook to Ferrari to Fendi — as well as millions of little-known brands — top salespeople were treated like gold.  Bigger companies sought to ‘lure’ the top producers away, offering bigger commissions, better benefits and nicer work conditions.

Sales was a great job… until March 2020.  When the pandemic shut down all but the most essential of services, sales plummeted for most retailers and a multitude of service sector companies.  Unemployment filings soared.  Most salespeople were unable to sell.  The economy is now contracting, and there is no knowing how bad it will be or how long it will last. Suddenly, no one wants to be a salesperson any more.

Past economic downturns and recessions often revealed that many ‘salespeople’ were just glorified order takers, and some were bad ones at that.  During the Great Recession of 2009, many salespeople left their old occupations and went back to school to get degrees in other fields such as nursing, IT and special education.  Some went into search engine marketing, branding, video production, writing and other creative fields that can be done from home online.  We may see the same thing happen in 2020-2021.  Those who remain in sales by mid-2021 will be the truly excellent salespeople… and it will again be a fraction of the ones who were in sales in January 2020.

For the salespeople who remain, this will be a boon.  But, the truth is that for the economy to rebound quickly, super salespeople are needed.  It is those truly top-notch salespeople who will be instrumental in revving up business again.  Real salespeople will be the ones to jumpstart the economic recovery… much better and faster than well-intentioned stimulus packages and government programs.  People won’t randomly 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.

Sales Strategies for Economic Recovery

In today’s stricken environment, businesses will need to convince people to part with their cash.  For essential and small purchases, that requires little salesmanship.  But for non-essential services, niche products, upgrades, luxury items and capital improvements, it will require skilled salesmanship.  The bigger the spend or more complex the purchase, the more sales skill will be required.  Here are six things salespeople should do to help supercharge sales.

Strategy 1 – Show Up.

One simple tactic to increase sales despite lower buying volume is by just being there.  With the order takers gone, there are sure to be some huge “sales gaps”.  Think of them as gaping windows of opportunity.  This is actually a good thing for top performers.  When half the competition quits trying or quits all together, it will be that much easier to GET the business.  And the first step is to show up… even if social distancing precludes showing up physically.  Reach out.  Call.  Text.  Post on social media.  Comment on others’ posts.  Send informative emails.  The idea is to stay in touch.

Strategy 2 – Update Your Approach.

Another tactic is to remember that all sales are not down.  New products are emerging.  New services are being created to meet new needs.  Not everything is up or down.  That is true for every market… even the hard-hit ones like retail and real estate.   In fact, some things sell better in a down economy.  Toilet paper, Clorox bleach, and hand sanitizer sales are at an all-time high.  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 an ‘innovator’ or ‘superstar’ may have been the right approach in 2019, today’s image needs to be one of ‘security guard’ or ‘triage doctor.’  Conveying an image of support and security will do better than communicating the same tired messages of last year.

Strategy 3 – Be the Thought Leader.

Yet another strategy to increase sales in a recovery is to be the most knowledgeable in that niche or industry.  To capture a competitor’s business, top salespeople must know their competitors’ strengths and weaknesses as well as they know their own.  And they also need to be highly attuned to their customers’ concerns, needs and frustrations.  Do competitors regularly miss deadlines?  Is their website slow or malfunction?  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 work with their company’s leadership to move mountains in order to deliver a better solution.

Strategy 4 – Create and Customize.

Another approach that can be particularly effective to boost sales during this recovery is to expand the company’s line of 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 for select clients.  It takes 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.

In fact, big ticket items are rarely off-the-shelf products or solutions.  They typically include some unique challenges. Otherwise, the purchase would simply be delegated to the Purchasing Department.  There, a structured and competitive process would be used to select a vendor by meeting minimum standards and price. Great salespeople have the creativity to design a solution that meets both their company’s needs as well as their buyer’s needs in a way that is sustainable.

Strategy 5 – Translate and Simplify.

In the sales process, complexity is the enemy of speed.  Businesses and leaders are wary of solutions that are complex in both description and function.  Super salespeople understand this.  They are adept at translating for customers what seems complex into simple and relevant language.  These superstars also do a great job of being the subject matter expert and representing the solution cleanly.  They know how to answer questions with the right level of detail.

Strategy 6 – Facilitate.

Sophisticated sales efforts usually require a variety of people from the salesperson’s organization and the buyer to communicate, document, exchange information, and stay on task.  This is often the greatest challenge.  The more people involved, the more easily the sale can derail.  These days, these meetings are often facilitated through Zoom conferences, emails, and phone calls.  A great salesperson will function as not only the broker of the deal but also as the project manager of the process, keeping an eye on all the details and ensuring progress is made and nothing gets overlooked.

Selling during economic downturns takes research, optimism, creativity, perseverance and patience.  It takes grit.  The bad news is that people are scared and skittish.  But the good news is that there is less competition vying to capture their business.  The market is ripe for new and existing customers to be treated better for the same price.  It just takes super 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



© 2020, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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