April 22, 2009

Tough times never last, but tough people do

Here is a new mantra for selling in a slown-turn: ‘tough times never last, but tough people do.’

The importance of staying positive

It is a challenge for sales managers, and indeed managers generally, to stay positive in these negative times. But, the problem is that, more than almost any other profession, selling requires a positive mental attitude.

A negative salesperson is going to struggle to get into the car in the morning, to deliver enthusiastic sales presentations, or to demonstrate with confidence that his/her solution will help. In a time of crisis people look to others for confidence, leadership and direction, but negative sales manager, will inevitably fall short.

Those sales people who are performing best in spite of the present difficult market conditions have isolated themselves from the bad news and its associated negativity. They are listening to music instead of talk radio and are reading a sales book instead of the newspaper.

Possibility Thinking

There are still opportunities in spite of the downturn, but those overwhelmed by the doom and gloom can’t see them. As the chairman of one of our most successful client companies recently told his management team ‘People still need to eat, somewhere to live, to travel, etc. - the world has not stopped, it has just slowed down a bit.’

Today’s opportunities are less obvious than those in a fast growing market, but they do exist. It may be a competitor that has lost its way, somebody you were unable to sell to previously that is now looking for a better deal, a shift in buying patterns (from the top end of the market to the middle), opportunities for innovation in terms of new pricing models, phased delivery, point solutions, etc.

A New Mantra for Sales Managers

How to stay focused and positive? Well say aloud: ‘tough times never last, but tough people do*.’ Put it up in your bulletin board, put it on your desk, repeat it in your sales meetings – ‘tough times never last, but tough people do.’

Anybody can focus on the negative and most do. The test of a leader is to stay focused on the positive. Negativity leads to a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. It results in a focus on the problem, instead of a possible solution. So, focus not on the recession but on how you are dealing with it. The former you can’t control, but the latter you can and that has the potential to make all the difference.

So how tough are you, your organization and your team? Well, probably a lot tougher than you think. So, now is the time to shine. Today’s opportunities are ‘dressed in work clothes’ - that is to say exploiting them requires greater effort and creativity than was the case in growth times. But, it is worth remembering that some of the world’s best known companies, Microsoft and Apple, were started in a downturn.

*Thanks to Dr. Robert H. Schuller

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