Nothing about selling during times of crisis is easy. Even routine selling becomes challenging. Few people know this better than Jeb Blount. The renowned sales guru had his back to the wall five different times during various economic downturns, but his sales business emerged stronger each time. How did Blount survive and thrive when so many other companies flat-lined? His advice in an economic crisis is to stick to sales fundamentals, learn from adversity, become a better prospector, talk only to decision-makers, stay positive and never complain. It doesn’t take an economic crisis for any salesperson in a challenging market to find Blount’s counsel helpful.
- Salespeople must keep selling, even in a crisis.
- Don’t waste a minute dealing with someone who can’t make a purchase decision.
- Adversity is every sales professional’s greatest teacher.
- In good times and in bad, faithfully adhere to the fundamentals of selling.
- The right sales message can open any door at almost any time.
- Successful salespeople are good prospectors. During times of crisis, they must be great prospectors.
- Qualify prospects and eliminate objections during discovery.
- Never complain.
- Avoid negative salespeople who try to pull you down.
Salespeople must keep selling, even in a crisis.
Local, state and national economies go up and down, through good times and bad times, stability and crisis, and abundance and scarcity as cycles wax and wane.
Smart salespeople don’t hide out during hard times. That’s when true pros summon their courage, resolve and talent, and keep plugging away. Tough-minded salespeople never quit. They continue to pitch prospects and do their best to close sales, no matter how many setbacks they experience. They know the relationships they cultivate will matter when good times return.
“In sales, when the right actions are repeated consistently, the positive outcomes are predictable.”
Weak and incompetent salespeople get cast aside during downtimes. And they aren’t the only ones who go down in a storm. If a company has a feckless CEO or poor managers or incompetent salespeople, times of scarcity can be a virtual death sentence. But dedicated, competent salespeople hang on and find success even in slow markets.
Salespeople who persevere may eventually benefit from economic dips because such challenges eliminate weak competitors. As bad performers disappear from the market you may realize more opportunities.
Don’t waste a minute dealing with someone who can’t make a purchase decision.
Step one is to line up viable prospects. Qualify your primary contacts and their firm. Conduct discovery to learn everything you can about your prospects’ wants and needs, so you can make a masterful presentation. After hitting all their hot buttons, negotiate a great deal for you and your company.
“Every organization is different, and the buying process for most companies will be opaque, chaotic, confused or rapidly changing in a crisis.”
First, make sure the person across the table from you has the authority to make a purchase decision. Then, learn all you can about your prospective client firm’s buying procedures and processes. Ask your primary contacts to explain how their company works, even as you figure out the extent of their decision-making authority.
Adversity is every sales professional’s greatest teacher.
During World War II, Amache was a Japanese internment camp in rural eastern Colorado, near Granada, a small farming community. After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US government incarcerated Japanese-Americans in this and similar camps throughout the nation’s western interior.
While driving through Colorado, author Jeb Blount inadvertently discovered Amache and learned about its history. While visiting there, he met an elderly Japanese-American man who walked with a cane.
“There will be winners and losers…bad things will happen to good people.”
The man told him, “I was brought here as a child.” Blount asked if he and his family were bitter toward the federal government because they were treated shamefully during World War II. He told Blount they had felt rage, but it never turned into bitterness. He said the experience motivated him to succeed as an entrepreneur. According to the man, the terrible adversity he suffered helped him build his personal strength.
Blount learned that the elderly man had created a thriving business, which enabled him to provide a superior education for his children, who included three doctors, one dentist and a successful entrepreneur. No one can escape adversity, but everyone can benefit from its lessons.
In good times and bad, faithfully adhere to the fundamentals of selling.
How can a salesperson steadily come out on top no matter how tough things become? First, focus on the sales fundamentals, the basic building blocks of your profession.
Difficult times magnify the impact of a salesperson’s flaws, such as mediocrity or lack of energy. Personal drawbacks, like failing to heed selling fundamentals or properly qualify prospects, get magnified in a storm. That’s when weak salespeople wither and blow away, and strong salespeople rise to the top.
“It is human nature to want to control everything. We seek certainty, safety and security above all else. This need for control and certainty is the mother of worry, the most useless of all emotions.”
No matter what the economic environment is or what other turmoil is in play, stay disciplined and don’t veer away from your known selling fundamentals, even if they seem dull. “Boring” is the best card to play during tough times. Keep these maxims in mind:
- “Be bold” – When things get tough, people hide, hoping to wait out the bad times. This is good news for hardy, courageous salespeople who keep working. They know they can find more and better selling opportunities while their competitors cower in the corners.
- “Stop wishing things were easier; start making yourself better” – Life is tough. That won’t change. Just wishing for what you want is a waste of time and energy. In reality, things could always get worse. Instead of dreaming, make concrete plans and strive daily to improve yourself, your selling skills and your results.
- “Work harder, longer and smarter” – Even if you may take your foot off the gas now and then in good times, you can’t let up during bad times. Be prepared to put in long hours, work hard and pay intelligent attention to everything you do.
- “Don’t bring charm to a gunfight” – Don’t default to charm when you try to close sales in an economic downturn. Instead, be aware and consciously avoid making any mistakes when you talk to prospects. When businesspeople are nervous about every penny they might spend, showing uncertainty in front of them can kill your sales. When people are making a decision, their negative view of you will carry more weight than their positive opinion. The cure for that tendency is to avoid providing any negatives.
- “Set new goals” – Determine exactly what you want – such as more successful and profitable sales – set firm step-by-step goals, and pursue them with dedication and focus.
The right sales message can open any door at almost any time.
During bad times, anxious prospects don’t want pesky salespeople bothering them. So how do you get your harried prospect’s attention? The right message will open the right door.
“When you choose to shortcut messaging, you are making an intentional choice to fail.”
To come up with an ideal message, put yourself in your prospect’s shoes. Ask: 1) What matters to this potential client? 2) What’s his or her emotional state at this moment? 3) In the potential client’s position, what would make you feel ready to meet with a salesperson or decide on a purchase? Develop your message based on your answers to these three questions.
Successful salespeople are good prospectors. During times of crisis, they must be great prospectors.
When the economy is humming, interested prospects call you. Your pipeline operates on autopilot. But, if you want leads during challenging times, you must work overtime to get them. When bad times arrive, you must become a “relentless, unstoppable, fanatical prospector.”
“Getting prospects to meet with you in volatile times is your biggest sales challenge.”
You can create your own good luck, which means lining up your own leads. There’s no mystery about how this works. You must become a full-time prospecting machine, looking anywhere, everywhere – all the time. Wherever you are, always be prepared to meet prospects. Fill your pockets with business cards. Hand them out to strangers in lunch lines, people on buses, passengers sitting next to you on the plane and everyone else you encounter.If you’re a fanatical prospector, every person you come into contact with is a potential sale.
Effective prospecting works best when you establish a “prospecting sequence,” like this:
- “Targeted lists” – Target the most likely prospects. The more precise your lists are, the better. Include only 25 prospects per list.
- “Communication channels” – Utilize and exploit “phone, voicemail, email, social media, direct messaging, video messaging, text messaging…[and] snail mail.”
- Cadence – Sequence your “prospecting touches” in this order: “phone > voicemail > email > LinkedIn > video message > snail mail > direct message.”
- Touches – Reach out to each prospect with a planned volume of material, such as five phone calls, four emails, three social media touches, two in-person meetings and one video message.
- Duration – Time how you spread out “your sequence of touches” to set the right pace and tone. Vary your methods of communication, and make contact every 10, 15, 30, 60 and 90 days.
- Messaging – This is the most important aspect of your prospecting sequences. Instead of a hard pitch, try to strike a conversational tone.
Qualify prospects and eliminate objections during discovery.
If you handle things correctly during your initial contact and communication with prospects early in the selling process, you shouldn’t face objections in the later stages, particularly at closing. When your prospects hammer away with major objections during these later stages of the sales process, that’s a signal that you failed to qualify them correctly upfront.
“Avoiding bringing the truth to the surface is a wickedly stupid sales strategy.”
Or you may have made some other mistake, such as depending on a nervous person who can’t make a buying decision or failing to anticipate the prospect’s most likely “worries, concerns, issues and fears” during the discovery process.
Early on, ask prospects your most strategic questions. That will make them consider alternatives to buying from you – alternatives you already know about and can debunk. Armed with that useful knowledge, you can “neutralize” options or objections and deal with them before they become deal-breakers.
Times of crisis bring plenty to complain about: Prospects aren’t buying, customers are shutting down, everyone wants price rollbacks, and companies are reducing commissions and insisting that salespeople take pay cuts.
Complaining in the midst of all of this trouble is easy, but don’t. Nobody likes complainers. That includes your boss. Plus, someone will inevitably tell your boss you’re always moaning and bad-mouthing your company or your fate.
“Each negative word you say degrades your mind-set, lowers your energy level and demotivates you.”
If your team, company or boss regards you as a complainer, the boss will bid you farewell first if layoffs come. Instead, stay upbeat, hopeful and optimistic.
Avoid negative salespeople who try to pull you down.
When a crab that is trapped inside a bucket tries to climb out, the other crabs in the bucket will pull it back down to the bottom. Similarly, if a salesperson tries to maintain a positive attitude during tough times and works hard despite setbacks, malcontented colleagues may be critical.
“You are a composite of the people you spend the most time with. Hang out with people who have a negative mindset, and they’ll destroy yours.”
Their defeatist attitude is that things are going badly, so why knock yourself out? Never buy into that kind of negativity. Just steer clear of naysayers, even in the best of times.
About the Author
Jeb Blount is also the author of Sales EQ: How Ultra High Performers Leverage Sales-Specific Emotional Intelligence to Close the Complex Deal; Fanatical Prospecting: The Ultimate Guide to Opening Sales Conversations and Filling the Pipeline by Leveraging Social Selling, Telephone, Email, Text, and Cold Calling; People Buy You: The Real Secret to What Matters Most in Business, and many more.
The book is a guide for sales professionals who want to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities of selling in a crisis. The author, Jeb Blount, is a renowned sales trainer and speaker who has written several best-selling books on sales and leadership. He explains why selling in a crisis is different from selling in normal times and how to adapt to the changing market conditions and customer expectations.
The book consists of 55 short and practical chapters that cover various topics such as mindset, motivation, prospecting, messaging, objection handling, closing, customer retention, and career advancement. Each chapter provides a tip, technique, or tactic that can help sales professionals stay on top of their game and increase their sales performance in a crisis. The book also provides examples, stories, exercises, and resources to help the reader apply the concepts to their own situation.
The book covers various topics, such as:
- How to understand the nature and impact of a crisis on buyers and sellers
- How to change your perspective and mindset to embrace volatility and adversity
- How to manage your emotions and cope with stress
- How to develop a right now sales professional attitude and behavior
- How to prospect effectively and fill your pipeline with qualified opportunities
- How to adjust your sales messaging and value proposition to meet the moment
- How to handle objections and close deals in a crisis
- How to protect your turf from competitors and your profits from price decreases
- How to retain and grow your existing customers
- How to foster a culture of innovation and responsibility in your team or organization
The book aims to help readers develop the skills and habits of successful sales professionals who can thrive in any situation. The book also provides inspiration and encouragement for readers who may be feeling stressed out or demotivated by the crisis. The book shows how to use the crisis as an opportunity to grow, learn, and improve.
The book is a valuable and insightful resource for anyone who is involved in sales or wants to improve their sales skills. The author writes in a clear and engaging style that makes the book easy to read and understand. The book is well-organized and structured into 55 bite-sized chapters that can be read in any order or as needed.
The book is based on solid experience and expertise of the author who has been in the sales industry for over three decades. The author also draws from various sources such as psychology, neuroscience, behavioral science, and management. The author also shares his own personal and professional experiences as well as stories from his clients and students. The book is full of practical advice that can help readers improve their sales results in a crisis.
The book is relevant and timely for the current situation of the world that is facing unprecedented challenges and uncertainties. The book offers hope and guidance for anyone who wants to cope better with change and stress and achieve their goals and potential. The book is suitable for anyone who wants to enhance their personal or professional performance, wellbeing, or leadership skills. The book is also ideal for coaches, trainers, educators, managers, or leaders who want to help others improve their sales skills in a crisis.
Overall, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to sell effectively in a crisis. The book is informative, inspiring, practical, and empowering. It will help you transform your mindset and behavior and achieve more success and happiness in your life.