I’ve been around long enough to have lived and worked through major recessions, financial crises i.e. GFC, and general downturns in business and survived, if not thrived during these times. Why?

The clever investors, business and salespeople look at downturns in markets as opportunities to get further ahead. They look at the evidence at hand, the trends that are emerging and see opportunity, when many others see disaster. I don’t mean that these people are blithely skipping through the day oblivious to the challenges facing communities, markets and economies. 

The truth is they are probably far more aware of all the challenges and issues at hand because they keep themselves fully informed of what’s happening and then look for patterns and commercially viable opportunities. They don’t sit still, instead they ramp up their market research and market presence by getting in front of the right people, prospecting and investigating where people and markets are at and how they can help them.

As a result, they’re calmer, better able to make rational decisions and they don’t buy into the panic that can spread like wild fire amongst those who lose their heads.

Sadly, humans -being what they are- tend to default to panic when ‘bad news’ starts to spread. Rather than stop and look at the evidence at hand they react and often stop doing what they should be doing. This then leads to doom and gloom and this then further perpetuates a downward spiral that leads to more bad results.

I recall at the start of the GFC in 2008 we had just won a large sales enablement assignment with 350 people. It was a great project. However, just before it started, the Executive GM in charge of this questioned whether it would be a good use of money to invest in sales training with the impact of the GFC.  I said that this was precisely when you should be investing in your salespeople. Equipping them to go to market with a clear value proposition and offer of support and reassurance that they have their clients’ back. Even if their clients couldn’t buy a lot from them then this would keep the business top of mind when the market turned. I also pointed out that business doesn’t stop when there is a downturn. It’s just harder to find the opportunities but if you are not out there then you won’t find them.

What happened to this business? Over 2008-2010 at the height of the GFC, the market was in negative growth territory of minus 10-20% yet our client grew plus 5-8%. How about that?

Whilst it is critical for business owners and salespeople to keep abreast of market changes and challenges we can let real and, more often than not, perceived threats get the better of us.

Choosing your state of mind, your attitude, is critical in business and in life, especially in more challenging times.

I learnt early on in my sales career to keep on going and put in the effort by doing the activities that count especially in the hard times.

Having a clear and focused sales strategy in targeted market segments with a compelling value proposition that explains ‘why us’ and then getting out and prospecting in these markets on a regular consistent basis is vital.

Without this in place nothing else happens.

So don’t be the architect of your own demise when you don’t have to be.

I recall in my recruitment consulting days in the late 80’s and early 90’s when jobs were really hard to find and many recruitment consultants were going out of business that some of my colleagues and I looked at the market and said “just because jobs are harder to find doesn’t mean there aren’t any jobs. Companies still exist. Someone will be in business and someone will want to hire good people so let’s get prospecting and find those companies who still want to hire staff and be in business.” And you know what? By taking that approach and having a positive, determined attitude, my colleagues and I had some of our best results ever. We looked for opportunity and it was there.

Whilst everyone else was in despair and whinging about how hard it was, we were getting the work.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Related topics

It all starts with opportunity

Without a strategic sales force you are doomed to fail

7 things you can do immediately to improve your sales results in challenging markets

A year ago (roughly)

Check the ‘Sales Fitness’ of your Sales System