How to Survive in Today's Struggling Economy
By: Terry Brock

We are in the midst of a slowing economy. The "R" word (recession) is being thrown about regularly. This particular recession causes more frustration than previous recessions because some erroneously thought in the late 90's that the New Economy was going to eradicate the old business model and life would be happy forever.

Welcome to the 21st Century.

Times are different now.

We've learned that the economy can go bad. We've learned that we are in a world that has evil that is wiling to kill many innocent people. We've seen the stock market decline in value by trillions of dollars.

So, how do you sell in this type of environment? What can be done to keep going? Here are some steps that can help in this altered environment:

1. Have "Situational Awareness."

This is a military term that represents a state of mind, a level of awareness that's almost superhuman. James D. Murphy in his book, Business is Combat, discusses how a fighter pilot must continually assess what is happening in the environment. You have to know where you are, where you've been and where you're going. A business leader has to know what is going on in the world. That means you're in tune with late-breaking events. But it is a tightrope. Many of us in the past few weeks have realized the negative atmosphere of being glued to the TV for the latest news. How do you deal with it? Be aware of what is happening and check in the morning and afternoon what is going on in the world . Check the web for detailed information. Selectively watch TV programs that present a fair and balanced approach to the news. Then make your own decisions about what is going on for you. As former president George H.W. Bush (Bush 41) said, "What is going on in your own house is far more important than what is happening in the White House." Be aware of the situation but don't become fixated on obsess on things over which you have no control.

2. Find what new technologies can assist you.

There is a lot of interest today in videoconferencing due to the hassles of flying. I believe that flying is safer today than ever, yet it also has more hassles than ever. It is that hassle factor that is going to slow travel. If the wait time to get on a plane is two hours, many people are going to opt, where possible, to drive instead. This will ultimately lead to more deaths as we kill more on the roads than in the air. All of this will compound for long-term loss in the economy. Shift over to video, use telephones more and make those personal, all-important face-to-face meetings count for more than ever.

3. Use the old technologies more effectively.

Chances are that many of your customers who would have been on the road are now in their offices. Use the old telephone and have a systematic plan of "How's Going?" calls. These are not sales calls but instead just calls to let them know you're there supporting them and thinking about them. They'll know you're there. You are keeping yourself and your company top of mind for them. When things turn around, you'll be one of the first they think about working with on their new buying needs.

4. Stay in touch.

Now, more than ever, is a time to stay in touch with your customers. You want to be there helping and not pushing your stuff. During a time of national tragedy the "pushy salesperson" approach engenders much more than the typical, garden-variety hostility. Demonstrate a sincere caring attitude towards customers. Don't think about this week's sales goals. Focus on the long-term.

5. Be ready for the upsurge.

The trend will change. It is just a mater of time. As we learned that things can't always go up as they did in the late 90's we have to realize now that they won't always go down. The fundamentals for the US economy are still sound. We've gone through some tough times but will come out of these also. Now is the time to gear up for those times when customers will be interested and desirous of your products. Prepare now for the good times that are inevitably coming.

6. Focus on existing customers.

Focus on the needs of those customers you have that need service. They will remember that service and how you've helped when times turn around. Be there. Establish relationships.

7. Stand out from the competition.

You'll be able to stand out from the competition when you have a pleasant, helpful approach. Provide useful information that potential customers need. Don't be pushy. Be pleasantly persistent. Of course, isn't this the best approach in any economy?

Use this temporary struggling time to maximize what you can do for customers. Use it to build your core into new models. Now is the time to make it happen.

- Copyright 2002 by Terry Brock. All rights reserved.

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