Winning Sales in
a Losing Economy:
Success Tips From a Higher Altitude
By Don Schmincke
No one knows stress better than a salesperson who is trying
to close deals during a global financial collapse. How is the
retrenching affecting your resources to deliver? Is the competition
hiring newly unemployed sales talent – those who are extra hungry…
and extra talented? What is your customer really thinking about now
– your features and benefits, or saving his job? And, as if it
wasn’t stressful enough, you’re under pressure to achieve seemingly
What can a sales professional do? Sales 101 methods like
better closing techniques or prospect management strategies are
important, but experienced professionals want more. Climbing out of
bed to sell in this economy becomes easier by studying … well,
climbers. Climbers in death zones – that altitude above 26,000 feet
where lack of oxygen makes long-term survival impossible – also
surmount seemingly impossible goals; and they bear an uncanny
resemblance to salespeople. Some are deeply humble, while others are
psychotic narcissists. They come with all levels of competence, from
naive wannabes to elite athletes. And when put to the test, they
react like all of us: sometimes like heroes, other times
self-destructively. But when they “close” the summit, how do they do
it? And how can we use these lessons to push sales
When climbing you don’t break any land speed records. But all
climbers succeed doing the same thing – taking just one more step. A
small step, one foot in front of the other, gets you higher. But
many salespeople leap too far too fast in a recession. It’s much
better to follow the advice: “Never try to cross a chasm in two
want to take their time. They are fearful and uncertain about what’s
next. So, in turn, you must slow down to increase your sales. Are
you running to a solution too soon when you haven’t yet taken the
next small step to understand their new challenges and anxieties?
What may have been a five-step sales cycle may be a 10-step journey
now. Re-assess and tune up your sales strategy for a different route
to the top by doing the following:
Write down your
current sales process steps.
See where you
can break apart each step into smaller ones (“Build rapport” can
be broken into “send article,” “get a meeting on the calendar,”
“mail handwritten thank-you card for their time,” etc.).
Put the new
list to work by creating a spreadsheet with the steps as column
titles and then list each prospect down the first column. Assess
where you are for each prospect and notice missing steps or
areas to redefine your approach.
Sell Passion Not
Passion drives climbers to “buy” into the sport. A passion also
drives your prospects. A resistant client in the high tech industry
shocked the salesperson when he admitted, “we like your product, but
we just don’t get your story.” They needed vendors who added to the
brand, mystique and “remarkablility” of their products. When the
stunned salesperson returned with a new presentation of their
product direction, innovative philosophy and company culture, he
were able to close the deal. Are your prospects looking for more
than just a shallow pitch?
List your top
least three things that excite them or cause them great pain –
and explain how your product or service addresses these issues.
“story” about your offering using the themes and phrases in Step
2. What’s passionate about your product or service? And don’t
fall off the cliff because you think you sell a commodity
product. Just look at the stories created around commodities
like coffee and tennis shoes!
Unbundle: If the load
is too great, climbers separate out the gear and move it in smaller
loads. You should, too. One business deal was being stifled because
the salesperson had the whole package, but the recession was driving
price into the equation. The client only needed pieces of the
solution for now to get through the year. Unbundling the offering
delighted the client, and they closed the deal.
categorize the main customer complaints, objections or other
reasons for not buying.
meeting with relevant company functions that can impact the
customer end-product (manufacturing, design, R&D, service
delivery, field maintenance, etc.)
At the meeting
review the categories you created in Step 1 and brainstorm
innovative ways to help the customer (what can be unbundled,
repackaged, re-priced, delivered differently, combined, etc.).
salesperson, now is the time to go in, play harder and take some
innovative risks. Climb higher in sales during turbulent times by
applying better climbing techniques. What do you have to lose?
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