I started my professional sales career in June 1976, nearly forty-four years ago. I believe for someone to have spent that many years in sales they must love what they do and have eternal optimism, or they would have moved on long ago.
During my sales career I have seen wonderfully bullish economies where sales were easy and plentiful, where salespeople with no apparent skills appeared as heroes and sales records were set. I have also experienced economies in the doldrums, where there was little hope and even less optimism for success. From my perspective, the 2008 recession was truly the worst I have witnessed since becoming a salesperson. The most disturbing thing during the last recession was the absence of hope and a reality without economic improvement.
Just as in the Great Depression that began on Black Tuesday October 29, 1929, the recession that began in 2008 produced high unemployment, financial devastation, failed companies and surprisingly, many individual corporate successes. In an atmosphere of despair, with no light to be seen at the end of the economic tunnel, why did some companies flourish while many failed and most suffered extreme losses while teetering on the borders of peril? Just as in the Great Depression, those companies that succeeded during the most recent recession set a clear course on increasing sales. They didn’t accept reduced financial results because of the economy. They marshaled all of their resources and challenged the economy and their competitors for what sales might still be had. They took a proactive and aggressive approach in finding every opportunity that might possibly, exist while helping others discover solutions to unrecognized needs.
During the 2008 recession, most, if not all, of the companies and salespeople I have worked with experienced their best years, even better than the bullish years. These companies and salespeople worked harder at selling than at any other time. They were focused and razor-sharp in executing their sales skills. In many cases they took business away from their competitors who believed there were no sales to be made and turned their backs as my clients swept in and made sales without experiencing any competition.
I’m an eternal optimist, but I am not bullish on the current economy looking forward. However, I believe those companies and salespeople who work their hardest, applying the correct sales principles and skills can continue to find sales success even as we face economic difficulties and uncertainty. There will be many companies that will fall victim to the current economy and there will still be many who will have their best years ever. It is a matter of focus, direction, effort and skills. Don’t use the current economy as a measure of growth and financial success of your company; that is what your competitors are doing. They are thinking the economy is struggling, therefore sales will be down.
It is time to make a change in both attitude and action. This year can be your best year ever, but you will need to do things you have never done before. Set aggressive sales goals and define them well. Break the goals into smaller steps and activities that are both believable and achievable. Provide opportunities for your salespeople to improve their skills. As a salesperson, practice your skills and work harder at applying your skills than you have done in the past. We all face a difficult and challenging future, but with those challenges and difficulties we will find success beyond our wildest expectations. I’m an eternal optimist and I love the world of sales!