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Seeing the Light

Your customer says he's too broke to buy your product? Show him another way of thinking.

It's true that times are hard for many businesses. But that's always going to be true. Individual companies and industries go through prosperity cycles, just as the economy does. In the good times and in the bad, there will always be someone who says, "I just can't afford your product right now," or "The economy is taking a toll on our business, and we've got to tighten our belts."

It's difficult for anyone to make purchases when money is tight. This is an objection that must be taken seriously and handled with care. Here are some suggestions that might help:

  • Think in terms of investment, rather than expense. You must answer this question for your customer: "How is this product (or service) an investment in the future of my business, rather than an expense with no return?" Let them know how your product or service can save them money in the long run, increase productivity or bring them more customers. Let them know what you've learned about their company and how your product or service can enhance their business. Help them understand how spending money now will pay them future dividends.
  • Get as much information as possible. When the economy is really tight, you have to have more information at your fingertips than ever before. One way to do that is to answer a budgetary objection by saying, "I can certainly appreciate that. But maybe you can help me out here. I'd like to learn a little bit more about what you and your business are doing right now. There may be a way that I can help impact your bottom line." Draw the customer out so you can learn more about his or her business. You might find a "problem opportunity"--a problem the company has that you can solve with your product or service.
  • Have your other customers sell for you. When money is tight, everyone wants assurances that they're spending wisely. You can help prospects make buying decisions by showing them how your product or service has helped your present customers. When they say, "The economy is tight right now," you can answer with, "It's interesting that you brought that up. Here's a customer who felt the same way because he was dealing with the same industry conditions you are. But he made the investment and grew his business 15 percent. I'd like to see if we can do the same for you." Then supply them with a written testimonial so they can see how your product or service can help their business.
  • Leave the door open. You're never going to sell to every company you approach. Maybe it really isn't the right time for them to make this expenditure; maybe your product and their business aren't the best match. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is learn as much as you can about the company's needs and goals and then leave the door open so you can come back later when conditions have improved.

It's not always easy to sell the future when present conditions are difficult. Even in the best of times, some customers will experience downturns. Whatever you can do to help their economy will help yours as well.

Barry Farber is the author of 11 books on sales, management and peak performance. His latest release, "Diamond in the Rough" CD program, is based on his book, radio and television show. Visit him at www.BarryFarber.com, or email him at barry@barryfarber.com.

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This article was originally published in the July 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Seeing the Light.

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