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5 Step Sales Strategy To Successfully Navigate Through Uncertainty To navigate through uncertain times, business owners must choose to respond appropriately. There are three choices that we all have-flight, freeze or fight

By Sharat Sharma

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Every year during February and March, most organizations review their past years' performance and set ambitious goals for the next financial year. Those who do great in the past year, aim to grow by 3 times or 5 times. Others who missed their past year targets, plan to do the course correction and aspire to grow at least by 2 times.

This year everything it is different. Most businesses are hit by uncertainty. The economic slowdown and the lockdown have created unrest among business owners. In a short time, every ambition has turned into anxiety. Most business conversations today are focused on "how to survive this uncertainty'. If all the news has to be believed, a staggering 43 per cent MSMEs will shut shop if the panic extends too long.

Navigating through these uncertain times

Building the right mindset: To navigate through uncertain times, business owners must choose to respond appropriately. There are three choices that we all have—flight, freeze or fight. The automatic response of most businesses is to flight (escape) or freeze, however, the ideal response is to fight. Most businesses do not choose the fight response because they lack the right mindset.

A fight response would mean that business owners nurture a future-focused mindset and prepare to take action and not be consumed by the fear focused mindset and reaction.

Businesses that are fear focused either stop participating in activities that can grow their business or make half-hearted attempts. Their strategy is to save and survive until the cash lasts. On the contrary, businesses that are future-focused innovate, make swift decisions, adjust and adapt to the new ways and means of reaching the customer.

Staying future-focused does not necessarily mean remaining positive or being optimistic. It means staying relevant, thinking ahead, being flexible, and solving the current demands of the customer.

Businesses that refuse to nurture a future-focused mindset and prepare to take action will eventually suffer and face the only option of shutting down.

Understanding your market: People buy emotions and currently emotions are at all time high.

As the buying power shrinks, the emotions that appealed to the market earlier, may not appeal to them now. For example, things that were perceived as luxury may not be given as much significance now.

So, what can businesses do?

Businesses must prioritize understanding the market and its current emotions. They must then match these emotions with the solutions their product or service can provide.

Customers experience three types of emotions and they expect relevant solutions:

1. When customers want to fix something that's not working, they experience pain. They are seeking a solution to an existing and known problem.

2. When customers want to prevent something that is perceived as a risk, they experience uncertainty. They are seeking a solution to an anticipated and unknown problem.

3. When customers want to improve something that's stable, they want to experience a sense of significance. They are seeking a solution to enhance their lifestyle/luxury needs.

If we invest time in understanding the market and its emotions and then solve their existing or anticipated problems, we will be one step ahead in navigating through this adversity.

Customizing your message: As we understand the emotions behind customers' buying decisions, it's important that we craft a customized message to reach the right customer.

The old marketing campaigns with old messages will not yield the results that we want. If the message is not current and not addressing the customer's emotions, the customer might just skip listening to the message.

Our message in the current times can be a double-edged sword. If gone wrong, it can cause more harm to our relationship with the customer and if gone right, it will establish a life-time relationship with our customer.

How should one customize the message?

There is no one size fits all. However, the message must have these three key ingredients. It must use customer-centric language, have the empathy to connect, and must address the current fears of the customer.

Choose the right medium: A recent survey revealed that companies are shifting 28 per cent of their current offline marketing budgets to strengthen their digital marketing efforts and sales. This must ring the bell.

Yes, the digital medium is going to dominate a major share in marketing our products or services.

Whether we cater to the B2B segment or B2C segment, our sales will be driven primarily via a digital platform. In addition to this, many business processes will also get automated and digitalized. The digital medium will help maximize the efforts of small businesses. Many smaller brands will be able to reach wide range of customers. It will enable brands to gain credibility, customer loyalty, and a significant amount of market share.

Adopting and leveraging the digital medium and building digital presence is going to be the key to navigate through these uncertain times.

Managing the money: Adapting to the changes can be overwhelming and when the cash is at stake, it can be stressful too. Ensuring new strategies deliver returns as anticipated and making sure we don't burn all the cash is the key.

Stay vigilant on the cash flow and account for every penny that is being invested to reach our customers. The ideal approach must be to use DRS—Define the budgets, Refine what's not working and Shine through what's giving the best results. Also, it's important to make sure we reach the breakeven within the least amount of time.

To summarize, the key to navigate through the uncertain times is to develop the right mindset, understand the market, customize and draft a message that appeals to the customer, choose the right medium and finally invest the money wisely.

Sharat Sharma

Co-founder, IAM Human Capital Consulting

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