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How to Recession-Proof Your Sales Pitch

Four tips to boost sales, especially in a tough economy.

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The grumpy chorus grows louder every day. I hear it from salespeople in all locales and industries:

"People are reluctant to commit in this economy."
"No one is spending money."
"Everyone is fixated on price alone."

Salespeople are waking up in the morning determined NOT to go out and make the kind of magic a gifted salesperson makes. Instead, they expect to be defeated by the invisible force called a "sluggish economy."

But blaming economics for why you either close or don't close a sales deal is the wrong way to think about your job. Buying into an excuse system has an unfortunate way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I understand that markets have been slumping and many buyers are cautious. But the job of a salesperson is to "make it rain" (bring in revenues) when the odds don't call for it.

It's not about economists and employment reports and talk of double dips. What matters is your ability to drive sales. It's about your determination to provide your customers with the products and services that will make a meaningful difference in their business and personal lives -- regardless of the economy.

Here are my four tips for selling during a recession:

1. Forget the headlines.
Every day, regardless of where the Dow or other economic indicators lie, consumers and businesses are making purchases. This includes software, vacation packages, cars, high-performance boats and tuxedos. Yes, there may be less volume in any given category, but that doesn't mean you can't break personal records. (I bought a greenhouse, of all things, this year--and someone sold it to me.)

2. Build the economy into your sales presentation.
Let's say you call on small-business owner clients. They've worked hard, perhaps harder than ever, to keep their companies moving forward over the last two years. So go to the heart of the matter and use it to your -- and their -- advantage.

You can say something like: "I know how tough business has been. This is the ideal time for you to remodel your home. Think of it this way, you've been foregoing your annual vacation, you need a boost -- a reward you can live with that will pay dividends for years to come. And right now I can offer you better pricing than we're likely to see again for some time."

While your competitors are walking in to commiserate with prospects, you come in as the cheerleader we all need now and then.

3. Develop promotions with colleagues or suppliers.
Everyone loves a deal, and when there is so much talk about a weak economy, a sweetheart of an offer can help turn undecided clients into buyers. For example, car wash company Splash does this. It offers a free car wash to customers on their birthdays. It also says customers can return within 72 hours of purchasing a wash, if their car is dirty again, and receive another wash at no charge.

4. Cut an hour from your workday.
That's right. Work less, not more. And, no, I'm not crazy. Why would I suggest this? Because it links to the points I make above.

The instinct, and the conventional wisdom, is to work longer and harder in a down economy. But I don't want you thinking or acting like anything is down. Because it doesn't have to be. Not for a good salesperson.

So, take time to recharge, play golf, go for a swim -- and the self-confidence this will reinforce will shine through and impact everyone you come into contact with.

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