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Dealing with Fear and Hesitancy

The only thing predictable is unpredictability. As a trainer and coach to sales professionals across the country, I've seen some trends we all need to be more aware of.

Fear and hesitancy can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for both us, and our customers! We have an important role as catalysts of our customers' perceptions and actions. If you allow their actions to be controlled by fearful "what ifs," you're doing them, your employer, and yourself a disservice. Second, if you spread doom and gloom, you'll be inflicting one person's reluctance (as well as your own) on another.

The definition of our work, our job descriptions and our responsibilities has dramatically changed. And we'd better be ready. First, some fast "101." Selling isn't solving a shipping problem, and popping in once a week ‘just in case' the client wants to see us (which we usually do more for our own sake than theirs). Selling, REAL selling, is:

selling an appointment with a prospective customer
getting them to open up about their needs, goals, concerns and fears, and
providing solutions in a compelling manner, through which the prospect becomes a customer.
THAT'S selling...and we sometimes forget it.

Here are 3 steps that are critical right now to help our customers and prospects through these turbulent times:

1) Make Awesome Connections.

We've got to uncover their fears. That's right....fears. Most people, business or consumer, make buying decisions based on emotion, then back ‘em up with logic, right So, even a corporate decision-maker might tell you, "domestic orders are in a downturn, so we anticipate a slowdown in our own production," may well be basing the decision on the fears of, "if I buy parts, but can't sell goods, I'm in trouble." The future looks gloomy to them, so no decision is better than the wrong decision. Find their fear, and help them find an action plan. A business owner in Portland told me they've shifted their focus from selling in, to helping their customers find customers. Now, they're busier than ever. (Aside to price-only sellers: If the only tool you have is to slash prices, you've been commodity selling, and could be in for a rough ride.)

2) Customers are Still Out There!

Even if your sales are trending down. Even if your national trade associations are predicting, say, "a 20% downturn," it means there is still 80% of the business out there (and that's not messing with's reality!) The business is there for those who have the drive, discipline and desire to WIN. New business development was never a part-time thing or an ‘only-in-slow-times' thing. If, based on the slowdowns of the past year, you didn't already have an aggressive new business plan in place, you've made a strategic mistake. But don't keep waiting, either. It's not going to come looking for you. We've all got to work harder, and smarter

3) Throw a Lot of " I-Know-What-Customers-Want" Philosophies Out the Window.

Right now, companies who are spending are spending with suppliers they see as partners. Those who have positioned themselves as people who want to help them grow....not vendors who want to hit their own numbers. I'm not a fan of discounts or giveaways but, if necessary, AND ONLY AFTER YOU'VE GIVEN THEM COMPELLING REASONS TO BUY, they might be introduced into the equations. (Price cuts, alone, almost never work. And they're real tough to raise again after the crisis has settled.

This year will separate the sales pros from order-takers. We have an obligation to our customers, employers and selves. I'm not trying to over-state our own importance (especially compared to real heroes, like the rescue teams in New York and D.C., our national leaders in Washington, or the incredible gallantry of our own armed forces), but we all have a role, and ours is to the economy. Taking that role seriously will keep our customers' economy secure, vibrant and growing.

Joe Guertin, is a Wisconsin-based sales speaker, trainer and consultant. Mr. Guertin is part of the WMEP Alliance Network.

TEN TIPS For Dealing with Hesitancy and Fear

1) Make Connections Real Connections. Uncover your customers' fears. This will be critical to building an open partnership.

2) Create a New Business Action Plan Even in sluggish times, there's new business out there!

3) Target New, Niche Categories Keep your focus, but explore new markets, too.

4) Analyze Past Activities Go back and call last year's "No's".

5) Increase Face-to-Face Activity Get out more often. In-Person visits will be essential.

6) Make Every Meeting Count Transform a sales call into a ‘meeting of the minds'.

7) Avoid Becoming a ‘Nay-Sayer' Be real, but be positive. Uncover the positives in economic news. Bring success stories.

8) Use Technology to Be Efficient Maximize phone and e-mail to make more contacts.

9) Invest Time in Skill-Building Knowledge is power. Read books and magazines on your own profession.

10) Keep Yourself Motivated Remember, street fighters maximize sales boosting activity and that always pays off.

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WMEP provides technical expertise and hands-on implementation assistance to small and midsize manufacturing firms on advanced manufacturing technologies and business practices includinglean manufacturing, ISO, value chain management, and strategic repositioning services for manufacturers and manufacturing facilities located in Wisconsin.

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