Let’s face it. We’re being pummeled with bad news about the economy from all media outlets. Our market segment has been hit hard by the credit and sub-prime mortgage crunch. Customers are taking longer to make purchase decisions or worse, holding on to their money and putting off expenditures indefinitely. It makes for a difficult sales environment. Not to diminish the economic challenges we are facing, but with bad news there is also opportunity if you have a solution that truly can help your customers improve their efficiency and positively impact the bottom line. Every business needs to look at operational efficiency, and even more so in tough economic times – but it is often put on the back burner due to just trying to stay on top of day-to-day projects. In order to stay competitive as the business climate changes managers need to make sure that all available resources are operating at peak efficiency. When selling into this environment you need to sit down with your prospective customers and identify areas where you can help them save money while being able to provide them with the goods and services they desire. In a pure B to C (Business to Consumer) sales process, you will need to show why the time is right to make the purchase and try to assure the customer that they are in fact making a good purchase decision. While it may be difficult to justify the purchase and install of a new home theatre for example, with the housing market in its current state it may also be the perfect time to make improvements that homeowners can enjoy – especially if they are planning to stay where they are for the time being. Since you will be competing with other expenditures such as vacations, etc. you will need to appeal to what may in fact be the better investment over time – and give them hours of entertainment and quality family time in the process. From a B-to-B (Business to Business) perspective, in tough economic times it’s the product or solution that helps companies increase revenue or reduce their time and costs that does well. It is the job of the sales person to help the customer identify their specific problem areas and how their product or solution addresses them. For example, our software helps our customers in two critical areas – top line revenue and bottom line costs. Our customers are primarily residential and commercial system integrators who are delivering product and services to both B-to-C and B-to-B markets. Our solution enables these companies to quickly and easily generate accurate proposals based on actual product data and labor rates. By generating professional looking customer documentation and detailed system designs from a single project file, our customers can win more jobs – and the ability to track all project elements based on data that includes products, accessories, labor resources and other elements will help them increase their profitability per project. But just because we can help them in both areas does not guarantee that we will get the sale. We as sales people need to directly relate the value we bring to their specific needs – whether the prospective customer is having trouble competing to win projects (in which case we can help them generate professional, accurate sales proposals and system designs – positively affecting top line revenue), or if they are losing money per project (we can help them better track labor costs, resources, and overall aspects of a project – helping them reduce their time and costs). It is critical for a business solution sale to demonstrate that your product or solution can help the customer solve their specific problem or pain point. If you can solve the customer’s pain then you can overcome one of the biggest objections or obstacles to a sale – price. When someone is looking to solve a problem price should become a non-factor when compared to the value of the solution. If you can point to a positive ROI and show the customer a better way to manage their everyday processes, then you have demonstrated the value of your solution and negotiations have just turned in your favor. Price should become a non-issue because you have shown that there is a tangible cost for not making a decision. From a B to C perspective, it is important to develop a rapport with your customer and demonstrate your value in terms of listening to what it is they would like to have in a given system and proving to them that your design and installation expertise will be the best choice for them. If you develop that trust and follow through on your promises you will inevitably gain a customer that will gladly tell their friends about you and your services and they will help you build your referral network. At the end of the day in a tough economic environment you need to go back to the basics and make sure that you have a clear process for not only getting new business, but for following through and delivering on time and to budget. Tools that will help you achieve this will be invaluable and provide you with a more solid business foundation for when the economy improves – giving you a head start on the competition. Whatever your service or solution may be – if it has tangible value it is the job of the sales professional to demonstrate that value to the customer, and the job of the project manager to deliver on time and to-budget. In tightening economic conditions this is the perfect opportunity for a win-win.