“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” — Dale Carnegie
Almost all business problems are sales problems. Jim used to run a transport business, with three big trucks that he had imported from America. For a while, the business was doing well, enabling Jim to pay back the loan he had borrowed to start the business. In fact, he managed to buy himself two more small trucks and a stand in the northern suburbs where he is building a big house for his family.
Unfortunately, Jim’s long-term business plans were halted late last year. Overwhelmed by huge salaries and rental arrears, Jim had to sell the two trucks that were still in running condition. He used the proceeds to pay off some of his debts, but not all of them and he is still having sleepless nights over how he will get out of debt.
This is not an isolated story. There are thousands of business owners who are facing the same scenario as Jim, as we see businesses go under daily in the tough economic environment we are living in.
As Jim analysed his situation, he explained to me that his business had thrived for years from regular contracts he got to deliver grain and other commodities for a large agro-industry company listed on the stock exchange. However, the company decided to cut costs and moved the transport function in-house. When this happened, Jim started looking for transportation orders from different organisations. He got a few jobs but they were not as frequent or as big as the ones from his previous client. Costs continued to spiral while revenues went downhill. Jim had no choice but to close shop.
Jim said he learned many lessons from this experience — the most important being that a business cannot survive without growing sales and revenues above expenses.
As a business leader, you and everyone in your business must focus on acquiring customers and selling more. How can you achieve that?
Believe you can sell more
One of the problems with all of this talk about recession is that once people believe there is going to be a recession, they start to feel negative about their business prospects and only tend to see what they believe rather than believing what they see.
Once you believe that there is going to be a recession, you tend to only notice articles, comments and statistics that support your beliefs. What’s more, your negative beliefs quickly affect your outlook and the way you feel about your business prospects.
Having a positive and supportive belief structure is essential if you want to succeed in any market, but it is vitally essential if you want to keep on selling in a tough one.
Having a winning belief system does not mean that you need to be deluded however! In the middle of the darkest recession, you don’t want to have your eyes shut. But you have to understand that in a downturn, clients want to partner with the best companies. Suppliers that can be relied on. Suppliers that support them. Suppliers who are going to be around tomorrow. And if your competitors struggle, that means more sales and more business for you.
You need to be more proactive. Much more proactive. You need to do more marketing and more selling. You need to attend more events and do more networking. You need to do more promotion and more canvassing. You need to increase your sales activities, maybe dramatically. In a recession many companies cut their sales activities. They figure, “If we’re not going to sell anything, what’s the point?”
Cut your activity, cut your sales. You are a living, breathing, self-fulfilling prophecy! You believe there is not much business out there, so you feel negative. That in turn affects your activity and your activity destroys your sales results.
For example, there are more than 20 ways to sell a product. Most companies limit themselves to just one or two instead of continually exploring alternatives.
If you see less business then you need to do more sales and marketing, not less. That is common sense.
“Do not find customers for your products, find products for your customers”. — Seth Godin.
The most successful business owners know their customers very well and not only understand their needs and their problems, but they also anticipate their future needs and make plans to satisfy them in the future. If you spend time talking to your best customers, you close the door for your competitors. For example, someone in Jim’s situation could have known about the client’s concern over costs and offered them a viable solution before they booted him out.
So do not just sit there and moan, do something, get out there on the ground, find out what your competitors are doing better than you are and offer more value and better solutions to your customers.
Until next time, keep on accelerating your growth.
Phillip Chichoni is a consultant who helps SMEs and entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses. You may contact him by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit www.admiralbiz.wordpress.com, or phone +263-4-700812.