This is the first of two posts on AchieveGlobal’s study on business-to-business selling during an economic downturn, covered in our report, “Surveying the Sales Landscape: The B2B Response to a Changing Economy.” Be sure to read the complete report.
Think of a difficult time in your life, a period of major change or uncertainty. Now think of the people who mattered or helped you make it through that phase. Chances are those people left a positive imprint with you because they weren’t seeking their own needs; they focused on you and what you needed during that tricky time.
The same should go for the relationship between a sales organization and its customers during difficult times.
The recent economic crisis has affected business on very fundamental levels. It’s almost as though we’ve changed the very lenses through which we see the world. For business-to-business (B2B) sales organizations, sales numbers have changed dramatically in most cases. And that affects how B2B sales companies go about the business of selling.
In a recent study, we checked in with B2B sales professionals to get their feedback on how the economy was affecting their sales and their outlook for the near future. Not surprisingly, most of our participants absolutely agreed that the economy had impacted their sales numbers, and that customer spending behaviors had changed.
When your business focuses on sales, economic change is scary. We found that a large segment of survey participants were using what seemed to be fear-based strategies: responding to customer requests for price concessions and offering shorter-term commitments for their customers.
Not so surprising was the fact that many participating sales professionals seemed to have overlooked the importance of improving customer service, and really focusing on relationship selling.
Study after study reminds us that during economic shrinkage, we need to focus more heavily on providing valuable advice and guidance for customers who themselves are trying to find ways to navigate the change.
It’s important to acknowledge and deal with our own fears, but once you get past that, you need to focus on serving the people who define your existence. What are their fears and what are the realities facing their industry? What are experts in their field saying about thriving during the downturn?
The shift in focus is from “what should we do to survive?” to “how can I help you thrive?”
Sharon Daniels is CEO of AchieveGlobal in Tampa, Florida