"The Navigator" News Blog

What to Do When Business is Down

I hear salespeople say, “Troy, business is down,” a lot.  After my years of experience in sales, I usually translate that to, “Troy, sales aren’t coming to me as easily as they used to.”  As a manager and coach, I think, “You aren’t selling enough.”  Don’t get me wrong; our profession is definitely affected by economic conditions that we don’t get to set or create.  Sometimes those conditions harm us and sometimes they help us.

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t change our own economic conditions.  Despite what I hear sometimes, it’s rare that “nobody is buying anything.”  “Nobody is buying anything” means that “not enough people are buying things from me.”  Look – the aspect of selling that I love the most is that we are the tip of the economic spear, and we have the opportunity to be our own economy.  When “business is down,” it’s time to innovate, get aggressive, and keep our own economy strong.  Here are a few ways:

  1. Ramp up your prospecting.  I’ve always said that the real job description of a salesperson is to be a “self-contained business generation machine.”  In selling, the big bucks go to the salespeople who are continually building and growing their businesses, and who do not allow themselves to get complacent.  Yes, it’s true that prospecting is a slow play now.  The prospecting call you make now might not initiate a Buyer’s Journey for six months or so – or it might start one right now.  And even if it is six months out, if you don’t prospect now, the journey won’t start then.  Or worse, it will start and it won’t include YOU.
  2. Use every sales call to develop your customers.  The number one cause of sales stagnation is the agenda-free sales call.  Don’t make your calls on existing customers just to make them and get a pat on the head.  Have a reason and an objective.  Get away from the rote “how are things going” calls with your existing customers, and instead start using EVERY CALL to build your business.  Sell them more stuff, deepen relationships, and get some referrals.
  3. Work on your LinkedIn.   If you’re not on LinkedIn (and yes, I talk to salespeople and even managers who aren’t), there’s a good chance you’re losing business to someone who is.  Create a network, post relevant insights, and give people the opportunity to hold up their hands.
  4. Get some testimonials.  When customers tell you what a great job you’re doing, what do you do?  Do you just grin and say “thanks,” or do you ask them to put that information in the form of a testimonial? Testimonials can be video (the preferred method – smartphones make this incredibly easy), written on letterhead, or even posted on LinkedIn as a recommendation.  What matters is that your customers are willing to state, for the record, how good you are and how you have solved their issues and fulfilled their needs.  Once you have a testimonial, you can post it EVERYWHERE.  And you should.
  5. Innovate and diversify.  Sometimes we get locked into a particular type of thinking that works against us.  For instance, we have a product that works really well in one market, and that’s the market we sell to.  That product might work well in another market, but we don’t take it to that market.  Maybe that means facing new competition, new buyer types, and other fear-inducing challenges.  Who cares?  If your current buyers have slowed down, your opportunity cost for trying to find a different kind of buyer is near zero.  So do it.  I’m exhausted by the phrase “think outside the box,” but this is a good moment to do it.
  6. For the Owners and Managers, if you can’t change your people, change your people.  If your people aren’t doing the right things – if they’re complacent and unwilling to take the actions needed to build your business – then it’s perfectly OK to give them opportunities, training, and tools to change their behavior.  I encourage it, for that matter, whether I’m the one providing the tools and training or not.  With that said, if your people refuse to take hold of those opportunities, they’ve given you little choice.  Your salespeople should be the driving force behind growth at their company.  If they’re not, you might not have the right people.

I see entirely too many salespeople that moan, “Business is down,” and whose strategy seems to be to wait until “business picks up.”  Nonsense.  When business is down, it is not a time for complacency, for comfort, or for defeatism.  Whatever profit you don’t make in 2024 won’t come back; that opportunity is gone forever.  If you’re down because “business is down,” it’s time to take a deep breath, remember why you feel in love with selling, and go back out and improve your OWN business.