Has anyone asked you the hard question yet? In tough times, we are often asked, What are we doing about it? Sales Managers especially will be asked this as soon as revenues start to slip below forecast. My advice is this: have an answer.
The expectation behind the question is that you already have been thinking and planning and that you have some ideas even in the face of unforeseen, unprecedented difficulties. If the person asking is your boss, it means that your bosss boss and all those up the chain to the board of directors are also asking (or soon will be asking).
So dont let the uncertainty overwhelm you. Instead sit down with pencil and paper, perhaps with a close circle of advisors, and generate an idea list. Brainstorm freely, without critique, rejecting no idea at this stage. The world has changed, so take the opportunity to think outside the box.
Once you have a list, then spend some time thinking and evaluating (but dont get stuck there). First make sure your ideas are not harmful. Resist the urge to slash prices. Instead, make small investments with the resources you have. For example, run a contest with prizes, enlist others in the organization in part-time sales work or networking, give something away, launch a new educational seminar program, implement a new customer satisfaction survey, implement training or a coaching program. Look for things that bring more people into contact with more customers, more frequently. Look for things that improve skills or productivity. Everyone in the organization wants to help, so enlist them. Everyone is willing to work harder and longer in tough times if they understand the purpose and how it will help.
Dont forget to look for things to stop doing; this is great time to get rid of administrative work that is benefiting too few stakeholders. Move meetings into early morning or weekends or cancel them altogether.
As you begin to make choices, expect that you will try and discard many ideas to stimulate sales in the coming months, so dont get hung up looking for a perfect solution. Instead, look for things you can try quickly, measure easily and abandon quickly if they arent producing results. This is a great time to have a bias for action. If you dont have that bias naturally, then call on your people who do. You know the ones who never seem to analyze anything. Try to have a new pilot project ready to implement with a different group of people every month.
And when you go to your management meetings, be prepared to present the ideas youve tried, how they worked or didnt, what you learned and what new things are coming next. Avoid at all costs saying, Well, weve tried everything and were running out of ideas. Thats the signal that the company needs someone who has more ideas that you do.
You will likely find that some of your programs didnt do what you expected, but they had other good results that you didnt foresee. Publicize those! Improving morale is critically important in tough times. On the other hand, you may just find something that works, something that everyone should be doing. If so, quickly turn that pilot program into a training and implementation program. Make celebrities out of the pilot team and get them to help everyone else get rolling. Youll also find that some people get results with a new program and some dont. Some are reluctant to try and some are unable to adapt to a new environment. Identifying performance problems quickly is another valuable outcome in a challenging time.
This can be an exciting time if you manage it well. Tough times have the power to transform people and revive sluggish organizations. So dont just stand there do something!
Technical Sales Consultants, LLC