During “Forget Market Fluctuations: Succeed Regardless of the Economy” at ASI Show Chicago, Meridith Elliott Powell said that too many salespeople stand in the way of their own success during uncertain times and a rapidly changing marketplace. In fact, she says that if everything is different in the business environment, then reps need a different strategy. And, since most clients are starting the sales process – reading magazines, networking with others for ideas, etc. – without a distributor, selling stuff isn’t going to differentiate one from another. “You have to build your reputation in the marketplace,” she says.
Elliott Powell presented a three-pronged approach that involves attracting business by building a reputation, networking and not selling based on the lowest price.
To build a reputation one can write blogs or press releases about all the awesome things your company has done – worked with the homeless, “we give back to the community”; been selected as an elite supplier, “we did it because of our customers’ support for so many years”; etc. By building the reputation, you make connections with buyers. “The products and services are not a differentiator for your business,” she says. “At the end of the day, buying is always emotional.”
As for networking, Elliott Powell says most people hate it and, quite frankly, were given terrible advice in the past: repeat a person’s name three times, give out lots of business cards and create a great 30 second elevator pitch. But, she insists that networking must be part of everyone’s sales process. “But, we walk into a room and gravitate to someone we know. That’s a waste of your time,” she says. Her advice is to find someone, ask open ended questions and make the conversation about them. When you build connections, you build trust.
Finally, salespeople need to understand that customers are not necessarily price-sensitive, but they will default to that if that’s what you’re selling. “You need to sell from a place of power rather than a place of need,” she says. “If you’re not selling, ‘why I should pay you more?’ I’m never going to pay your price.” To get that optimum price, reps need to figure out what it is that truly sets them apart, then start to create that reputation. Get to the point where price is not the reason why your clients work with you and you will survive in any economic climate.