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7 Rules for Outselling the Recession
By Jeb Blount
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2012 Jeb Blount
All rights reserved.
Rule #1 | Be Right Now
A recent survey indicated that almost 50 percent of the population is worried about losing their job. That is an amazing statistic when you consider actual numbers. Right now roughly 93 percent of American workers who wish to be employed have a job. Even if unemployment increases, as it likely will, and moves to 10 percent, that still leaves 90 percent of the population employed. There are almost no scenarios where we would have 50 percent of the population without jobs, yet as the survey says, half of American workers are worried about losing their job.
Fear is palpable everywhere I go. Everyone is scared. Most people are searching for answers. Some are so paralyzed with fear that they are taking no action at all. For many sales professionals the stress of the current economic situation is taking a toll. Besides shrinking retirement accounts and the relentless stream of bad news, corporate compensation policies are becoming less generous, customers are cutting back (which impacts commission checks), and the competition for new accounts has never been more fierce. And, to make things worse, salespeople everywhere are walking on eggshells, wondering when the next wave of cuts may leave them without a job.
But this tendency to wallow in fear and doubt is not restricted to recessions. People waste huge amounts of time worrying about what-ifs, even when things are great, even when their worry, fear, and doubt are not supported by facts or reality.
I'm not going to presume to tell you that the fear of losing your job, house, commissions, or retirement account is unfounded because it is not. I'm not going to deliver an empty message telling you that if you just manage your attitude, everything else will work out. Though attitude is very important, attitude without action can hurt you in this environment. What I am going to tell you is that with your job, business, customers, and life, you have got to take action.
The reality is that the economy stinks. And it will get worse before it gets better. Some people are going to lose their jobs, some businesses will fail, some people will take pay cuts, some people will lose their homes, some people will lose their life savings, some people will have to start over again, but some people will thrive. At some point in the future the economy will recover. Those are the facts and nothing will change those facts.
However, to sit around and wring your hands over what-ifs is a terrible existence. To measure every step and every moment because you worry about the future is a miserable way to live. Worry is debilitating. It is depressing. And it stymies action. It is a waste of energy and holds you back. Worry changes nothing. Action changes everything.
Right now you have two basic choices. You can sit and worry about what-if or you can take action. My choice is action. Not just any actions — RIGHT NOW actions. You see, if you want to survive or even thrive during this economic downturn, you've got to be RIGHT NOW.
Think about it. What actions can you take RIGHT NOW that will contribute to your company's top or bottom line? What can you do RIGHT NOW to close more business? What can you do RIGHT NOW to retain your customers? What can you do RIGHT NOW to bring additional income to your family? What can you do RIGHT NOW to get the boss to notice that you are valuable and essential to the health of the company? What can you do RIGHT NOW to ensure that you are in a position to win once the recession is over? What can you do RIGHT NOW to help another person? What can you do RIGHT NOW to enjoy life and the ones you love?
So, for example, if your main fear is losing your job, here are five things you can control right now.
First, remember — in sales, activity is everything. You must be disciplined to complete all of your customer visits, make all of your prospecting calls, hit all your new appointment and closing appointment targets. Even if you are not at quota, you don't want anyone questioning your activity. And if you are achieving your activity targets but not hitting quota, the economy, not you, may get the blame. Activity is tangible. It can be measured, analyzed, and reported up. When you hit your activity targets, the perception is that you are working hard and toeing the company line. Your company and your boss will be more likely to invest in and keep the salespeople they perceive to be hard workers. One more note here: be sure that your reports and paperwork are perfect and always on time.
Don't complain. You are stressed out, your company is cutting back, the boss is more demanding, and things are changing. You may even be asked to take a pay cut. Heed this warning: DO NOT COMPLAIN. Don't complain to anyone, for any reason, at any time, no matter what. If you complain to coworkers, they will use your words to throw you under the bus and save their own hides. And the last thing the boss wants to deal with is a complainer. The boss is likely way more stressed than you are. She doesn't need you to remind her of how bad she already feels for reducing entertainment expenses, cutting spiffs, or having to announce that the annual awards trip has been canceled. So learn to keep your mouth shut. Instead, start repeating to yourself, "I'm lucky to have this job" or "It could be worse — I could be unemployed." Keep a smile on your face, accept things as they are, and stay focused on your activity targets.
Become indispensable. In the past when companies downsized, it was always last in, first out. Today, most organizations choose who goes and who stays based on productivity. In other words, people who generate more value for the organization stay. Being indispensable means more than just doing your sales job perfectly. It means volunteering for projects, looking for ways to add value, and consistently asking the boss if there is anything you can do to help. Change your way of thinking about work. Right now your job must become everything. Devote yourself to it — even if it means putting other things (like time with your family) aside. Work longer hours, be seen often, and always offer to lend a hand. Your goal is to create the perception that you are an employee the organization cannot live without.
Make no enemies. Unfortunately, in most companies, non-salespeople don't like sales professionals. This dislike can often be motivated by jealousy. The other people in your company might be jealous because you work less, have a flexible lifestyle, go on the award trips, and outearn almost everyone — including top executives. Because of these feelings, your non-sales coworkers are looking for a reason to hate you. Normally this is not such a big deal. However, in a recessionary economy, you must not create enemies; if you have enemies, do whatever you can to repair those relationships. Be flexible with demands and difficult people. Bend over backward to accommodate them. Let insults and affronts to your character roll off your back. Smile. Be polite and respectful. Stay away from office politics at all times. And, never say a disparaging word about anyone because it will get back to them.
Be prepared to jump ship. It is always easier to find a new job when you have a job — especially if you are at the top of your game. Even in a recessionary economy, top sales professionals are in demand. The proof, there are the more than one hundred thousand sales jobs currently listed on SalesGravy.com. Unfortunately, many people start searching for their next sales job only after they get fired or laid off. You must be prepared. Start by getting your resume in order. Get a professional service to put it together for you if you don't have time. Post your résumé on job boards like Sales Gravy, where you can hide your personal information. Begin searching online to get a feel for the sales jobs that are available and which companies and industries are expanding. Most important, keep your eyes and ears open. Pay close attention to the financial moves your company makes. Don't make any career changes in haste or in a panic. The last thing you want to do is take a new job that ends up being less secure than your current job, but if, after careful consideration, you feel like your demise is inevitable and you are about to be cut, take action to make a change while you are still employed.
The only way to win in this environment is to take control of the one thing you can control — your actions right now. Consider this your wake-up call. In an economic crisis or, for that matter, any other crisis, you cannot stick your head in the ground and hide. You cannot worry, complain, or cry your way out. The only thing you can do is take charge of you, put your chin up, and move forward. RIGHT NOW.
RIGHT NOW is powerful because it is the only thing that is real. The past is unchangeable and the future has not been written. All you have is this moment. And, unlike worry, the actions and decisions you make in this moment, RIGHT NOW, have the potential to change everything. These actions motivate you and lift your spirit because when you are RIGHT NOW, you have ultimate control. So here is the question: will you act, will you stay focused, will you be RIGHT NOW, or will you squander this moment in misery worrying about what-if?CHAPTER 2
Rule #2 | Invest in Yourself
Even in times of growth and abundance, sales is a brutal profession. You are faced with unending rejection, internal roadblocks, unscrupulous competitors, and many other issues that impact your mental and physical well-being. In my book, Power Principles, I describe how these issues can add up and eventually bring you down unless you take steps to invest in yourself, your mind, your body, and your spirit.
In a crisis, maintaining your mental attitude, beliefs, knowledge, and physical stamina are as important as anything you do. In a world where you are barraged with bad news, rejection, and setbacks, many of which are beyond your control, you must have the strength and resilience to fight back. The discipline to invest in yourself is often the difference between excellence and mediocrity. But ironically, this is when many salespeople fail at personal development.
Richard, a sales professional in the business services sector, called me looking for help. He'd had a particularly bad week and was desperate. Richard had consistently been a top performer in his company but was at his wits' end. As I listened and asked questions, it became clear to me that the cumulative impact of his failure to invest in himself was about to get him fired.
Here is how he described one day that week.
I got up at around 6 A.M. and turned on the news. I flipped from Fox to MSNBC and CNN but all they talked about was how bad things are. Then I got in my car and spent forty-five minutes on the interstate. I listened to talk radio on my commute. By the time I got to work, they were saying that the stock market was going to have a bad day. You wouldn't believe how much my 401(k) has lost, so as soon as I got to the office I turned on my computer and started checking on the market and reading the news. Then I checked my e-mail inbox and got the bad news that a new customer I just closed had their credit rejected. Our accounting department has gotten insane with credit rules and I'm losing business right and left because we won't extend credit. It's just frustrating and exhausting and my commission check has been cut to the point that I'm really feeling it. We're not going on vacation this year and I don't think we can send my son Kevin to summer camp. We've had to dip into savings just to pay our bills. I've tried to explain this to my wife but she doesn't understand why I'm not selling more — she is constantly pushing me.
Normally I'd hit the phones and start prospecting, but I just didn't have the energy to face any more prospects telling me they were on a spending freeze. So I got a cup of coffee in the break room. Some other sales reps were there, too, and we started talking about all of the bad news — it seems like no one can sell anything. When I got back to my desk my sales manager pulled me aside to remind me that I was missing my quota again. I told him I was doing everything in my power to sell but no one was buying and the ones who were couldn't get credit. I know he is pissed at me, but what else can I do?
Richard's day became even bleaker. He had no appointments set because he wasn't prospecting, so he just sat around the office shuffling papers and watching the stock market drop. He justified this inactivity by explaining that no one wanted to meet with him anyway. On the way home all he could think about was how much he hated his job, but knew that he was stuck because there was nowhere else to go. By the time he got home, he said he was too tired to run like he usually did. Instead, he got into a fight with his wife over money and just vegged out in front of the TV. Richard recognized that he was on a downward spiral that had no good ending, but he didn't know what to do. One thing was clear to me: Richard was taking no action to invest in himself.
There are hundreds of thousands of salespeople who are having similar experiences. And like Richard, they have set themselves up for failure on a massive scale.
To win in this economy you must take action now to invest in yourself. You must build your knowledge and skills through daily reading, audio programs, training programs, and seminars. You must take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising. You must take care of your spirit by investing in your belief system and by controlling what you let into your heart and your mind.
Perhaps the most depressing activity we can do right now is to listen to or read the news. Doom, gloom, and disaster are always the story of the day. Spending an hour watching a cable news channel will leave you in need of an antidepressant and a therapist. And the more you watch, the more addictive it becomes. So stop. Make a commitment to turn off the news and put the newspaper down. Putting an end to this barrage of negative news will have an immediate impact on your attitude. You will feel better and your belief system will strengthen. Replace the news with an inspirational book or audio program, go to your place of worship, or simply make a list of all your blessings. Spend time with the people you love. Listen. Talk. Invest in your relationships. Put good stuff in and get focused on managing your thoughts and self-talk.
Notice the words you are using when you talk to others. Are you complaining about the economy? Do you whine about sales being down? Do you talk about "how bad things are"? These words are powerful. Though you might not realize it, they are hurting you and making you feel depressed. Start making a conscious effort to find positive things to talk about. Stop complaining to others. Excuse yourself from negative conversations. And when people ask you how you are, smile and say, "I'm great!" You will be surprised at how quickly your positive words manifest themselves as positive feelings.
Studies have shown that we talk to ourselves at the rate of up to three hundred words a minute. In fact, we are talking to ourselves almost constantly during the day. Imagine the impact on your attitude if that internal conversation is filled with negativity. Pay attention to what you are saying to yourself. When your self-talk turns negative, take control and cut it off. Learn to replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and statements. Self-talk is powerful. It is the little voice inside that gives you the strength to overcome adversity.
In an economic downturn you are going to have those days, weeks, and even months where everything that can go wrong, will. I mean everything — both personally and professionally. These series of failures and setbacks will sap your strength and kill your optimistic attitude. Like Richard, in a fit of anger, you may shout out loud, "What else can possibly go wrong?"
In The All-Star Sales Book, author Billy Cox says, "I've always heard that when life knocks you down you need to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up." Cox goes on to explain the defining difference between average people and all-stars: "When All-Stars get knocked down, they get back up. They refuse to stay down for long. Although bruised and sometimes wounded, they pick themselves up and start over again."
Excerpted from 7 Rules for Outselling the Recession by Jeb Blount. Copyright © 2012 Jeb Blount. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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