Jan 30, 2023 • Podcast

How do I sell in a tough market?

Paul lays out four ways to be more persuasive and to move your deals forward, even in a tough time.

Show Notes

When your customers are tempted to hit Pause, you need to convince them to take action.

Use analogy. Just as some invest when the stock market is down, position your solution as an investment during this low period to help them be better prepared for the upturn that is to follow. 

Help your customers think beyond the present tough time in two ways: past tough times (and how they overcame them), and the future (and how they want to be positioned).

Be a merchant of hope. Surround the customer with positive industry information.

Sell the buyer on the opportunity you are presenting them today. What does your solution enable the customer to do?

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How do I sell in a tough market?

(Transcribed from podcast)

On today’s episode, we are going to focus on how we can help our buyers and our decision makers take action during a tough market. We know that during a recession or during a downturn—really whenever there is uncertainty—our customers are tempted to hit the pause button. What we’re going to focus on today’s episode is really how we can help them move forward. So, the question we’re going to answer is, “How do I sell in a tough market?” I’m going to give you four ideas to help you be more persuasive and to move your deals forward.

Before we get into that, just a reminder, pick up your copy of Selling Through Tough Times. This is your go-to guide to help you grow profits and build mental resilience through any downturn. In this book, I outlined the critical selling activities that will help you be more successful in this tough market. So pick up your copy. It’s available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, wherever you get your books.

So let’s get back to that question: How do I sell in a tough market? We have to remember that in a tough market, we are trying to get our buyers to take action. That’s what we’re getting them to do because they are tempted to hit the pause button. So, the first tip to help your customers take action and to sell in a tough market is to use analogy. Analogy is powerful. We make decisions based on precedent. So we’re going to look at the decision we have in front of us, and we are going to draw a parallel. We are going to look at this decision and decide, “Okay, how is this similar to other decisions that I’ve made in the past?” And if you can position your solution as an investment, you are going to help draw on what we call the stock market analogy.

Think about this, many of our customers, they view a downturn in the stock market as a buying opportunity. We can also position our solution in a similar fashion. When customers are facing a downturn, when the market is down, when they’re facing a recession in their industry, they will view that as an opportunity to invest in their business the same way that many investors invest in the stock market. And what we’re playing on here is the whole concept of during a downturn, that is the time to pool your resources and invest them to help you position yourself for a better future.

So here’s how you may position this to a customer. Use a statement—a positioning statement. For example, “You know, Mr. Customer, what we’re facing right now in the industry is similar to a dip in the stock market. Just like you invest in a stock market dip, you can also invest in this dip to help you better position yourself for the upturn that is to follow.” That is a powerful analogy that is going to inspire your customers to take action. So use that analogy.

The next thing we need to do is get customers out of the present moment. Sometimes the present moment is filled with uncertainty, and we don’t want our buyers feeling uncertain. We don’t want them making a decision in the fog of uncertainty. So what we want to do is either get them into the past or catapult them into the future. Here’s the benefits of both. So getting our customers into the past can help us revisit a previous tough time. And you may be thinking, “Paul, why in the heck do you want them to think about a previous tough time?” Well, here’s why. As they look back on that tough time, they realize two things. Number one, their business has grown immensely since the tough time, also, that previous tough time did not last. Those are two important factors, because it helps them attain a better state of mind to make their decision.

So here’s how you may position it: “Mr. Customer, let’s look back at the previous downturn: 2008/2009—The Great Recession. Your company has grown immensely since that downturn.”

So what we’re doing is we’re bringing them back to the past and we’re letting them know, hey, you survived the past tough time, and your business has grown. So now we can call attention to some of the decisions they made.

So, continuing with that positioning statement: “Mr. Customer, looking back at 2008/2009, your company has grown immensely. What were some of the decisions you made then to better position to take full advantage of the upturn that followed?”

All right, so now we’re getting them to think a little more strategically how they can invest, how they can make decisions. Now you can also ask another question. You can say, “You know, hindsight’s 20/20. Knowing that we’re going to come out of this tough time as well, what are some things you would like to do different? What are some things you wish you would’ve done?”

And this is a way for them to almost go back and look at this current opportunity as a way to better position themselves. So that’s how we stretch their time horizon backwards. This gets them out of the present moment.

The other thing we can do is get them thinking into the future. So when the buyer’s thinking into the future, they’re more focused on outcomes than they are focused on what they must sacrifice today. So we can ask questions like this: “Mr. Customer, when things start to pick up in a next 6 months or 12 months, what are your priorities going to be?”

That’s a great question because it gets them thinking into the future when business picks back up or, what, a year or two from now. “What would cause you to say that you’re glad you decided to move forward with this project?” That question details outcomes, and it takes the focus off of what they must sacrifice today. So again, just to recap this: we want to get them out of the present moment by either going to the past or going to the future, or you can do a little bit of both.

Next thing—we want to be a merchant of hope. If we’re trying to sell in a tough market, our customers are going to use our enthusiasm to inspire them to take action. And so, we want to surround them with positivity. We want to share good news. You want to be an information source for your customer. That means we need to find positive information.

Now, I know just watching the news and reading the papers, 90% of what you read is going to be negative, but that means 10% could be positive. So we need to find positive news related to their industry, positive news that is going to help inspire action, and we need to share that with our customers. We call this being a merchant of hope. Maya Angelou famously said that “people may not remember what you did or what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.” The question is, how do you make your prospects feel during a downturn? Be that merchant of hope.

Then finally, one other piece. We need to sell the opportunity value. How you sell in a tough market is, you sell the buyer on the opportunity that you are presenting them today. So you’ve got to ask yourself, “Okay, what does our solution enable our customers to do? Do we allow them to solve more problems? Are we allowing them to serve their customers more effectively? What does our solution give our customers the opportunity to do?” And what we want to do is we want to position that to our customers so they see it, they feel it, they almost can experience it in their mind. And once they are aware of what we call that opportunity value, they’re also aware of the value they’re going to forego if they decide not to move.

So here’s how you may position this. And I’m making this up on the fly. But you say to your customer, “You know, Mr. Customer, here’s what we can help you do. Here’s what we’ll help you do tomorrow that you cannot do today. We’re going to help you serve your customers better. We’re going to help you solve problems more efficiently. We know the investment to move forward is going to be a $100,000 but consider the cost of not moving forward.” That last question, consider the cost of not moving forward, that means the customer’s still going to experience those problems. They’re still going to serve their inefficiently or unproductively. In doing so, that’s going to cost them money as well. So we’ve got to be prepared to present that opportunity.

So just a quick recap. Number one, use analogy. Number two, get them out of the present moment by either going to the past or catapulting them into the future. Be a merchant of hope; be a positive news source. And then finally, sell that opportunity value.

Make it a big day.

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