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[February 4, 2003]

Customer Catcher™

By Martin Wales

Can You Sell Anything These Days?

What the heck is going on? Who’s thinking of buying anything with all this commotion on our little planet? Internationally, the possibility of war is stronger every day and the likelihood of global unrest continues, even without an ‘official’ war. The threat of and our vulnerability to terrorism has not faded since September 11th. Nationally, the space shuttle Columbia, and its brave crew of seven met their untimely fate. Although the risks were always there, shuttle landings were barely news anymore because they were continually successful. Other news is no brighter. Economically, the markets remain stagnant in the valleys of stock loss and investor distrust in the midst of continued investigations and fines on Wall Street, bringing us full circle, the winds of war.

So, in thinking of what to write about this month, I thought I might address selling and marketing in tough times. Why? I’m not a psychiatrist, psychotherapist or counselor but I have been accused of being an optimist -- no matter what -- so I thought I would present my approach to all this #%*&@*! happening around us. Consider this the Customer Catcher pep talk.

Let’s take a closer look. It’s not the standard fare of dealing with objections, or economic hardship, which lead to organizations’ belt-tightening and cost savings programs but the emotional state of the companies and individuals we sell to or work with. Here are some general tips for working on your psyche to stay on top of your sales and marketing game.

Just decide. Decide to focus on whatever good you can find in your day. Focus on your family, friends and co-workers. What great things are happening so close to us? Are your kids winning at sports or getting high grades in school? Any new babies being born to family and friends or has a colleague been promoted? You don’t want to present a fake attitude or act like you’re in ignorant bliss but I guarantee there is something positive and fun to talk about within your sphere of life.

We all know the bad stuff happens without our help, which means we can devote ALL our energies to making good things happen. Be proactive in your communications and your approach. Note your mood before you start your day. The first step to improving anything, including your mental state, is knowing where you are now. Listen to your favorite music instead of the news in the car. When you phone someone, commit to being the most positive person they speak to today and to finding ways of making them smile before you disconnect.

There are many companies that thrive despite all that is going on around them. They continue to focus on their goals. True, they may have to adjust to the environment, but they remain focused with the “end in mind.” By over-emphasizing the negative events, we distract or depress ourselves to the point of taking our “eyes off the ball.” In racing car school, they teach you that if you start to spin out not to look at the wall. If you look at the wall, you drive into it. You need to focus on the direction where you steer clear of the wall.

If many people are feeling overwhelmed, you have the opportunity to give them a boost with your uplifting and positive communications. Phone your network just to say “Hi,” and let them know you’re moving forward and good-to-go! Utilize a positive vocabulary and avoid empathizing downwards. Rather than reinforcing someone’s slump, jolt them upwards with your personal determination to make things better despite current events.

A common statement typical from any sales trainer is “Enthusiasm sells.” More specifically, it’s your ability to bring a positive perspective to a prospect or to instill a strong sense of confidence about you and your service. If you let yourself get mired down in the death, misery and pain broadcast by the media, it’s harder to get yourself enthusiastic and motivated, let alone transfer that to your prospective clients. Again, it goes back to focus.

Remember sports events where the favored athletes lose their competition? Even though they were favored or recognized as the most skilled, they were bettered by a hungry underdog. Look at many championship teams, from the Super Bowl for football to the World Series for baseball, and you will find that the teams with the League’s “superstars” didn’t necessarily win. How much are you or your staff driven by a team commitment to support those around you, from co-workers to clients, rather than “superstars” looking for individual or financial glory? When we’re more concerned about others, we don’t have as much time for self-pity or worry.

I recently read, “Leadership is about action, not position.” If you are planning any public relations events, see if you can tie them to raising money for a trust fund set up after a tragedy, like those for victims of fires. Help the armed forces and their families communicate across the globe, if you have technology for better communication and can offer it at reduced rates or free.

Opposites attract. If you’re a positive, confident individual that communicates respectfully and with integrity, then you are likely to draw the interest of a prospect who is feeling relatively negative or apprehensive.

As horrible as some things are, if we get really honest with ourselves, many have little relation to our business life or situation. We like to attach our shortcomings to worldly issues to rationalize our poor results or efforts, e.g. “I’m not getting on the phone today because I feel bad about this or that.” As our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the Columbia’s crew, the people at NASA remain resolute in the continuation of their work in space. Excluding space agency suppliers, how much has the NASA Shuttle program affected your company in the past five years or ever? So why should it now?

Use the events of the world in contrast to your life to not only see how good you’ve got it but to motivate yourself. The astronauts literally and willingly put their lives on the line to further science and technology, yet some people fear something as simple as picking up a phone to call someone they don’t know. We don’t have to ride on thousands of gallons of flammable gas to reach our business goals, so why are there so many excuses for how difficult it is “out there?”

Yes, there are people with available budgets to invest in your products and services. They might just be a bit distracted, stunned or living in fear. What can we do to move them to action, whether it’s to get a deal closed or even something as simple as visiting our Web site? We must remain aware of our own emotional states and leverage whatever means necessary to keep ourselves ‘up’ in order to remain energized and focused on our sales and marketing success. So, have a nice day!

Martin Wales, The Customer Catcher™, helps technology companies generate easy, profitable sales by "Skipping the Selling and Getting to the Sales™." Learn more from the audiotape series, Profit from PR Power: How to Successfully Sell Any Technology Using Affordable, Effective & Powerful Media Promotion. Hear PR pros reveal their step-by-step systems for building brand awareness, using affordable strategies and tactics. E-mail us today at [email protected] with "PR Power" in the subject line for your special TMC-subscriber, limited-time offer.

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