‘Many people fear that with the current economic recession their customers are going to cut back on projects, stop spending, purchase less, or sacrifice quality and buy only from the lowest-priced vendor,” says David Wanetick, managing director of Village Boulevard-based executive consulting firm IncreMental Advantage (www.incrementaladvantage.com) and its sister firm, Business Development Academy (www.bdacademy.com).

Wanetick and Myron Gellman, managing director of the Mercadien Group (www.mercadien.com) at 3625 Quakerbridge Road, will present “Recession-Proof Selling Techniques,” on Friday, January 30, at 1:30 p.m. at Mercadien. Cost: $25. To register call 609-919-1895, ext. 100.

“Negotiating and sales are very similar,” says Wanetick, and at some point in time, “everyone must sell something.” It doesn’t matter whether or not you have the word “sales” in your job description, at some time in your business career you will be selling the feasibility of a new program, or even yourself to the HR department.

It doesn’t take a recession or even just a “soft economy” to create problems for a business. “Every business has ups and downs,” Wanetick says. “Even if things are going great for you right now, you need to develop business-generating strategies that succeed when times are tough.”

Instead of looking at the recession as a problem, Wanetick suggests it can become an opportunity to gain new clients and boost sales. To do so, however, you must understand the techniques that work best in recessionary times.

Become more targeted. Almost everyone in business has heard the phrase, “Know you target market.” But during a recession, you must become even more focused and targeted, Wanetick says. “A few years ago it was easier for a salesperson to get his or her foot in the door. Today many companies have cut back on the number of employees they have, so there are fewer people doing more of the work. That means that your prospects have less time to spare to listen to a sales pitch.”

All this means that you “need to really target their pain points,” says Wanetick. “Determine what problems your clients have, what is giving them pain, and tell them how you can relieve it.”

Find the trigger. A “trigger event,” explains Wanetick, is something that makes your potential customer more ready to buy.” For instance, a new home buyer might be more likely to want a burglar alarm, a lawn care service, or a host of other products and services related to the home. If you are selling home goods, target new neighborhoods. Obtain a list of recently purchased homes rather than blanketing a neighborhood where people have lived for many years.

Demonstrate your relevance. In a slow economy people are more interested in making sure that what they do choose to purchase has value. Show the customer the value your product has for them. Be prepared to show how it can save them money or time; how it will make some aspect of their life better.

Also, help customers understand how your product is an essential part of their own sales success. “General Motors can’t sell a car without brakes,” Wanetick says. “They need the brake supplier to sell their cars. Explaining relevance is particularly important in a service business. “You have to realize that when you are selling a service, you are really delivering peace of mind.”

Put the “social” back in networking. Social networking has taken on a new meaning these days, says Wanetick. Many people rely heavily on online networking sites to make contacts and meet new people. Try it the old-fashioned way too, though.

“Get face to face with your clients and prospects,” Wanetick says. People want to buy from friends, from people they know, like, and trust. Getting out and meeting with clients in person helps to develop those social relationships.

Develop your pipeline. Here’s a hard truth: You might have to work harder to get the same amount of business in a slow economy. That means it is even more important than ever to have potential customers in your pipeline. And one of the best places to search for new customers is by asking your current clients for referrals.

You may also want to reconsider your customer base. If you’ve focused only on large volume customers, you may be able to repackage your services to accommodate smaller clients with smaller budgets.

Don’t forget to contact older, possibly dormant accounts, either. When times were easy you may have been able to just sit back and wait for a customer to call you. When business is slow, remind those old clients that you are still there. Look through your old leads and prospects. Just because someone said no a few months ago, doesn’t mean they’ll say it now.

Learn about your competitors. Knowing what your competitors are selling, their prices, their strengths, and weaknesses, will help you make the case for your own product, says Wanetick. If your prices are higher, make sure that your can explain the added value your customers will receive by purchasing from you.

“In times of economic turmoil, sales ability is at a premium,” he says. “Revenues are the lifeblood of companies and people who can cause the register to ring will be rewarded with job stability and excellent compensation.”

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