It doesn’t take a downturn in the economy to create problems for your business. Every business has its ups and downs even in booming markets. The question is; Are you and your business well prepared and equipped to face the challenges of a soft or hard economy?
Many entrepreneurs fear the downturn, and dread the prospects of losing their customers, their people or their profit. They reason that if the economy is weak, clients and customers will cut back on projects, stop spending and might even seek cheaper alternatives from the competition.
All of this is true, but only to a certain extent. Sure, an economic slowdown and negative consumer sentiment can be challenging for your business. Or on the other hand, it can present you with an opportunity to gain new customers and boost your sales by developing effective strategies that can work best in a declining market, and brilliant for the boom times.
Depending on the industry you are in, there are numerous strategies that you can deploy to maintain and even increase your sales, while your competitors struggle to stay afloat.
The following USPs“Unique Shining Points”, define measurable objectives and recommend key strategic initiatives that will assist you in steering your business effectively through uncertain economic times, while others struggle to get by:
USP No. 1: Utilise the slow down time to enhance your business’ basics and fundamentals
Like a machine that needs fine-tuning, after a long period of operation, so does your business needs tightening of its knots and bolts, and greasing of its parts so as to stop the squeaks. Start from the top by revisiting and re- enforcing your company’s values, vision and mission. Ensure that your people are motivated to keep the torch of the company’s spirit alight, by demonstrating a clear understanding of the business challenges and by articulating their contribution to uphold the company’s values at all times.
Most importantly, align your company’s objectives and values with your team’s incentives and rewards. Share the information across the whole business so as to allow your people the opportunity to show initiative. Involve your team in problem solving and ask them to come forward with innovative ideas to increase profitability, enhance productivity and reduce costs.
USP No. 2: Out think your competition
Pause for a moment and ask yourself the following question; if what I sell or offer is essentially the same as my competitors, what do I need, to be different and better in many aspects including my level of customer service, my approach to marketing, promotion and sales?
The answer to this question goes beyond creativity and innovation, to positively differentiating your company from your competitors utilizing “thought leadership” with inspiring ingenuity, which will have to become a second nature to you and your business in challenging times. Your ultimate objective is to truly stand out in the minds of your customers by utilizing visionary sales and marketing strategies to create a Unique Shining Points (USPs) that are exclusive to your company and unique to your industry. In other words, differentiate your company positively from its competitors or die.
USP No. 3: Reactivate old leads
With just little extra sales effort, old leads can be converted into profitable business. Many leads that you gave up on in the past can be reactivated and turned around, you just have to persevere. A study by Harvard School of Business in 2007 revealed that most sales people regardless of the industry give up too early. According to the study, 75 percent of sales to business or clients are made on the fifth sales call, 25 percent of salespeople call beyond three calls!
USP No.4: Give superior level of service to your clients
Holding on to your existing customers during tough times is like holding on to fire in your hand, it is therefore of paramount importance to your business’ survival and longevity. Going the extra mile, pleasing your customers and giving them more than their money’s worth by maintaining a sales- service excellence culture, is a sure way to sustain the impetus in your business. Now is the time to do that extra bit that can mean the difference between just merely satisfying your customers and flabbergasting – dazzling them.
USP No. 5: Plan and Implement an aggressive new marketing strategy
The truth of the matter is that, to prevent a lull in your business from ever happening in the first place, you should market consistently and aggressively all year long and every week. Not just when you need the business. Planning an ongoing marketing strategy ensures a steady stream of new business leads. Marketing done today begins a selling cycle that will result in new business when you need it six months down the track.
USP No. 6: Add value to your existing products or services
In a downturn, customers are more concerned with price than ever before. So address their concern by making sure you give them the best value for their dollar. There is no need to “give the store” or to provide an excessive level of service. Just a little extra effort or service will be perceived as a significant increase in value by your customers. Utilize technology and social media to drive business growth and in the meantime as an added value to customer service, communication and follow up.
USP No. 7: Be positive and enthusiastic
It is imperative that you stay positive and not to become depressed in slow business periods. If you are depressed, your people and your customers can sense your depression which might have negative effect on your internal and external business. Don’t despair, be enthusiastic, believe in your people, your products and your services, and transfer that energy of enthusiasm and belief to your people and your customers. Don’t give up too soon, remember that you are not alone, because in a downturn everybody in the marketplace are under the same umbrella and going through the same conditions as you are.
Seek the help of a professional coach and mentor who can assist in addressing your strengths and weaknesses while helping you discover your inner motivation and refocusing your efforts on the big picture
USP No. 8: Suspend any planned price increases
Needless to say that a business downturn is not the ideal time for you to increase your prices, even if you feel you deserve it, and that an increase is long overdue. Rearrange your prices during this transient period of business respite to accommodate a wider range of customers.
USP No. 9: Control negative and incompetent people in your business
Negative people at the best of times can be detrimental to your success. The last thing you need during tough times is a negative or incompetent person that does not “buy-in” to your values and your enterprise culture. Control and handle these situations with courage promptly and swiftly, and remove any one who does not “buy- in” to your business culture, as it takes just one incompetent or negative person to hold back the entire team.
Finally and simply put, in every business cycle, and in every businessman’s life term there are defining moments that require remarkable actions congruent with the task at hand. However, due to the pressures of the challenging moments, business people tend to overlook the big picture. Ensure the right coaching for yourself and your team so that you can focus on “back to basics” and take your team to the next level where everyone in your company is proficient at the basics and the fundamentals. Above all, keep sight of the big picture while defining the best strategies, programs and services that will boost your revenues, position your company for continued success, and most of all, that will truly differentiate your company from the others in your marketplace.
I would like to leave you with this thought from my Mentor, Peter Drucker; “ Don’t tell me what you have learned, tell me how you are going to do things differently”