Want to improve your sales? Commit yourself to personal and professional goals

You've read the headlines: Gas Prices Rise Again, Housing Sales Down, Subprime Mortgage Scandal. You've heard the talking heads talk of the escalating credit crunch, rising inflation, looming recession and possibility of stagflation. Not exactly the kind of news that makes you want jump out of bed in the morning, is it? So what do you do? You could just roll over and go back to sleep; however, when you wake up the problems will still be there.

Neither individuals nor businesses care whether the country is technically in a recession - defined as a decline in gross domestic product for two consecutive quarters or more. Rather, all they really care about is their pocketbooks and making a good living. Most businesses are, at a minimum, being affected by the slowdown, and most individuals are, at the very least, uneasy about the potential fallout.

So how do we process all this stuff when the going gets tough? You may be familiar with the answer: "The tough get going!" This famous proverb, attributed to Joseph P. Kennedy, father of John F. Kennedy, is still applicable today. Regardless of outside influences and mostly uncontrollable variables, you still have a business to run, a budget to make, employees or stockholders to support, bills to pay and a family counting on your success. Focus on the fact that even in an economic slowdown, a number of people are still going to be in the market for the products or services that you offer . . . and no one is going to satisfy their needs better than you. If there's going to be a recession, choose not to play.

So how do you put these words into action? Here's how:

Live by the Serenity Prayer. "Accept the things you cannot change, have courage to change the things you can and the wisdom to know the difference." In business the wind is either going to blow against your back or directly in your face, but rarely will it blow neutral. Remain calm and composed and keep sailing full-force forward through stormy seas ahead.

Ignite the passion for what you do. Remember why you got into the industry and retain the enjoyment you have for the business. Passion creates positive energy, which ignites and excites, whereas stress creates negative energy, which deflates and fatigues. When you have a passion for what you do, you enjoy the process (your job) as much as the end result (your paycheck). And passion is contagious, lifting your staff, co-workers and customers, and producing better results in the process.

Commit yourself to personal and professional goals. Dreams are all about wanting, hoping and waiting for it to happen, whereas goals are dreams with a deadline. The two most self-defeating words in goal setting are "if only." They provide a built-in excuse. Write your goals down, visualize achieving these goals and live for them every day.

Have a plan. If you do not have a road map, any old road will get you there. Make sure, when working toward the plan and on daily to-do tasks, the energy you exert has an economic benefit and gets you closer to your goal; otherwise it's wasted energy. Set mini-goals with mini-timelines and stay laser-focused, ignoring the many distractions trying to sway you off track.

Work the plan. Having a positive attitude is important, but only when it is coupled with positive activities will it bring success. Your plan should include sales, marketing and PR components to attract the business that you deserve.

Refine, live your value proposition. In these days of hyper-competition, you have to have a USP (unique selling proposition) that translates to a UBA (unique buying advantage). If you're not unique, you can't compete. Know and promote your three Ds; what makes you drastically and distinctively different.

Provide a world-class customer experience. During tougher economic times, there is a tendency for buyers to become more price conscious. As competition increases and business slows, there is a knee-jerk reaction for businesses to reduce prices to match or beat the competition. Instead, focus on the unique value that you provide through an outstanding customer experience, with value-added benefits that customers and clients cannot receive anywhere else. Protect your turf by reinforcing the value that you provide before the competition out-positions or undersells you.

Focus on new business development. If per-account spending is affected by a slowdown, expanding your customer base can make up the difference. There are others in your market who could be just as satisfied with your products, services and customer experience as your existing clientele are - they just don't know it yet.

Brand extend. Consider new revenue sources that you can capitalize on within your business. Starbucks has been successful selling CDs, UPS stores selling greeting cards and Applebee's offers "Curbside To Go." What add-on products and services would be of interest to your existing clientele that could provide additional revenue without a lot of additional cost or additional effort?

While the above are important in any economic environment, they are imperative in tougher economic times. Business is cyclical, and those who dig deep to plant strong roots will not only survive the down cycle, but will thrive when the economy turns. Hunker down, get back to business and take back control of your destiny. You are in good hands . . . your own!

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