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Hot Topic: When the going gets tough, the tough get . . . smart!

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by Bob Brown


"There are no problems - only opportunities to excel!"


I have little doubt that most sales people will have been on the receiving end of messages of this kind over the last few months. The world economy is in a bit of a mess at the present time but sales people and sales managers are still expected to make their numbers. Tough market conditions do create opportunity - but they also exaggerate the gap that is always present between the "rational" and the "emotional" aspects of buyer behaviour.


On the rational side of the argument, tough market conditions often strengthen the economic case for implementing a new solution. Companies buy IT because they expect it to save them money but they also know that implementing any major change to the business involves disruption and cost. There are sound financial reasons why the true cost of implementing new solutions is considerably reduced when the business is already operating below capacity. Smart companies invest for the future at such times.


On the emotional side of the house the argument is, of course, more personal. Senior managers and executives are also consumers - whatever they experience as consumers becomes part of the experience they bring to making decisions in their professional life. At times like this, when individuals' personal financial circumstances may be under pressure, managers and executives are certain to be more nervous and apprehensive - so they will need more re-assurance. The perception of risk must be reduced to an absolute minimum.


To make a military analogy - the armour-plating has become a bit thicker - which means the sales team needs access to better ammunition. In particular, sales and marketing collateral needs to provide the hard economic data that will enable cautious prospects to confidently predict the cost savings, or the cash value of other benefits, that will flow from their purchase decision. Collateral that doesn't speak directly to financial issues such as ROI or payback period - and reduce the perception of risk by doing so with the authority of a reference customer - just isn't going to be good enough in a difficult market.


Does your team have the right materials for the job in hand?