Selling Power provides another good article – Expert Advice for 2009 – that makes 4 relevant suggestions for this year.  Clearly the economy is foremost on everyone’s mind and is affecting sales in a negative way.  As they say, the show must go on.  You can read the article for the 4 suggestions from 4 different sales trainers, but I especially noted these two:

Shift to opportunity mode. Are you in survival mode or opportunity mode? A survival response to the economy is rooted in the “we just need to stay afloat” mentality. Leaders in this mode react by reducing head count, decreasing employee development, and controlling expenses, resulting in employee cynicism and a sacrifice of the company’s long-term ability to sustain growth. Leaders in opportunity mode, on the other hand, view the economy as a chance to improve their business. In times like these, they typically focus on upgrading the work force and on strategic cost cutting. The result is greater employee commitment and a strengthened ability to sustain growth. When “opportunity” leaders must cut head count, they eliminate their “C” & “D” performers. Lee Colan, president, The L Group, www.theLgroup.com.

Focus on leads. Sales organizations that bolster dedicated investments in lead quality and demand generation will be rewarded with significantly higher sales productivity. That goes for 2009 and beyond. The typical company is struggling in the area of leads. The length of time it takes to close a deal is longer than ever and an increasing number of opportunities are culminating in a “no decision” outcome. Moreover, marketing support has already dropped about 20 percent and may go deeper in 2009. That drop in support means sales teams will need to do more work on their own to fill up the front of the pipeline at a time when the number of leads required to close the same amount of business is going up. The good news: by honing in on this one area, you’ll see a significant impact on your results. Lee Levitt, program director, IDC Sales Advisory Service, www.idc.com.

Leads and opportunities are the key in this economy…in any economy really.  The importance of this topic is heightened during a downturn.  I was on the road last week and can tell you that there are still deals occurring, companies are still growing and new opportunities are available.

I agree with the author’s statement that companies need to be in opportunity mode right now.  Survival mode is similar to the prevent defense in football – usually it prevents you from winning.  Survival mode may lead to death.  It is important to stay aggressive and move forward.  One benefit is that some of your smaller, less financially stable competitors may disappear.  But be wary for the last move of a dying company is a desperately low bid.

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