Follow the money: How to capitalize on opportunity in a tough economy

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By Barbara Bix -

The economy has slowed down but businesses—and individuals—are still buying. The difference is that they’ve tightened their belts. Most are spending less—and many are spending on different things, for different reasons. The question is—how do you get money from those who are deliberately trying to cut down?

Where there's sales activity, there's an unmet need

Our clients find that one of the best ways to find out where to concentrate their firepower is to follow the money. They do this by studying recent activity—their own, the competitions’, or those of the companies that are succeeding under current market conditions. Why? Because where there's activity, there's an unmet need.

Use knowledge about wins and losses to replicate success

Next our clients look at outcomes. Who won? Who lost? Why? Once they have the answers to these important questions, they know what they need to do to replicate success--their own or that of others who were more savvy or more fortunate.

Follow the money

Here are concrete actions you can take to follow the money and capitalize on opportunity in a tough economy. Start with your own experiences, but don't stop there.

If your business has won any deals recently, find out what caused these accounts to purchase when everyone else is sitting on the sidelines. What about their situation was different? What compelled them to act now? How did they find your company? What caused them to seek you out? How did they justify their investment?

From market intelligence to marketing strategy

Depending on what you hear, the answers to these questions may shed light on what characteristics separate the prospects that are likely to buy, from those that are not. You may also find out who you need to reach at these companies, where you need to place your marketing messages, or what you need to emphasize in your marketing literature and on your sales calls to capture attention and motivate action.

Competitive intelligence can uncover opportunity

If you haven’t won any deals recently, try to find out whether anyone in your target market has bought from anyone else. If so, you may be able to turn to them for answers to these important questions. Then, you can use that information to remove obstacles to the sale—and replicate their successes.

If neither you, nor your competition, have won any deals lately, don’t despair. You may just be targeting the wrong prospects or using the wrong message.

Validate assumptions to uncover new value propositions

The next line of attack is to go back to your existing accounts—especially those that are actively using your goods or services. Find out not what caused them to buy originally, but how they are deriving value from your solutions today.

It’s not uncommon for companies to buy for one reason, only to learn later that their purchase is more valuable when deployed to meet an entirely different need. If you find that’s the case, ask them how they discovered the new application—and try to quantify the value that they’re deriving. Then, if the value is significant, you’ll want to figure out who else might have similar needs—and rewrite your marketing messages to reflect the value these accounts have discovered.

Keep following the money

Still no success? Then, it’s time to go further a field. Where are companies in the industries you target spending money? Which ones are spending? What needs do they believe their purchases will address?

Once you know which needs are at the top of prospective buyers’ lists, you’ll know where to focus your efforts. Perhaps you can reword your messaging to demonstrate how you address these same needs—or perhaps you can develop a solution that does. If not, you may be able to partner with someone who is addressing those needs to enhance—and add value to their solution.

Change can create market opportunity

When times get tough, the business environment changes, and buyers’ needs and priorities change. Approaches that worked last year—or even six months ago—may no longer work. Nevertheless, strategies that never worked before may be effective now.

But you can only capitalize on market opportunities if you know where they are

The only way to find out what those strategies are is to turn to those that are still spending. Only they have needs that are so pressing that they bought in this economy. Only they know what worked—and what didn’t at every stage of the buying process. And only they know what ultimately caused them to purchase—and why they selected the vendor they did. On the other hand, once you know what they know, you may just be able to get a leg up on the competition.

Where is the money?

Let us know what you’re seeing. Are businesses still spending? Are they spending on similar solutions—but just cutting back? Or are they spending to address entirely different needs?

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