In 1969, the US Senate enacted an Investment Tax Credit to stimulate the economy by encouraging businesses to make substantial investments in equipment. From 1969-1986 ITC was enhanced, reduced, and repealed many times as Congress used this tool to effectively modify business decisions. With our economy tied to the ‘gold’ standard, and foreign exchange/interest rates pegged to each other, business behavior could be fairly predicted.
Now, let’s fast forward 32 years. What is going on?
- Since December 1, 2000 U.S. employers have announced nearly 800,000 job cuts. The technology (Nortel, Motorola, Worldcom, Lucent), manufacturing (GE, Honeywell, DaimlerChrysler), Finance (JP Morgan, Aetna, Charles Schwab), Media (Disney, AOL Time Warner, NY Times), Internet (Amazon, Webvan, Yahoo), and Retail (Montgomery Ward, JC Penney, Circuit City) industries have all claimed casualties.
- All the Big 5 accounting firms have pending lawsuits for issues ranging from bad audit opinions to SEC rules violations.
- Alan Greenspan has reduced the fed borrowing rate for the sixth time from 6.5% to 3.75% and the stock market reacts negatively. Inside traders are net sellers as they jettison their equity shares.
Business behavior can no longer be predicted. No one knows what to do. Therefore, if you are in the ‘selling’ profession, you have entered unchartered waters. Selling anything, whether it be goods or services, has become extremely difficult and painful. Only the most seasoned sales professionals are surviving.
Given this market, how can younger professionals hold on long enough to weather the storm?
To be successful, you need to look and act the role of a successful sales person before you actually get there.
Last year, I lectured in Mexico. A student asked me to review a recent marketing experience. He told me that a potential client threw him out of the office. He told me, that when asked how long he had been in the business, he responded "3 weeks." I told him that I would have probably done the same thing. To encourage him to go back and try again, I told him that he probably had other work experience that he probably did not share with the potential client. He told me that he had been a waiter for the last 4 years. I told him, from now on, to tell people that he had 4 years of service experience and had been in finance for less than a year.
We both told the truth (as we saw it) yet he did not make the potential client comfortable or curious enough to ask for more.
Can one appear to be experienced before one actually acquires it? Can the process be shortened? Can the process be improved? Can short-term improvements be maintained in the long-term? I believe it is possible because I see it everyday.
Research and Read
Use Metacrawler, AskJeeves or Google as a starting point. There is so much material on the Internet. You can find articles on different subjects, industry contacts, private and public companies, annual reports, credit information, tax returns, financial statements and competitor’s intelligence.
- Books by Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, Og Mandino, Richard Bayan, and Stephen Covey. You may not agree with their philosophies but you will have a better perspective of the selling process and human nature.
- Newspapers. Learn what is going on with senior management and the companies that are doing well in this market. Get a better understanding of the problems that they are experiencing, so that you can help them.
- Association-produced material. They have a very strong interest in keeping their members profitable and in business.
Watch, Look and Listen
Watch how other professionals solve problems. There is no greater thrill than watching a pro. They are rare. How many people ever get to run a Disney, McDonalds, or Fedex?
Why should you watch another professional? Why should you copy their style, their words, their approach? Why should you mimic their behavior, their methodology, their game plan? Simply, because it works.
I am not suggesting that you violate any copyright law, patent rules, or governmental regulations that take away their unique advantages. Simply said, create your own unique method of solving problems by adding value that you can call your own.
Watch and study TV and Internet ads. Although most products may not be useful or appropriate for your business, you may find that similar marketing ideas can be employed to your benefit. Call their toll free numbers and look at the quality of their marketing material. Listen to the sales rep speech. Read the glossy brochures, look at the photographs, analyze ad copy.
Look in the special events column in your local business paper. Often, free lectures are held in a bank, community center or corporation who are spotlighting a successful entrepreneur who is promoting a book or product that he/she created. Go up to the speaker at the end of the lecture. One-on-one conversations are intimate and enriching.
Be yourself and do it right
Listen to other professionals. Learn from their mistakes. No matter how good you are, you will still make mistakes. As the song says, “pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.”
Jeffrey Taylor, is the Founder of ExecutiveCaliber. His company specializes in the design, development, and delivery of in-house training programs for hi-tech, finance, automotive, leasing and real estate companies. He can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org  or via his web site http://executivecliaber.ws