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Sell Your Way Out of A Down Economy

Sell Your Way Out of A Down Economy

NOTE: This is my current column form RainToday.com, where I am a contributing editor.

As the Chinese proverb admonishes, “May we live in interesting times.” I don’t know about you, but the current times sure do have my interest.

But when I say “interest,” I don’t just mean my attention. I mean my self-interest. If you’re in sales and marketing, you should be ahead of the pack in these times.

Alas, not too many are.

Why Pursue Your Weakness?

I hear people advising us to reorient our approaches into new formulations that specialize in a “down economy.” Some even advocate becoming specialists—no matter what your product or service—in something like “the art of survival.”

Well, I’m here to tell you about the art of “thrival.” Why would you pursue something that’s not your core competency, not your strength? Why become some kind of disaster specialist when your expertise has been in growth, and gaining market share, and excellence?

Those qualities are still needed. If an athlete is losing the race, he or she tries harder. Those prizefighters who are losing and simply protect themselves in the later rounds are no longer trying to win, they’re merely trying not to be knocked out. The finest generals in history, when trapped or in poor terrain, didn’t hunker down, they fought their way out and won.

(The Civil War may well have been decided at Gettysburg, and Gettysburg may well have been decided on Little Round Top, when Union Colonel Joshua Chamberlain ordered the remnants of the 20th Maine, having run out of ammunition, to charge the enemy with fixed bayonets. The Confederates assumed they were facing fresh reinforcements, and retreated.)

Why would you become a “specialist” in an area you never specialized in? (It’s a negative, dull, enervating area—merely trying to survive.) Why wouldn’t you continue to do something you’re good at and something which your clients and prospects still need?

Ignore Most Advice, Particularly “Consensus”

Whenever I hear people strive for “consensus” I try to bolt out of the room. Models, matrices, influence, convolution, and all kinds of sesquipedalian mechanisms are employed in the misguided belief that if enough people can agree on something it’s probably accurate and true.

Consensus, of course, created the current administration, president and Congress, and these two elements of government currently have the lowest approval ratings in history.

As marketers, we can’t be swayed by two invidious forces: One is consensus, where we’re told to follow the crowd and pursue a normative approach; the other is the “expert” who appears out of nowhere to advise us on the current crisis but has never actually done anything in these conditions him- or herself.

At trade groups and chapter meetings, there are both the “experts’” opinions and the “consensus” beliefs in the room that we should buckle down, tighten belts, and protect ourselves. We’re losing, so just don’t get knocked out and we can fight again.

My advice is to start swinging, and immediately. Fight your way out by utilizing your strengths. Now is the time that clients need you.

A Surfeit of Dumb Advice

I was interviewed recently by a New York Times reporter for advice about entering the consulting field in this economy. (It should be appearing at about the time you read this.) She told me that I was the only “expert” she had interviewed who had advised against creating a business plan. (I believe you need a simple marketing plan, but business plans are abominably stupid and of zero help.) She said the consensus was clearly against me.

“Tell me,” I said, “what if my opinion and expertise and background are stronger than any other person in your group, that I’m more successful, that they haven’t done what I have. Do you think their consensus opinion is better than mine?”

“Point well taken,” she admitted.

There are more people giving advice on sales and marketing than there are excellent sales and marketing professionals. Ignore the noise and disregard every single person who gives advice about something they, themselves are not recognized as having done successfully and repeatedly.

(I love the people who publish one book which disappears in 48 hours and then launch workshops on how to get published. It’s like taking driving lessons from someone whose one drive ended when the car hit a tree.)

In this economy, right now, people desperately need your help, your services, your products, to thrive, to beat the competition, to prepare for better times ahead.

It’s hard to be knocked out when you’re swinging with energy and accuracy. In fact, it’s easy to win.

© Alan Weiss 2008. All rights reserved.

Written by

Alan Weiss is a consultant, speaker, and author of over 60 books. His consulting firm, Summit Consulting Group, Inc., has attracted clients from over 500 leading organizations around the world.

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