A well-known motivational speaker several years ago stated: if your thinking is stinking, so is your business.
During this tough economic time we are living in, it's more true today than ever before.
A positive attitude and positive thoughts will produce positive results; a negative attitude and negative thoughts inevitably produce negative results.
Your perception and your attitude are the greatest factors in your success or failure. A situation that looks bleak to one person can look like a golden opportunity to another. Having a positive attitude means being able to see what's worth salvaging and working for it, even in the face of adversity. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, "An optimist sees an opportunity in every calamity; a pessimist sees calamity in every opportunity."
Recently, I've heard people say things such as, "I'm not going to participate in the Great Recession." Well, in my opinion, if you're in business today, you're going to have to participate in the Great Recession whether you want to or not. That doesn't mean that you have to allow yourself or your business to be beaten down by it.
A lot of individuals and companies are allowing their fears to guide their decision-making to disastrous ends.
Simply put: The difference between succeeding and not succeeding in this Great Recession is not determined by what you say - it's determined by what you choose to do.
Any company's future, in my opinion, depends more on its sales and marketing activities than on any other aspect of its business. Yet many times with companies, especially large companies, one of the first things they do in an economic downturn is cut the sales and marketing activities. This doesn't make sense. If there's ever a time that you want to pour your efforts and budget into sales and marketing, it's in a tough economy when it's more difficult to sell. I know one company that recently closed its new business development department. How dumb is that?
In larger companies it's much easier to reduce your sales and marketing expenses than it is in a small company. In smaller companies, many times, the key to surviving is increasing sales. Smaller companies must bring in sales if they want to survive because the ultimate cost reduction is closing the doors.
One of my favorite executive gurus is Tom Peters. In his recent publication called "Excellence for the 'Rest of Us': A 'Book' for 'Real People,' Working in 'The Real World' in 2008," Peters states, "One of the master key systems in the bowels of the organization is: sales training for one and all.
"On vacation in New Zealand I met a wildly successful U.S. TV director (a couple of top shows that many of you watch, I'm sure) who said that early in his career he realized he had good stuff - but he continually failed to close the deal. 'I figured out that I was a lousy salesman,' he said, 'and I was determined to fix the problem.' He told me, 'I must have read 25 self-help books (on selling), and I even attended a two-day workshop on selling life insurance and another one from a renowned real estate guru. I picked up a basketful of 'tricks of the trade' and in pretty short order I was closing the deal. No kidding - that was the difference.'"
The lessons were:
1. Life is sales.
2. Regardless of your job, teach yourself sales. Practice.
3. Bosses, especially staff bosses, send their entire gang through sales training.
Peters said the director finished the segment, "Life is sales! The rest is details!"
In a recent interview with John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems, he stated, "We intend to be the most aggressive we've ever been. We've learned our lessons with each downturn in this company's history and we fine-tuned them as we've gone along. Now we have our playbook with its four elements and we're going to run that game no matter what the short term situation looks like."
The first element of his playbook, he says, is to "be realistic, that is, gauge how many challenges are created by the company and how many are self-inflicted." The second is to, "assess the situation which means to ask how long a downturn will last and how deep it will be and," Chambers says, "It will usually be longer than you think." His third element is to "get ready for the upturn" and fourth is "get closer to your customer."
Many companies don't realize that when they're working in a down economy, that's the opportune time to gain market share from their competitors. That's the difference between playing to win and playing to keep from losing.
In December 2001 after 9/11 and the beginning of the recession of that time, I met with the vice president of one of our client companies, a major Washington-based organization in the construction industry, to talk about the economy. He said he didn't see this recession as different from any other (the last one being the recession of the early 1990s). He said his company would take this opportunity to improve its manufacturing process, invest in the training of people and prepare for the upturn that always happens. As a result, the company went on to have record years of outstanding sales and profits.
As I've stated in this column before, I'm not saying that the professional salesperson is not impacted by a downturn in the economy or the other factors that can affect business. We are all facing difficult times right now and the economy is at a critical point. What I am saying, however, is that the professional salesperson does not look at a situation like the Great Recession and decide "not to participate" in it.
Instead, he or she looks at it and sees a golden opportunity.
In a recession, the professional salesperson works smarter and chooses to do the things that an amateur does not do to ensure that he or she will not only survive but ultimately thrive.
Roy Chitwood is an author, trainer and consultant in sales and sales management and is president of Max Sacks International, Seattle.