Change is not in the air; it has hit the ground running. Or should I say running rampant? If it hasn’t affected you or your business in some way, you are in the minority. Breaking news! Have you heard? The economy is down!

It hasn’t been this way, this bad or this low for about 80 years. Companies are crumbling and rules are being abandoned. The government is in scramble mode as never before. But that’s them. What about you and yours? What’s happening to you? Change in business volume? Cash flow? Credit restrictions? Job status? Employment status? Work environment? Work requirements? Customers hurting? YIKES!

In many business sectors, it’s gonna get real, and it’s gonna get raw. It’s not “change”—it’s “drastic change.” Things are changing, and not for the better. How are you reacting to events? Most people are a combination of reluctant and resistant, or a mix of scared and worried. You are not alone, but it doesn’t mean you have to join the afflicted or the paralyzed.

OK, enough of that. Below is part of why you’re having trouble adapting to the changing economic climate, followed by what you can do about it.

Here are some of the reasons you may resist change:

1. Your inability to face the reality that it’s actually happening to you. The news is always about someone else’s drama. That’s why you watch it. This drama is yours.

2. Your natural defensive posture. “It’s not my fault! Someone else did it.”

3. Your natural resistance to what’s new. “It’s always worked before, and I liked it that way.”

4. Your procrastination and inability to face reality. “I see it coming, but it may just go away. I’ll change later.”

5. Your previous and present comfort. “I have a lifestyle and I don’t want it interrupted!”

6. Your unwillingness to abide by the new rules and the new standards. Resistance to self-improvement. Resistance to being measured by results. Resistance to being measured against others. This is especially true if you’re a longtime employee.

7. You think: “It can’t happen here.” Uh, Sparky, it already has. And it’s not going away anytime soon. Do something! Is there resolve? Is there a solution? Are there answers? YES—you provide it. YES—you create it. YES—you make them happen. First, start with your resolve:

  • Create more self-time and less TV time. The news is not great—especially when people are giving their opinion about what is happening—so watch less of it. Now is the time for action, not opinion.
  • Study attitude for 15 minutes every morning. Give yourself time to read, think and plan.
  • Relax mentally. Breathe.
  • Do your best every day at work. You never have to prove your worth if you’re doing your best.
  • Avoid attending the pity party. There are plenty of them.
  • Don’t participate in the rumor mill; wait for the facts to emerge. Talk about what is, not what might be.
  • Don’t participate in the grumbling. Just get to work and sell something.
  • Make a projected cash flow. Cut now so you don’t run out of money in the near future.
  • Sell more. No company ever cut their way to success. Cutting is fine, but you have to sell to have cash.
  • Guard your customers. Your competition is gunning for them.
  • Serve your customers better than ever. Earn their loyalty with value.
  • Help your customers with their issues. Their situation is what’s causing your falling sales numbers.
  • Give something of value to your customers. They will thank you and respect you.
  • Select your top customers and invest in them. They will thank you and reward you with their loyalty.

For years I have defined change as opportunity. That definition is still accurate. This is not a time to “get over it.” This is a time to get on with it and take advantage of it. It’s not a corporate thing—it’s a personal thing. It’s not the new-new thing—it’s the reality thing. It’s not their thing—it’s your thing. It’s raining lemons. Set up a lemonade stand.

Regardless of the state of your industry, the state of your market and even the state of your sales, as a salesperson it’s best to look at the big picture. When you see the big picture, you can craft more when the marketplace says less.

Before you try to make another sale, before you call on the next customer, I want you to look at the real world so you can come up with real ideas and real answers for your customers, for your sales and for yourself.

Let me be more specific. I want you to look at and define your real world and their real world. Before you visit any customer, you have to know what the total situation is in order to understand them, relate to them, help them, serve them and sell to them. In these times, “sell to them” may be last on the list.

Let me define “total situation.” Don’t make the fatal mistake of just defining your situation. You also have to define the customer’s situation, the market situation and your company’s situation with its customers.

“When you see the big picture, you can craft more when the marketplace says less.”

What you are defining here is what exists now; the present situation. Once you have defined a situation, you will gain both clarity of the situation and clarity of mind. Write the situation down. Writing it down will clarify the situation for you. It will also serve as a springboard for the actions you must take for your customers so you can win not only in these times, but in all times.

Here’s the problem: You may be panicked, maybe even pushed, for more sales now. This means you have to make a choice: Panic or prepare. My strategy is a little slower, but a lot surer.

After you have written down the entire situation, now you begin looking for opportunities. What are the opportunities for the customer, for your company and for you? Is there an opportunity for you to capture a greater percentage of the customer’s business? Is there an opportunity for the customer to make more sales so they can pay their invoices in a more timely manner? Is there a market opportunity that customers are missing because they are more focused on their woes and their competition rather than their strengths?

Once you’ve identified all the opportunities—whatever they are—and you’re clear about the situation, then and only then can you begin to write what you intend to do or accomplish—your objectives. Your objective may be as simple as getting customers to pay their outstanding balances in a more timely manner. Your objective may be to double your business with this customer, to help your customer through troubled times or to broaden your relationship with customers so they will refer you to other customers. Your objective might be to make a sale right now. You may have several objectives. Whatever the objectives are, they must be clearly stated and defined in writing. And please do not confuse objectives with goals. Write down what you intend to do to help the customer, do more business with the customer, gain more referrals from the customer and make the relationship with the customer a financially rewarding one.

Once you clarify and understand the situation, identify opportunities and write your objectives, making certain that they are congruent with your intentions. When the market is volatile or uncertain, defining the facts will help you think more clearly, act more directly and become more successful.

Now, I’m going to challenge you on a mastery point. Once you have this game plan written down—situation, opportunities, objectives and intentions—I challenge you to share these thoughts with your customers so that they can become aware of how serious, how professional and how certain you are about growing the relationship, helping them and building your business. Doing this will not only give your customers peace of mind; you’ll also give yourself peace of mind. Your list of ideas and answers will not only set you apart from your competitors, who at this moment are merely trying to sell and collect, but it will also build your relationship in more difficult times so that when times become better (and they always do), you will have earned the business and the loyalty you deserve.

Message from Jeffrey: I have one more strategy to beat the crunch. If you want it, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time visitor, and enter OPPORTUNITY in the GitBit box.

This article was published in February 2009 and has been updated. Photo by


Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible and The Little Red Book of Selling. President of Charlotte, North Carolina-based Buy Gitomer, he gives seminars, runs annual sales meetings and conducts Internet training programs on selling and customer service.






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