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In an uncertain market, successful businesses realize that there is an opportunity to build, yet many put the brakes on their own success by feeding into the negativity around them.


The market stinks. The economy is unstable. Rebates of the month – or are they? Commissions are down. Profits and revenues are down. And gas prices are up.

Sound familiar? It’s the negative attitude that can be found in many businesses today. And, it is exactly that attitude that will drive business down – even in the best of times. Yet, it is precisely the attitude that is nourished by owners and sales managers.

Consider the story of the man who sold hot dogs. He didn’t listen to the radio or watch TV or read the paper. He simply sold hot dogs. He put up signs telling how good they were. He stood on the side of the road and cried: “Buy a hot dog, mister?” And people bought, because he was so enthusiastic. And his business grew. One day his son came to help him out. His son said, “Haven’t you heard? The economy is in terrible shape!” The father thought, my son’s been to college, he reads the newspaper, he listens to the radio, and he ought to know. So he cut down on his meat and bun orders, took down his advertising signs, and no longer bothered to call out to sell his hot dogs. And his sales fell – virtually overnight. His conclusion – my son was right, we are in a Depression.

The retail business is at a crossroads, and owners and sales managers have a critical choice to make. They can buy into the negativity and cut expenses (i.e. jobs, advertising, inventory, promotions, training, etc.) or they can stick with the basics – the fundamentals that are driving success, and hold every individual in the organization – beginning with themselves – accountable for doing their job and driving success.

Consider the different approaches taken by each of these businesses, A and B.

Anticipating a decline in the market, the owner and sales manager at Store A make a decision to protect profits by cutting back on advertising, training, laying off 10% of their people, cutting inventory by 50% and eliminating perks and promotions. In reality, instead of cutting the fat, they cut the muscle – important basic requirements of running a successful company – and created an attitude of fear, uncertainty, and doubt. At the end of the month, business is down, profits have dropped, and commissions have fallen – in essence, everyone’s negative expectations have been met.

The owners and sales managers at Store B decide to stick with the fundamental concepts for running a successful business. They add salespeople, manage inventory the same way, and focus on relationship selling. They put a process in place that holds every employee accountable for job performance and measures it daily. The result? Store B’s financial statement no longer shows peaks and valleys.

The key differences in these scenarios – and with the hot dog vendor – are Attitude, and Confidence. These differences start at the top. Businesses that nourish a positive attitude and eliminate external negativity, who instill confidence in their managers and teams, and who are firm in their decisions to stick to the basics, will succeed in all markets. After all, people still make purchases, even in troubling economies.

In an uncertain market, successful businesses realize that there is an opportunity to build, yet many put the brakes on their own success by feeding into the negativity around them. Owners and sales managers must create a mindset so that every individual who visits or contacts their company is regarded as a client, a person who engages the professional advice or services of another – repeatedly. Building loyal clientele is the ultimate goal, as they will turn to the same business again and again for professional counsel, products, service and accessories – everything they need to meet their needs.

The ability to prosper in any economy takes a commitment at the top to create a positive mindset and drive it through the organization. “Tough times” represent an opportunity to build, to go back to the basics. It’s time for owners and sales managers to stop blaming others and to start growing their businesses.

About the author

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin

Richard F. Libin has written two acclaimed books that help people of all walks…

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