Sales Crisis: Danger Or Opportunity?

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In science, for every force, there is a counterforce, and for every negative, there is a positive. These principles also hold true in sales and economics. While some resource-dependent markets may be experiencing weakness caused by low oil prices, other markets are benefiting from the increased consumer spending generated by lower prices at the gas pumps.

Unfortunately, news headlines and political opposition parties can cause some advertisers, and some radio salespeople, to feel our economy is in crisis. Interestingly, the Chinese spell crisis with two symbols. The first symbol stands for danger, and there is danger in every crisis. But the second symbol stands for opportunity. It’s up to you to seek the opportunities in every crisis.

When the economy grows by 1 percent, the headlines will describe the growth as “sluggish.” Yet when the economy shrinks by that same 1 percent, they’ll proclaim it to be “crashing.”

If your market is experiencing challenges, you might consider facilitating a special workshop to help your sales team focus on the opportunities.

The See-Saw Opportunities: For every business category in decline, there is a category that benefits. When car sales are down, aftermarket services like tuneups, auto body shops, muffler shops, and tire stores all benefit as motorists struggle to keep their current cars on the road. When new-furniture sales are weak, consignment shops can do well, and when new-home sales falter, a renovations contractor can be busy.

The Must-Have Service Categories: When consumers get a toothache or have a leaky faucet, they won’t wait until the next boom period to solve their problems. Hundreds of service categories, from dentists to plumbers, that previously relied upon the now-obsolete Yellow Pages are looking for new ways to increase their sales in every economy. (Hint: For businesses not currently using radio, you can be that “new way” to increase sales.)

Target the Bulletproof Demographics: Nearly 66 percent of the population, from garbage men to teachers and from pensioners to police, have consistent incomes in every economy. Sponsoring “hug-a-cop” tribute campaigns or inviting teachers to a special fall fashion show can win the hearts and wallets of each demographic and target group that is relatively unaffected by economic cycles.

Change Versus Cut: When a panicked advertiser struggling to meet next week’s payroll says, “Times are tough. I have to cut my radio advertising,” there is no sense in trying to persuade her that times are good or the streets are paved with gold. Rather, agree with her, substituting the word “change” for “cut.” Suggest, “You’re absolutely right. You do have to make some changes in this economy.” This is the ideal opportunity to discuss excluding newspaper, Yellow Pages, junk mail, and other outdated, costly media from her plans with a more cost-effective strategy, using radio to inspire and Internet to inform.

 Initiate Proactively: Don’t wait for your clients to talk about cutting. Introduce copy and creative changes that appeal to consumers in a changing economy. A retailer of soapstone countertops, for example, may have promoted conspicuous consumption during boom times, promoting the pride of being the first on your block to own it. To sell that same countertop in a soft economy, you might suggest the retailer change strategies to appeal to the secure investment in countertops with lifetime warranties.

The Lipstick Opportunities: During the Great Depression of the early 1930s, cosmetics maker Revlon generated unprecedented sales increases with its lipstick. It seems that lipstick was an inexpensive escape for ladies who might have spent a fortune at the beauty salon during the boom times. Look for ways your advertisers can promote less expensive little pleasures or entertainment when consumers have less cash.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, creator of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine at the University of Massachusetts, says, “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf them.” Learning to surf the negative economic waves can actually be fun!

I say, “Hey, Chicken Little, if you think the sky is falling, look for another planet. If you think the sky you’re under today will be the same sky next year at this time, take advantage of the sunny days.”

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Wayne Ens
Wayne Ens in an international marketing consultant, business-to-business sales trainer and author, specializing in helping media companies create stronger partnerships with locally-owned businesses. Wayne has worked with radio stations, TV, newspapers, and billboard companies to help their local-direct advertisers improve their return on investment.

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