Influencing is communicating with a goal in mind. In essence, influencing is a requesting process. You are requesting that the other person (or group) do something or achieve an outcome.
Because you are making a request, there is inherently more accountability for both parties, thus more potential risk of tension, misunderstanding, defensiveness and conflict.
Often people use their every day communication skills when influencing, find that they don’t work, and wonder why. The reason is that the influencing process is different and requires different skills.
Don’t focus on what has been done in the past – wasting time and apportioning blame here is pointless.
* Concentrate on activities that can lead to sales in the future. Expand your resources in this area and if necessary enlist the assistance of other management and staff. Get professional assistance to quickly analyse your sales “inventory” of selling skills and resources.
* Immediately start a sales forecasting system, by customer, by product, by value and by month. Lock in sales that you are certain that you will be getting. Update this forecast on a weekly basis.
* Eighty-five per cent of business comes from existing customers, so start there. Contact all of your previous customers and start initiating sales activities. The 80/20 rule applies, so concentrate on the top 20 per cent of clients, but make sure that your proposition is well thought out.
* Fifteen per cent of business typically comes from new business accounts, and sales from this can be time-consuming and longer-term. It is a trap to divert more than 15 per cent of your sales resource to chase after people who have never done business with you.
* Don’t fall for the salespeople saying they need new systems and marketing material to be able to sell. There were sales before computers.
* Try to sell, not discount. Understand your gross margin and whether discounts will make you a profit. Too often, people equate discounts with more business, when in fact they become a false economy.
* Remember selling starts when the customer says “No” – otherwise you are leaving good money on the table. Anyone can give away products. Get fair value for your products, as every dollar in this market is worth three in a boom market.
There may be a tendency for a senior manager to start doing the selling himself or herself, or to get involved with major customers. If you have sales experience, then this may be an option. If not, beware, as creating the wrong impression can lead to a loss of business for a long time.
Whatever you do during this time, remember it and keep doing it when good times come again. Business cycles come and go, and you will ensure that the next time a recession comes you will have the tools in place to see it coming and to make the adjustments you need to ensure that your business does not end up on the rocks.