Maintaining an ‘Up’ Attitude in a ‘Down’ Market

Your prospects and mine are being told daily how bad the housing market has become. In California, there is an 80 percent increase in foreclosures. As soon as the first $4.00 per gallon of gas sign was spotted, the media spread the word to our customers that it was going to get even worse. The news continues to report that job opportunities are not reaching analysts’ expectations.

So how do you keep this from affecting your frame of mind when you put this magazine down and need to make a sale?
First, take a deep breath and relax. Then, remember the words of the great philosopher Thoreau who said, “You find the world you look for.” I strongly believe this.

If you’re going to a party and know you like everyone who is invited, you’ll probably expect to have a good time. With those thoughts, you are likely on your way to having a fantastic time.

The reverse is true as well. In business, if you believe your competition has advantages over you, or if you believe all prospects are worried about their future economic welfare and don’t have money, you are not in a frame of mind to gain the best possible results. Negative thoughts prevent you from discovering and focusing on the opportunities to sell.

It’s also important to ensure you are doing the correct things to maximize your results. I recently attended a marketing meeting where the speaker addressed what we should be doing as salespeople in a weak economy. Guess what? They were the same things we should be doing if the economy was strong.

It isn’t easy to have an up attitude in a down market. However, my suggestion is to take a step back and reflect on what made you successful in the first place. Then, make sure you’re still doing it today. In fact, you may need to put more effort into your sales process. This will give you a big advantage over your competition, which may not putting in the same time and effort.

I know you might find these attitude skills difficult when the whole political election process is screaming “Bad economy!”

However, from my experience, those who continue to fight to find the business, have strong selling skills and input more energy for success become the market winners regardless of the economy.

Evolving Your Business

My market is currently a little sparse with new single-family residential building permits. Within a 50-mile radius of our business, we have a population of approximately 250,000. Yet, the new individual residential permits in the first quarter of 2008 were less than two dozen.

I want to share some of what we have done to attract business and adjust to the reduction of new construction.

Some of our market positioning started years ago. Ten years ago, we were floating along, enjoying the volume of new construction, but we were still making an attempt to build a stronger remodeling business. We were originally a wholesale supplier working with dealers and contractors, but we were not selling to the consumer directly.

In 1982 with the development of the “big box” store, we changed into a “whotailer,” continuing to sell to our existing customers but also selling to the consumer. If we had not done so, we would have withered on the market vine and been long gone by now.

In 1995 we started an installation division that has developed into a remodeling division.

In 2007 we also made some major product changes in our kitchen and bath division. For 10 years, we enjoyed having a strong market presence with a major national cabinet company. Their products have evolved to meet the changing market needs and our relationship with them is excellent. So we added another major line in a similar price range.

With the new line, we have access to some customers who weren’t available to us previously. So for our company, the sum total of the two is much greater than we had with one company.

We also added a custom cabinet company whose product and services offer product differential. This manufacturer has great people and an attitude that anything is possible. With this manufacturer, we are now able to serve a more upscale customer niche that we were not making a lot of inroads with previously.

We also joined a buying group 12 years ago that offers both pricing advantages and the benefit of sharing knowledge with members of our peer group. We have chosen not to give the price reductions we receive to our customers, but rather add it to our bottom line.

Likewise, the knowledge benefits we enjoy as a part of a buying group contribute to our bottom line. For instance, today I communicated with three other members about bringing on a new plumbing product line. Due to this association with other successful members, I am in a position to make a better decision about the line we may bring on, the mark up we should expect and how best to present it to our market.

We have also not let up on our marketing investment. Recently we ran an “Ugly Kitchen Contest” wherein the winner would receive a free kitchen, including the design planning and guidance, countertops, faucet, flooring and lighting. We figured if we got 150 to 250 entries, we could call it a success.

Well, we ended up with just over 700 entries. This meant all 700 walked in our door to bring pictures and register their ugly kitchen. The winner was chosen and now I have 699 leads from other people who want an improved kitchen.

The message here is, you can never let up on your efforts to attract prospects to your business. We now are trying to turn the 699 losers into winners with offers to help them improve their kitchens, and we are continuing to use marketing to help make it happen. We are offering a free sink with any solid surface countertop, a sink base free with the purchase of 12 or more cabinets, 10 percent off on all lighting needs and vinyl flooring at 20 percent off the regular pricing. We will closely monitor the sales created by this promotion and make a decision by January 1, 2009 if the return on our investment and efforts was strong enough to duplicate it again in 2009.

Even with all your efforts, you may not get the booming results of years’ past right now. However, by maximizing your marketing opportunities, you will be positioned to get the business out there, and to attract future business as well.