Continuing to sell in a downturn

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Fortunately, it would appear that in Australia COVID-19 restrictions are coming to an end. While this is positive news and will see the re-opening of small businesses right across the country, it will still be a long time before we fully recover (if we ever do). 

It was reported that COVID-19 restrictions are costing Australia $4 billion dollars per week. To put that in context, that’s like paying for President Trump’s border protection wall every month. 

One reason the cost is so high is that job losses are tracking towards 600,000 with an unemployment rate over 6% and April was our worst month for unemployment since we started keeping records. 

This is what you face as a small business owner. To add to your impending doom, small businesses live or die by their sales record and if you can’t sell, you’re not in business for long.

In fact, it’s resulted in many owners calling it a day and ceasing operation and it’s hard to blame them. 

But for others, your small business is your passion and you offer a viable solution to your ideal customers (just maybe not in a crisis). When this situation reverts, you have complete confidence you’ll be able to build back beyond where you were pre-pandemic. 

If that’s you, then you need to understand how to sell in a downturn. This is the final element of the Your Business Survival Guide. 

It’s not an easy road but trust me, the end result is worth it. I’ve previously written about how more millionaires are made in a recession than in other times and you need to think and act like them.

Here’s what you’ve got to do to be like IBM, General Motors, FedEx, Hyatt and Microsoft (who all started in a crisis). 

Plan for the worst but aim for the best 

Planning in business is everything and there are at least two types of plans you need to have in place and ready to execute. 

Plan 1: Worse case scenario
That’s now, but trying to cobble a plan of attack together after an attack is pointless. You’ll forever be playing catch up and that’s terminal in business. So, you need to strategise what the worst possible thing is you could face and build solutions to combat it. 

Ask yourself: 

  • What’s your business susceptible to? 
  • What threats do you face? 
  • Is your team trained and equipped to handle a sudden change in direction? 

The more help you can get to identify problems you may deal with is a smart move. I suggest creating your own business council and include people you trust and work with them to plan for these circumstances together. Nobody wins a war by themself. 

Plan 2: Aim for the best
While the situation may be dire, that doesn’t mean you should be negative and just expect to fail. As proven by countless entrepreneurs before, every crisis presents opportunity and you need to access what yours is. 

Ask yourself:

  • What will it take for you to win? 
  • Who in your network can support and help you do it? 
  • What do you want to achieve in this time? 

Mindset is what sets people apart in tough circumstances and those with positivity are the ones that continue in business. 

Remain front of mind

While your sales might drop-off in uncertain economic conditions, your marketing efforts should not. In fact, they should increase. 

This is not about making grand claims on how your product or service will solve your customers problems in a crisis. It’s about being authentic and real and helping your customers through these times by offering practical information they can apply themselves. 

If your market is mum and dad investors, educate them on the small things they can do right now to diversify their financial streams so they’ll be better off when the next crisis hits.   

It might not get you business right then, but if you give them an answer to their pain points it will be remembered. When the time is right, they’ll get in contact with the person or business that helped because they trust them. 

Be nimble

As a small business owner, you should never stop thinking nimbly and even more so in a crisis. There are a few components to this. 

Find new opportunities: As a leader you need to spend time investigating what new opportunities your business has. While it might not be an option you want when times return to normal, offering a product or service that addresses market demand in a dire circumstance, could be the difference. 

Understand what you need to sell: I wrote about this in a previous blog and it’s vital. If you don’t know what you need to sell each year and break that into quarters, months and weeks, you have nothing to measure your business and financial success against. 

Reduce overheads: One of the biggest reasons for small business failure is an inability to understand profit and loss correctly. You need to know what goes out of your business and if you can cut it, do so in a crisis. And if new work needs to be done but you lack the resource to pay larger amounts of money for it, outsourcing is an option. 

Plan for objections: Churchill didn’t win the war by only having one trick in place, he had several strategised moves he was prepared to take depending on what the enemy did. While your potential customers are not enemies, in a tough situation they will try to reject your offer. If you’re prepared for what they say, you can formulate enticing answers to get them to understand your viewpoint.  

Build cash flow

Every business needs cash flow and if the future is not looking bright, they need it fast. 

One effective way to sure-up cash flow is to offer discounts to your customers. It sounds counterintuitive but it can work. If your product or service is needed and your market wants it, encourage customers to sign-up for a year by offering a reduced rate should they sign up for 12 months. 

That way you get cash flow in and your customers get something they need for cheaper. Doing this is a great way to encourage customers of your competitors to jump ship and use you. 

Continuing to sell in a downturn is the only way a small business can survive. 

Due to the nature of business, cash reserves can drain quickly and when faced with a crisis like COVID-19 (and the assumed a six month hiatus), owners need to be smart to succeed. 

That’s why they need a survival guide in place. Over my last few blogs, I’ve explained the four elements to creating Your Ultimate Survival Guide. 

Element one: Stop your business failing;

Element two: Execute a strategy to beat your competitors;

Element three: Remaining financially viable; and 

Element four: Continuing to sell in a downturn. 

Without all of these elements in place, powering through difficult situations eventually becomes a battle too great to win.

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