When times get tough, the average person becomes afraid, defensive and tactical.
This is no way to succeed in business either in the short, medium or long haul.
I speak at over a dozen sales conferences every year, it's my fave audience to talk to (as a life long sales pro). I've done sales conferences during two recessions, and my message is the same: When the economy is in the tank, make yourself emotionally attractive to your clients. This was a sage piece of advice I received from the late great Stanley Marcus Jr. (former Chairman of Neiman Marcus). He told me that when you make yourself emotionally attractive during tough times, you become the lighthouse for customers — and mop up while your competitors wither and die.
He should know, he worked through several economic meltdowns. Why is he right? Customers buy what they need and sometimes what they want. In many cases, even when they've been given instructions to cut or eliminate expenses (you), the Customer will fight for you — depending on how you make them feel. In other words, the intangible benefits you give (inspiration, positive emotions, stress relief, etc.) boost your perceived value.
How you can be emotionally attractive to your Customers:
1. Humor — Show a sense of humor, tell jokes, laugh and make it a goal to fave fun at your next sales presentation.
2. Inspiration — Have a positive attitude that defies the emotional/financial gravity of the situation. Use relevant stories or facts to inspire your Customers to believe in themselves, their business model and the future of the US economy over the long haul.
3. Cause/Purpose — Sign up for a charity, community or environmental program at work. Share your progress (and excitement about it) with your Customers and if appropriate, invite them to be a part of it. If your Customer has a cause, and it doesn't require your precious money, join it and help them achieve their purpose driven goals. This makes it much harder for them to fire you, because they now have to divorce product + a make-a-difference partner.
4. Knowledge sharing — Become a mentor to your clients, and take a sincere interest in their business issues. Find a great business book that addresses their needs and give it as a well-timed gift. To paraphrase Dale Carnegie: "You will accomplish more in the next two months, developing a sincere interest in two people, than you will accomplish in the next two years, trying to get two people interested in you.