Stanley Marcus Jr. had a great mind for both customer service and sales.
In late 2000, as the dotcom bubble started to burst and advertisers started to cut budgets, I talked with Mr. Marcus about our sales challenges. He offered me a simple rule of thumb that changed my outlook (and later my sales life).
Call it the Five To One rule of prospecting and sales. Simply put, if your market is cut back by 10%, you'll have to work 50% harder (five times market contraction) to achieve the same level of sales you did when the market was strong.
In 2001, the ad market shrunk over 20%, and I applied Mr. Marcus's rule to my sales life — and increased my efforts by 100%. Surprisingly, my production in 2001 was a few points higher than 2000. I preached this rule to several of my fellow Yahoo!'s and those that took it preserved their year-over-year success.
Here's the point: When there's a recession, the market doesn't completely disappear, it shrinks. The scarcity mindset may tell you that there's no more business to be had, but that's not true. There's just less of it. You'll have to look harder to find prospects or customers with budget. When you find them, you'll have to work harder to win their business as your competitors discount themselves to death.
Before you write off 2009, apply the Five To One rule to your market/industry. In the end, you'll realize that you are still in control of your sales destiny — if you're willing to work harder this year.
If you haven't seen it already, check out The Mr. Marcus Story on YouTube.