I'm reminded of a story told to me about how the military trains their troops for urban warfare. I can't confirm its complete accuracy, but the message is strong regardless of whether its completely accurate.
Given the close proximity when fighting in urban areas, one of the biggest fears and dangers is hand grenades. The reason for this (outside the obvious) is that the first response is to back away from them. This presents two problems:
- First, it puts the soldier in a defensive, reactive position - making them vulnerable to frontal and flank attacks; and
- Second, it exposes the least protected and most vulnerable parts of the body to shrapnel.
So, they teach soldiers that, in closed quarters, when a grenade is thrown, aggressively advance toward the grenade. This is taught for two reasons:
- First, the soldier maintains greater control - as the saying goes the best defense is a good offense, and
- Second, if the grenade is behind the soldier they have their backpack to protect them from shrapnel and there are far fewer critical organs exposed to one's back.
I bring this up because of the mood that seems to be taking over in many markets. I'm hearing increased incidents where markets appear to be falling apart. Customers, under the claim of "spending freezes," are cutting projects - unwilling to listen to logic. This, legitimately, is causing great concern among sales executives.
The natural reaction, just as it is with the grenade, is to retrench and be conservative. Shift investments to other markets or merely wait it out. I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I think about this from time-to-time as well.
That defensive position - just as with the grenade - is the wrong one.
Now is the time to attack. The fact that customers are less willing to listen represents a big challenge - AND A BIG OPPORTUNITY. Listen, when I first got into sales, I was told the sale began when the client said no (so there are lots of sales opportunities today). Those companies that build great sales process and structure will be able to talk with people that NO ONE else will be able to talk to.
Let's stop talking about recession as a reason to cut back growth expectations. Recessions only matter to companies that have at least 30% of a market. If you have less than 30% of the market your opportunity lies in taking business away from your competitors - and that's a lot easier to do in a bad market than a good one.
Now is the time where superior offerings can shine - if you're willing to put the muscle and process behind getting people to listen. Your potential customers need you more than ever, don't let them down.
Damn the recession - attack and relentlessly execute.