When the economy is slow, new business is harder to get. What can you do to build your business in a recessionary economy?
It’s been about ten years since our last recession in the United States. For the most part, the U.S. economy has been strong and business has been good for the last decade. However, the fact is that the economy goes through cycles and business has slowed down for many people. Unfortunately, every time it takes a downturn, the fallout is felt strongly by salespeople, business owners, and professionals alike.
Successful business professionals learn from the past. For many of us, this will not be our first recession. So, what did we learn from previous economic downturns? In the early 90’s, right in the middle of a nasty recession, I was at a business mixer in Connecticut where I was meeting many local business professionals. It seemed that everyone was feeling the crunch from the slow economy. Throughout the entire event, the favorite topic of discussion was how bad the economy was and how things were getting worse. The whole affair was depressing, because nearly everyone was obsessed with the problems of the economy and its impact on their businesses.
I was introduced to one of the many real-estate agents attending. Given the decrease in property values in the state, I was leery of asking this gentleman the standard “How’s business?” question. I didn’t want to hear yet another variation of how bad business was. He shared with me, though, that he was having a great year. Naturally, I was surprised and asked, “you did say you were in real estate, didn’t you?”
“Yes”, he said.
I asked, “we are in Connecticut… aren’t’ we?”
“Yes, “ he said with a slight grin.
“And you’re having a good year?” I asked.
“I’m actually having my best year ever!” he said.
Your best year!” I said in amazement. After thinking for a moment I asked him, “Is this your first year in real estate?”
“No,” he replied with a laugh, “I’ve been in real estate for almost ten years.”
I asked him how he was doing so well, given the conditions of the economy and the stiff competition. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a blue and white badge that read:
Participate in the Recession!
“That’s your secret?” I asked. “You refuse to participate in the recession, so business is booming?”
“That’s correct,” he said. “While most of my competitors are crying the blues about how bad business is, I’m out drumming up a ton of business networking with my contacts and generating referrals by talking about the great opportunity that exists right now to purchase real estate. Considering what he said, I looked around the room and listened in on people for a while as they were complaining about how bad business was. While nearly all were commiserating with one another, I concluded that very few were actually networking and working on seeking new business. As a result, very little business was actually being accomplished.
If you want to do well in business, you must understand that it does absolutely no good to complain to people about tough things are. When you complain about how bad business is – half the people you tell don’t care and the other half are glad that you’re worse off than they are!
While you cannot control the economy or your competition, you can control your response to the economy. Referrals can keep your business alive and well during an economic downturn.
During the last recession, I watched thousands of business people grow and prosper. They were successful because they consciously made the decision to refuse to participate in the recession. The did so by developing their networking skills and learning how to build their business through word of mouth.
You can do the same during a slow economy by:
Diversifying your networks. You need breadth and depth. Participate in different kinds of groups.
Don’t be a “cave-dweller”. Be visible, put yourself in play, get out and meet people at business events.
Learn how to work the meetings you attend. It’s not called net-sit, or net-eat, it’s called Net-WORK. Learn networking systems and techniques that apply to the different kinds of organizations you attend.
Prepare effective introductions and presentations to give to other business people at networking events and meetings.
Develop your Contact Spheres – these are a groups of business professionals who have a symbiotic or compatible, non-competitive relationship with you.
Most importantly, understand that networking is more about farming than it is about hunting. It’s about building relationships with other business people.
Don’t let a bad economy be your excuse for failure. Instead, make it your opportunity to succeed. It’s not “what you know,” or “who you know,” it’s “how well you know people” that counts. In a tough economy, it’s your social capital that has value. Make good use of it and you will thrive while others struggle.
About the Co-Author: Dr. Ivan Misner is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business networking organization, which has more than 4,900 chapters in 37 countries. Dr. Misner is also the author of several books, including the most recent addition to the bestselling Masters Series—Masters of Sales (www.mastersbooks.com), and the New York Times bestseller TRUTH OR DELUSION? (www.truthordelusion.com); and he is the Senior Partner for the Referral Institute (www.referralinstitute.com), a referral training company with operations around the world.
About Our Show Advisor: Bertrand McHenry spent 22 years developing his skills in outside sales. Starting out in the cell phone business, then to Pitney Bowes, Dictaphone Division, and finally in Medical Diagnostic Equipment Sales. His expertise became finding, training, and developing dynamic and record setting sales teams. A number of years ago he was introduced to the concept of “Referral Marketing” as a strategy for growing his business. It worked and he was hooked! At a conference Bertrand was presented with the Referral Institute opportunity and “I was intrigued so I began researching the company and its curriculum. It is actually the only company teaching Referral Marketing as a strategy to business owners and entrepreneurs around the world…so it didn’t take me long.” These days Bertrand is doing what he loves and what he does best…teach and train! “There is a lot of misunderstanding around the words “networking” and “referral marketing”. People make a lot of assumptions about those two words, and most of those assumptions are wrong! I can tell you without a doubt that Referral Marketing is the most powerful form of marketing there is. If we structure a referral marketing strategy and follow through week after week and just use the V.C.P relationship model…we can actually predict our income 6, 9, even 12 months out!” Most recently he has been quoted on yahoofinance.com, maimiherald.com, morningstar.com and USA Today featured him in an article on today’s economy calling him a “Trendsetter in the New Economy!” He is also a contributing author on Brian Tracy’s newest book titled “The Only Business Book You’ll Ever Need to Buy” due out in February 2012 Bertrand also hosted a radio show “Business Builders Radio” on CBS radio, Talk 650 AM. The radio show was dedicated to teaching the concepts of referral marketing and helping as many business owners as possible. Bertrand is fond of saying: “I love to teach business owners to Work Less, Play More, Make More Money, and Create Referrals for Life!”