Selling Thru a Challenging Economy



I’ve been around the sales block a few times in my life. I’ve seen trends and varying market conditions. I’ve gotta be honest: I’ve never before seen what’s taking place in the economy right now.

Many contractors are still thriving with the backlog they’ve established. Some are even having record years.

Don’t be fooled. When interest rates go up, construction slows. Period! Combine that increase with the inflationary aspect of building, and eventually you price out construction consumers – regardless of the size of the customer or project. This, my friends, is about to happen. I’ve been sounding a clarion cry to my consulting clients, and from the stage at every event I speak at. I think if most contractors are honest with themselves, they see it coming.

So how do you counter a potential slowdown in construction?

There really is only one answer: Sell. No, not your business. Sell your services. By expanding your customer base, you can counteract any slowdown that takes place in the market. This means getting out there with your existing customer base, protecting the volume you have with these clients to make sure it continues, while also hitting targets that are opportunities.

Here’s the challenge: You have to manage your current projects. Some of you may be at your wit’s end timewise to even take care of what you have now. I completely get that. The first order of business is to evaluate your time management and determine where you can find some additional time to increase your sales work. We all waste time. If we’re being honest with ourselves, it’s just human nature. Finding three to four extra hours in the week can result in two sales calls. If that’s two more than you’re doing now, you’ve increased your sales effort.

The second course of action is to qualify the existing or target accounts you want to pursue. Which give you the most realistic bang for the buck in relation to your time spent? Next, determine the best way to connect with these individuals. Can you invite them out for lunch, meet them before an association meeting or catch them at a networking event? Any strategy that can help bring you face to face with these prospects is worth the time committed. That needs to be your goal, as most salespeople will rely on email or social media communication, which is lazy selling. The more personal contact you have with existing or potential clients, the more you’ll stand out from the pack. It’s a more time-consuming and expensive process, but well worth the investment of both.

Frequently when the economy tightens and construction slows, a common first reaction is to spend more on marketing. Though there may be a legitimate reason to increase that spend, if it’s not tied to a stronger sales effort it ends up wasted. Combine your sales and marketing strategies to have a significant impact on the marketplace. It’s more common to put money into a website than increase the amount of time a company puts into its sales effort. It’s the age-old mentality that your marketing sells for you. This is rare. Marketing can create interest, but it’s the sales work that lands the projects. Sales work isn’t always easy. There’s a lot of rejection, and often customers are hard to read. Understand that sales is a numbers game. The more people you’re in front of, the more you’ll succeed. It’s a basic sales formula that cannot be denied.

We are almost to pre-pandemic levels with respect to personal contact. People are meeting in person again and spending time together. Association attendance has increased significantly, and major events are back on. These contacts should be a part of your regular sales regimen. Begin to be creative in your approach. Learn your client’s tastes and preferences. Cater to those tastes in your sales work. Small things make a difference. Your customers will notice you took the time to understand them and their needs.

As the economy contracts, most forecasters are saying a recession is either upon us or imminent. Be prepared by setting your sales strategy. If you don’t know how that’s done, get help.

Tom Woodcock, president of seal the deal, is a speaker and trainer for the construction industry nationwide. He can be reached via his website,, or at 314.775.9217.

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