Overcoming the Fear Factor: The Key to Your
Business Development Strategy
By Dirk Gorman
The economic recession is forcing businesses to rethink their strategies and
retool their processes as they operate in worsening and ever changing
conditions. In the midst of corporate reorganizations, layoffs, budget cuts
and process improvements to create greater efficiencies, most businesses
overlook how fear, and the lack of a clear plan to reduce it, is an
impediment to their success. The fear epidemic perpetuated by the financial
markets, government, ongoing negative media coverage and anxious individuals
is a deliberate assault on our very nature and must be reversed.
The constraints of fear without answers are the
catalyst for inaction. Without solutions, denial sets in as people either
begin to think they will not be affected, or simply feel hopeless. Either
way, inaction takes place as the body experiences sensory overload. The
adage "stopped in your tracks" holds true here just as a mouse in a maze
becomes immobile with no options for escape.
The Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear
Without A Plan
Once fear is accepted as reality it takes rare and powerful leadership to
reverse it. The upside of fear is that it can be harnessed and used as a
powerful motivator to bring people to act. Therefore leaders must have a
clear, viable plan to minimize tension and take bold action now to challenge
and reduce the fear. Corporate leaders can rise to this unique challenge and
transform it into opportunity. Revising FDR's famous quote to take human
nature into account, "The only thing we have to fear is fear without a
Reinvest to Renew Confidence
Success starts with re-investment and a renewed confidence, demonstrated
simultaneously. Layoffs have never been in the equation for growth or long
term success. One critical way for business leaders to reverse the trend of
fear mongering without solutions is to focus on business development.
Nothing happens in the economic world until money is exchanged and that
occurs once a sale is made. There are currently phenomenal opportunities to
aggressively acquire unclaimed and available talent.
1. Allocate your resources to build the best
sales force in your industry and start making sales. Upgrade your sales
force through skills development and headcount. This sends a very strong
message to the organization. It demonstrates that you are proactively
focusing on your company's future to which the sales force is so vital.
- Always be optimistic: Sales people are
emotional and must stay optimistic and confident to sell effectively.
Pessimism only sells newspapers, not products or services.
- Assess resources: Take a long, hard look
at your current sales force. Unclaimed talent in this market makes it
easier to honestly assess the numbers internally and confirm the
competencies needed to excel.
- Reverse the trend: In good times, ride
your sales force hard demanding more and more. In tough times, the reverse
is necessary. Re-educate, re-train and console to build confidence not
tear it down.
- Develop competencies: Ensure your sales
force has adaptable skills to produce in this changing market. For
example, if they no longer had access to sell in person, could they begin
selling over the phone?
- Solidify your sales force: Uncertainty
clouds progress. It's critical to ensure these improvements produce top
performance levels and reduce underperformance.
2. Let your veteran force know the talent and
backgrounds of the people you are bringing in. This should inspire them. If
tenured employees are paralyzed or jealous about new talent being added to
the team, they may be another case of "tough times" exposing those who don't
have the drive to take advantage of the current circumstances. They will
weed themselves out.
Use your network of relationships to acquire
talent with preferred competencies based on the performance metrics of your
top performers and your ideal candidate profile.
3. Communicate clearly and regularly that the
down economy is an opportunity for success. Though far from an ideal
business environment, the recession still offers a rare opportunity for
achievement that your sales team may never have again. This is a time to
dominate and gain market share. Make your message clear so people recognize
this challenge as an opportunity for growth.
- Do not panic: Management cannot show
signs of pressing the panic button; otherwise you are in jeopardy of not
only losing your best sales people but also removing their effectiveness
as a sales person.
- Reaffirm your vision: Sales people
cannot doubt the vision and company direction. They must know it and
trust it. They must be spoken to directly and allowed to express
concerns. Address all concerns letting them know what, how and why
certain actions are being taken.
- Be direct and honest: If layoffs must
happen, they cannot occur in waves, it must be swift, quick, and final.
Nothing demoralizes a group more then to wait and anticipate when the ax
will fall on them next.
4. Seek Out New Market Opportunities: Just as
employee layoffs have forced the unemployed to rethink how their skills can
be transferred to new industries, businesses should deploy the same strategy
to grow new markets.
- Assess your current market: Does this
economy place you in position to dominate? Are your competitors less
capable of excelling at this time?
- Create partnerships: Research
companies that complement your business and help you expand your
footprint and your ability to gain market share. Create synergies
through strategic alliances, for instance licensing agreements that
can reduce capital expenditures.
- Acquire another company: Acquiring the
right business can reduce upfront risk of failure and start-up cost.
Cash flow is generated from day one from a proven business concept and
process. Barriers to entry are avoided and less reaction from
competitors are experienced.
While there are no guarantees in business, these
four steps will instill confidence in your sales force and harness the fear
espoused in the public dialogue by motivating them to act and produce to
their potential. At a time when leadership is needed most, the opportunity
to lead is here for the taking.
Dirk Gorman's expertise is in turning around and
building successful sales organizations in the business-to-business space.
He is founding partner of Empire Surgical, a multi- faceted sales solutions
company and exclusive distributor of Depuy Mitek, a leading Johnson &
Johnson sports medical device company. Visit