Crash Course in ... dealing with falling sales

Your latest revenue forecast looks like a car going over a cliff - and it's not clear how far it has to fall before hitting the bottom. Either you find a way to get sales going again or there will have to be serious cost-cutting.

by Alexander Garrett

Be positive. In a previous downturn, Sam Walton, founder of Walmart, quipped: 'I was asked what I thought about the recession. I said I'd thought about it and decided not to participate.' Lee Duncan, a business growth coach, says: 'The first thing you've got to do is have some self-belief. If you have your head down, you won't sell anything.'

Don't stop marketing. There's plenty of evidence from the likes of McKinsey and London Business School to show that firms that cut their advertising and marketing budgets lose out in the short term as well as in the long run. One LBS study found that 'during the recovery phase, the people who maintained spend in the recession gained market share at the expense of those who cut spend'. Instead of cutting activity, consider diverting spend to more accountable forms of marketing, such as the web, direct response or promotions.

Target your effort. Professor Neil Rackham, author of Spin Selling, says: 'In hard times, people put a lot of effort into chasing every opportunity they think they can get, and as a result, they half-sell to twice as many customers.' Identify your best customers and concentrate your effort on them.

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