I have been working with a lot of smaller businesses lately who were previously doing very well but their major source of income has gone from a flood, to a stream, and then down to a trickle. They are finding that what was previously selling well is now not getting much attention as their clients and prospects become more careful with how they spend their money. ‘Nice to have’ is now off the menu.

These smaller businesses have never really had a problem with sales even though they are accidental sales people. Jean, for example, is a great networker and through the strength of personal recommendation always seemed to turn a steady stream of referrals into clients. The referrals, however, had now almost completely dried up and she was suddenly feeling very vulnerable. She was feeling the effect of the current economic climate and beginning to fear what might happen if things do not turn around soon.

Whilst the times may be scary for some, I see this as a very positive time for those that adapt and change to take advantage of the circumstances. In the animal kingdom, when the food source disappears, some animals will go in search of the same food in a different location, some will adapt and seek new food sources, and some will not adapt and suffer the obvious consequences.

Whilst looking for new markets for the same products and services may seem the logical thing to do, it is normally easier and quicker for the smaller business to look more closely at the market they are in and adapt. This is especially important if your products and services are not considered essential. With a problem centric approach to sales and marketing it is often possible to turn something from a ‘nice to have’ into a ‘must have’.

This is what I have been doing with people like Jean – helping them to adapt to better understand their market and adapt what they are doing. Sometimes it has just been changing the way they talk about their products and services and perhaps repackaging them. In other cases it has been identifying totally new additional services to offer their existing clients. Such services are obvious when you better understand the problems of your clients. The hard part is stepping back from the day-to-day grind and taking time for some fresh thinking.

The great thing with services is that it does not take a lot of time to change things provided you have the established credibility or learn how to create credibility. It’s not as if you have to build a new factory or re-calibrate a machine. Normally a single 2 hour session is all it takes as I find my clients already have all the answers, they just have not been able to formulate the ideas and articulate them. It’s not rocket science, as they say!

My prediction is that the businesses that are most successful when the economic upturn finally arrives are the ones that have learned to take a problem centric approach to sales and marketing and adapted their business in the down turn. I do hope you will be amongst them!