How to Close the Deal in a Sinking Economy

Nearly everyone is cutting back on expenses these days.  For small business owners, that means it’s harder than ever to turn sales prospects into paying customers. It’s challenging, but not impossible.

Here’s what some entrepreneurs and salespeople are doing to close the deal despite the looming recession.

Eliminate client’s fears

The financial markets have been declining, and that’s bad news for Pat Patterson, a financial adviser with Edward Jones Investments in Houston, Texas.  “A lot of people are on the sidelines. They’ve taken their cash out of the markets, and they aren’t sure when or how to get back in,” he says.

It’s Patterson’s job to close the deal by helping these clients choose the right investments for their money, but he says many of them won’t invest unless he helps them eliminate their fear of the future. “I explain that there will be market corrections, but the most important thing for them is to put a good plan in place, then stick with it. I have to make sure my clients keep a long-term perspective, and I remind them that I can help,” he says.

For Patterson, there is a silver lining to the cloudy financial forecast. “When people feel that their old brokers haven’t served them properly, and aren’t doing things like answering questions or giving them needed attention, they’ll switch to someone who’s more attentive. I’ve picked up business this way.”

Offer flexible pricing packages

Jean Campbell, a wedding and event planner in Saint Peters, Missouri, says it’s important for her to operate within her bridal clients’ dwindling budgets. “If you want a client’s business, you have to be willing to work with them. That means offering different pricing packages to make sure your services are as affordable as possible,” says Campbell, who charges anywhere from a few hundred dollars for day-of-event help, to a few thousand dollars for fully customized service.

Campbell finds that many brides-to-be aren’t initially sure which planning tasks they can handle on their own and what help they’ll need from a consultant. She says it’s up to the professional to walk them through their choices.

When offering flexibility, don’t sell yourself short. “I always set the expectations up front about what each price package includes, and what’s not included,” Campbell says.  Never discount your services for substantially less than they’re worth.

Work with qualified prospects

“Most of my clients come from referrals.  That means they’ve usually done their homework, and they’re ready to buy or sell,” says Sonya L. Roberts, a real estate broker and owner of Right Way Realty and Investment Services in Houston, Texas.  “I try to make sure they’re qualified.”  Roberts says that because her clients are well prepared early in the process, her real estate deals generally close without problems.  It’s a great strategy for business, she says.

Getting customers to say yes isn’t always easy, but by putting these business principles to use, you can go a long way toward closing more deals in 2009.