Recession Survival Lessons from Fortune Magazine

by Victor Cheng

I got back late last night from New Orleans where I gave a keynote speech for Fortune Magazine’s Small Business Sales & Marketing Summit.

I flew in on Sunday night to hear the other speakers and to get a better feel for the audience. And I ended up spending 10 hours revise my talk and rehearsing it to better fit the audience, time slot, and format for the event.

So sadly, I did not end up making it to Cafe Dumond (will have to wait for next time).

But, I did come up with a story that I share with the 150 CEOs in the room about how to survive this recession. It was a last minute addition to my talk and I think it made the point I wanted to get across. So I thought I’d share the story with you.

When an economic storm rolls in, most people run for cover, hide, and try to ride the storm out.  This is a natural human instinct and if you know for sure the storm will be short, it’s a reasonable thing to do.

But if you need the storm has the potential to be a long one, you don’t want to hide from the change in conditions… you want to take advantage of it.

So in my best (okay mediocre) attempt at being a drill sergeant, I started yelling at the group of CEO’s to stop being a bunch of wussy pansies. (And amazingly I did not get thrown out of the room)

When it starts to rain, you don’t run and hide.

You get your rear-end out there and start selling umbrellas! Sell food rations. Sell bottled water. Sell bus tickets to somewhere dry. Sell the stuff people want when it’s raining.

Crisis creates opportunity.

The morale of the story is that even in storm, people still have money–but what they care about and what they spend money on changes. The key to ensuring your business survives and even prospers is to sell what people want to buy right now.

Do NOT what they used to buy. Don’t sell what you think theyneed. Just sell what they want to buy at this precise moment in time.

It seems simple enough… sell what people want to buy. But, as I am fond of saying, under times of extreme stress and pressure, common sense is the first thing that goes out the window.

Don’t let it!

Be brutally honest with yourself. Ask yourself, are you selling the products and services your customers want to buy? (If you’re not sure, check your bank balance. It doen’t lie)

If you’re not or if your only partly selling what customers are buying, go talk to your customers and figure out what they want right now. It’s a great place to start.

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