Selling With Nadilo: Some words to live by in a slow economy

You can’t pick up a newspaper, read a magazine or scan your favorite Web site without reading about the economic woes facing America. I find it interesting to see what others have said when business went soft and times were tough. Some of their famous quotes are sometimes telling and even comforting. In any event they are always worth examining:

It was Joseph P. Kennedy who said, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” In questionable economic times, this expression is as timely today as it was back then.

Jack Dempsey wasn’t talking about the economy when he said, “The best defense is a good offense,” but his legendary boxing strategy is particularly apt for business during tough times. To stay ahead of the competition, you need to keep marketing and sales on an offensive footing. All too often, when times get tough, sales and marketing get slashed. I’ve never understood how — in times when sales count most — management cuts the budget that would normally ferret out sales leads.

A colleague of mine got a call from a company that’s been hit hard by the mortgage crisis. The company provides real estate property services to investment banks and has been riding high for years. It has a very technical sales team that until recently had literally been acting as order-takers. Unmitigated success allowed them to simply react to the needs of their customers as they watched the money roll in.

Not surprisingly, this sales team has had little formal sales training and does virtually no sales prospecting. But with the mortgage crisis driving revenue down by almost 50 percent, the VP of sales (a very bright guy with excellent selling instincts) knows that his sales team needs sales training to learn lead qualification, sales process and closure techniques.

My friend offered a one-day tune-up course and told the company he needed about a week to prepare, get to know their product and custom-tailor the training to specific client issues. He gave them an excellent, thorough and thoughtful proposal for $12,000 for the team of 10 salespeople. Given that this company has revenues in the tens of millions of dollars, it’s a small price to pay to get its sales team “back in the game” and delivering a “good offense.”

The VP of sales thought it was entirely reasonable, but the CEO balked at the price, saying one day of training is worth a one-day consulting fee.

The term, “Penny wise and pound foolish” was first uttered in 1607, but it still rings true here. You have a company that’s losing millions. Qualifying and closing leads would do much to turn that around, yet $12,000 is too much for professional training?

Being there

Chauncey Gardiner, brilliantly played by Peter Sellers in the movie, “Being There,” utters this famous business quote: “In a garden, growth has its season … as long as the roots are not severed, all is well, and all will be well in the garden.” Why do so many businesses “sever their roots” when times get tough? Like a neglected garden, neglected businesses have to reseed or replant and hope that they can regrow what once was once healthy and vital — an effort that is expensive and time consuming.

I know of a brother-and-sister business team that owns a successful restaurant chain. They’re focused on building their brand and have been consistent with their marketing even during the tough times for restaurants, given high food prices. There is no question that business is a little soft for everyone in the restaurant industry. But their unwavering commitment to market their brand has paid off. While the competition suffers, they continue to enjoy a healthy business and their suppliers (the best source of feedback in the restaurant business) all report their orders far exceed those of the competition.

They have consistently run their unique radio commercials and have cleverly targeted the summer Seacoast crowd. They intuitively know that their marketing efforts keep them in front of the customer and it gives them a better than fair share of the pie, even in a soft market.

Sales are the lifeblood of a company, and marketing is the engine generating the leads for sales.

There are no two ways about it: If you abandon sales support and marketing during the tough times, you’ll be at a disadvantage.

And you can quote me on that.

Rudy Nadilo is a sales and marketing expert. You can reach him at