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Selling Strategies for a Tough Economy, Part 1

(This article originally published in the Global Services Oct 2008 issue

“The U.S. Slowdown: Survive & Thrive” reads one headline while “Grim Outlook for IT Spending” reads the next.   “Outsourcing Takes a Hit” says a Wall Street Journal blog the same day CIO News posts TPI’s report of outsourcing’s best two quarters in ten years.  Although the headlines clearly disagree on the impact a slower economy has on outsourcing sales, there remains little argument that the US economy and many others worldwide continue showing weakness.

How is it with economic conditions the same for everyone are there such varying results across the service provider industry?  It is at least partly because successful firms are making better tactical adjustments to their selling and marketing strategies to accommodate for the economic changes.  So what did they change and where did they start?

Revisiting Sales and Marketing Basics

Regardless the level of business economic conditions, outsourcing sales success begins with an external audit of customer markets, including needs, trends, competition and product alternatives.   At the same time, an internal audit examines organizational capabilities, available resources, financial requirements, experience and offerings.  Strategic marketing plans are then constructed, including differentiation approaches and promotion, pricing, and channel decisions.  Good times or tough – all these elements work together to determine sales success for the outsourcing provider.   

The Impact of Slow Economies

It is a reality that slow economies make it harder for ITOs and BPOs to achieve desired sales results.   A few of the familiar reasons illustrate why:


·         Many sectors spend less on IT services in uncertain times and some stop spending entirely.


·         Competitors without plans for economic down-cycles often make desperate pricing decisions or agree to unrealistic contract terms that only make matters worse.


·         Outsourcing decisions take longer because more people share in the review process when cash is tight.  At any hint of risk the safe answer seems to be to delay the purchase.  

Challenges like these require different sales tactics and following are five of the best options to consider.   Depending on the outsourcer’s vertical expertise some may apply more than others, but the concepts can apply to most IT, software, business process and engineering outsourcing markets.

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