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A famous selling rule set out half a century ago by David Sandler, the founder of our company, goes like this: Don’t spill your candy in the lobby.

What does that mean, exactly? Well, this Sandler rule connects to one of the things we do when we go out to see a film. Of course, people are a bit less likely today to go out to the movies than they once were… but for me, a big part of the ritual of going out to see a motion picture is still buying candy and other refreshments to enjoy during the picture.

Maybe it’s a ritual for you, too. What Sandler was getting at with his simple, memorable selling rule is this: Sometimes salespeople are a bit like overexcited moviegoers who buy their goodies, rush away from the concession stand, trip, and spill all their candy all over the lobby floor before they even make it to their seat. Why did Sandler compare salespeople to those over-eager movie patrons? Because a lot of salespeople overwhelm prospective buyers with sage advice, enthusiasm, and detailed recommendations far too early in the relationship.

These salespeople leave nothing for the “show” itself.

It’s a good observation, and the principle that Sandler built his rule around – save your formal recommendations, your personal commitment, and your deepest insights for the truly qualified buyers – remains sound. But our experience on the front lines in multiple industries suggests that this advice needs to be adjusted just a bit in our omnichannel, AI-empowered era for the economic and logistical realities of selling in a down economy.

And yes, many of our clients are preparing for the possibility of a down economy in the coming year... or dealing with it directly right now.

For nearly a year, there has been an intense, ongoing discussion about the trajectory of the world economy as a whole, and specifically about the question of whether the US economy is on the brink of a recession. As of this writing, that debate remains unresolved… but does that really matter?

If your team’s market is down, the debate is irrelevant. The down economy is your current reality. With that reality in mind – and the parallel reality that today’s buyers know more and control buying cycles more cautiously than they ever have – here are three twenty-first-century best practices to consider.

  • Be prepared to spill just a little more candy in a down market. No, we’re not talking about doling out massive amounts of free consulting. But in an omnichannel buying environment where buyers can access massive amounts of data, and where our initial contact with them may be largely digital, it makes sense for the Sales and Marketing teams to work together to figure out what candy they’d like. We want to find out what resources add enough value to be noticed, clicked on, downloaded, and/or discussed by the decision-makers and influencers we are targeting. It’s likely that there is a cadence of such resources that our ideal buyer will notice, respond to, and be open to a discussion with an expert about. Our job is to make sure the members of our selling team are those experts. That means giving them a little bit of candy to offer key players as an incentive for engaging with us and our organization.
  • Take a closer look at the ideal prospect’s buyer journey… and at the problems your organization can help to solve in the early phases of that journey. It’s now likely that that buyer journey doesn’t look the same as it did just 90 days ago. Spilling just a little candy – online or in real-time exchanges – to help potential decision-makers and influencers solve a new and/or pressing problem can help you to accelerate and deepen both engagement and brand awareness. Here again, Marketing and Sales will want to be working in tandem. Is there a white paper you can offer that helps with a particularly vexing short-term challenge your ideal decision-maker must address? A brief, branded video that addresses a difficult issue your audience faces? A concise LinkedIn post teasing a few of the best practices you’ve shared with your best clients and customers? Don’t give away all the candy. But do be prepared to dole out a few morsels that will leave key people wanting more.
  • Give your team more support and more strategic resources to offer prospective buyers in down times– not less. Make no mistake. Some of your competitors are responding to intensifying competition by giving their selling teams more candy to pass out to prospects… and giving salespeople more tools, training, and coaching, too. When budgets tighten, customers have to make tough decisions. If it comes down to choosing between a vendor or a partner, it makes sense to give teams everything they need to position themselves as a partner – and give them the skills and the tools they need to come out on top when there’s a dogfight. Equip them with what they need to win that fight. They may be fighting for their jobs – and your organization could be fighting for its survival. That’s not a fight you want to lose.

Where do you draw the line between spilling a little candy… and spilling too much candy? That’s a balancing act.

As it happens, it’s one that we help leading sales organizations master. If you’d like to get market-specific clarity on what resources you should be offering prospective buyers, who within the target organization you should be offering those resources to, and when and how it makes the most sense to offer them, contact us.


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