At just about every networking event I attended this Summer, there were two complaints I never failed to hear - "no one's around in the Summer", and "the economy is in recession". To the former, I replied, "I - and everyone in this room, and rooms like this all across town - am around this Summer." To the latter, I respond, "And so???"

As for the contention that "no one's around in the Summer", look, there's no getting around it; there are not as many people around during the Summer - especially in August, when most people take their vacations. But unless you're living in certain European countries, where business literally shuts down in August and virtually no one is working, the fact is that some people are still in the office transacting business.

And yes, there's no denying that we are in tight economic times (whether it's officially a "recession" I don't think has been determined. But if it looks like a recession and it feels like a recession...). Nevertheless, I decided to conduct some back-of-the-envelope research to determine just how bad it gets during these troughs in the economic cycle. Astoundingly, I discovered that during the last five economic downturns (recessions, if you will), the Gross National Product of the United States was significantly above zero.

People and companies are buying stuff.

We can choose to use these external factors as excuses to be inactive and unproductive, or we can find ways to be productively active despite them. Your prospects' decision makers are lounging on the beaches of Bermuda and the Bahamas, and no one's around with the authority to make decisions? So what? You can nevertheless be productive: sowing seeds and advancing your sales with the influential people who aren't on the beach, while your competitors are doing what the aforementioned networkers are doing - complaining.

And remember, a big part of our job as sales people is to help our prospects make the financial case for investing in our product or service. This becomes even more critical when the economy is tight. Let me illustrate this point with an example. Shortly after New Year's, when gas was still below $3.00 a gallon, my wife and I planned a 4-day Summer weekend in Maine (we live in southwest suburban Boston). Last month, gas had topped $4.00 a gallon, making the travel portion of our planned weekend 25% more expensive than it was when we'd planned the trip, which at that time was already almost 50% more expensive than it had been a year before. Being wise spenders, but still needing to get a way, we revised our plans to fit the circumstances. As a result of a flyer we'd received from the Rhode Island Department of Tourism, we chose a shorter duration (3 days) and a closer destination (Newport RI, which, at 140 miles round trip, was 120 miles shorter than the round trip to Central Maine). A Rhode Island hotel, a Rhode Island gas station, a couple of (excellent!) Rhode Island restaurants, a Rhode Island beach, and the State of Rhode Island (sales tax) won. The corresponding entities in the State of Maine lost.

Action Plan

Be Rhode Island. Be creative and find a way to position your product or service so that it can take advantage of an unfavorable economic climate, or a normally slow time of the year. Or be Maine - but better. Don't simply complain that the economy is in a recession, or that it's the middle of August, and there's nothing you can do - and let someone else eat your lunch. Find a way to modify your product or service so as to remove your prospect's budgetary objection, but that still leaves you with a reasonable margin.

Some prospects still need - and will spend the money for - what you sell. Either now, or shortly after Labor Day, when the beaches clear out and the decision-makers come back to work. These prospects just need you to show them how they can get what they want given the circumstances that constrain them. Smaller or partial purchases, more favorable terms, discounts, fees for referring a qualified lead - all these are tools you have at your disposal to use your time productively today. Use them - and you'll accomplish two things - you'll close some business, and you'll have a stronger pipeline going into the last four months of the year.

Good selling!

Author's Bio: 

Craig James has over 15 years' experience in sales and sales management, primarily in technology and software. He's helped dozens of sales people, business owners, and entrepreneurs sharpen their selling skills, and close more business, faster.

Craig has been published and been quoted in publications such as Business Week, Sales and Marketing Management, Selling Power, and the New York Enterprise Report, and has been interviewed by Sales Rep Radio. Craig was also a 2007 Top Sales Articles finalist for best article of the year. He has taught at New York University’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and has lectured at Columbia University’s School of Continuing Education. He’s also been a long time volunteer with the Workshop in Business Opportunities, a "boot camp" for entrepreneurs whose mission is to enable small business owners and budding entrepreneurs in under-served communities to obtain financial success in starting, operating, and building successful businesses. An accomplished speaker and presenter, Craig has been active in Toastmasters International since 2001, and served a term as President of his local chapter.

Craig earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, and his MBA from the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Business. He and his wife, Nancy, live in Westwood, MA, a suburb of Boston.