THE BLOG

Suffering to Continue Beyond Recovery

11/30/2009 03:34 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Has the recovery begun, possibly but suffering will continue long after the recovery. Contrary to all the negative reports and speculations people are spending money and even willing to stand in lines for products and services that they want! And unlike what the pundits tell you this is not just for necessary items but products like $4 dollar coffee, $100 jeans and online games like Call of Duty 2.

I was in the LAX airport recently, one year after the meltdown of Bear Stearns, and I look up to see 40+ people standing in line at the Starbucks in Terminal 1. A security person informed me that there was another Starbucks just 150 feet in the other direction. I hurriedly walked in the other direction only to find a longer line! Two days before this experience, 6 million people pre-purchased and stood in line to ring the cash registers of Game Stops, Best Buys and Wal-Marts for Activision's new Call of Duty 2 game. In five days they sold 550m of the product. And on Black Friday a majority of shoppers were packing two bags or more by 11am.

These examples don't disregard the fact that housing is still slow, automobile sales still suffer, retail sales are flat and unemployment numbers are at horrific levels but does go to point out that if you have a product that people value, they will spend their money and even wait in line to get it. The real question today is regardless of when the recovery starts when does the suffering end.

I believe the personal suffering will end long after the recovery and only for those that are creative and aggressive! My identical twin brother was in the market for a new car but didn't want to go to a dealership. I called a dealer friend of mine in St Petersburg and they immediately delivered cars his home for him to demonstrate. The same day he exchanged 2 vehicles and paid the difference in cash and concluded the transaction in the comfort of his home. This is a perfect example of the kind of actions companies have to take when they don't have products that people will stand in line for.

To be competitive and recover and more importantly stop the suffering companies should start focusing on 'only practices'. Only practices are those things that you are the only one doing and that your competition refuses to do! With most businesses still stuck in 'come see us' rather than 'go to customer' this can be a real competitive advantage. A week after catching the new car bug my brother found himself at a Lexus store one of his other cars and couldn't get anyone to wait on him. After wandering the lot for ten minutes he drove to an Audi store where he fell in love with the Audi 8 but no one asked him to buy. I guess they believe that he doesn't have money because the economy is bad, but the reality is they didn't get my brother's money because they are not doing those things that are necessary to sell in this market. By the way neither company has since called him back and followed up.

What are you doing to stop the suffering? What are you doing to make your company's products and services stand out? What are you willing to do that your competition or industry is UNWILLING to do? Ask yourself what beliefs your company have that may only make your economy worse?

It is not true that people don't have money to spend nor is it true that the consumer will not spend money. It is true that you will have to do more to make your company stand out in the market place. It is true that you will have to work harder in order to make up the difference in the pullback in the economy. It is also true that if your industry is off 25% and you are have not improved the skills of your people by at least 25% your business will suffer even after the economy recovers.

Unless you have a Starbuck's location at the LAX airport or the hottest new game in the world the world will probably not stand in line for your products and services. You will be forced to improve the sales skills of your company. When the economy starts recovering businesses that have not improved the basic skills of its people will continue to be negatively impacted even long after a recovery. Customer service that generates a sale, sales presentations that build value, sales training that actually gets results, and your company doing those things your competition refuses to make a sale are the only things that will actually change economic conditions for most companies.