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Mainstream media tends to focus on the negative impacts of a down economy. You may have already experienced a decline in sales and your forecast for 2009 may have been adjusted to compensate. Experience has taught us that challenging economic times also create unprecedented opportunity for individuals and companies who prepare and stay focused.
Here are eight ways that professionals can maintain a positive outlook and sales during a down economy:
Form strategic alliances with companies that can offer complimentary value-add services or products to your own offerings and bundle these in special value packages
Sit down with your clients and do an in-depth review of their needs (needs analysis). Chances are they are hurting too and their needs may have changed since you last met. Offer to collaborate with them on solutions.
Join or renew your membership in a professional association where you can network with like-minded peers. The larger your professional network is during tough economic times, the better your chance for survival. Many of your peers can provide you with practical ideas that will help stimulate sales.
Form a mastermind group with fellow SMEI members and share your challenges in a roundtable session. Use “green light” thinking and write down each suggestion and give them all your best effort.
Keep focused. Don’t allow negative news headlines and a dismal outlook distract you from having a professional attitude.
Being professional in your dress and conversation will help you stand out in the crowd and will act as a magnet to attract other positive people. Wear a smile along with your best business attire.
Meet a client or peer for coffee or breakfast at least once each business day morning. This will help to keep the ball rolling and get you started on the road with a fresh perspective.
If you are not already certified, think about getting your professional certification
designation in 2009. The process of getting certified will hone your skills and achieving a designation will help you maintain a competitive advantage.
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SMEI signed an MOU with the Eminata Group, which owns and operates several private colleges in Canada. This agreement paves the way to articulate the SMEI Certified Professional Salesperson™ (SCPS™) program into courses at the Vancouver Career College starting in January 2008. Other colleges in Alberta, Manitoba and Quebec will be added to the program in the future. Pictured in the photo are back to front, left to right: Gerard Edwards, CME, CSE, Director of Education, SMEI; Linda Hamilton, Vice President, Vancouver Career College; Andre Souza, CME, Marketing Manager, Eminata Group; Willis Turner, CAE, CSE, President & CEO, SMEI; Stuart Rattan, EdD, Director of Academics, Eminata Group.
This is what Gerald White, CSE, instructor for the first University of Dallas, Graduate School of Managment Certified Sales Executive® (CSE®) articulated Sales Management class had to say this week:
"You would have been proud of the quality of work and effort put forth by these students. I was. I had a lot of fun and enjoyed teaching this class. It is saddening to have it end."
The passing grade for each student in the class was above the minimum benchmark of 75% to qualify for the CSE credentials.
This program will be run on a regular basis by the University of Dallas. Congratulations to Dale Fodness, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Academic Director and Gerald White for a job well done.
It was very exciting to see the results of SMEI's Train-the-Trainer program in Beijing. Gerard Edwards, CME, CSE and Gerald White, CSE traveled to P.R. China to conduct training programs for the CSE® and SCPS™ programs in October.
Each of the course attendees were carefully screened for educational background and work experience and upon passing the final certification exam are qualified to teach the applicable preparation courses in China.
With over a 90% passing rate, the results speak to the selection process, quality of the training programs and the aptitude of the applicants for the subject.
This bodes well for the partnership in China and we're looking forward to the future as this opens the door for the mainstream preparation courses soon to be underway.
SMEI recently granted their Puerto Rico affiliate the exclusive administrative role for managing the professional certification program registration and renewal process for the island.
Local certification director, Radamés Rosado, CME, principal of The Rada Group, immediately galvanized his committee around capitalizing on the opportunity to "relaunch" the already successful programs in Puerto Rico by partnering with other related associations and deploying a media campaign.
I was a guest of SME Puerto Rico last week during a one-day media tour which involved two live radio interviews and an exclusive interview with El Neuvo Dia, the largest circulation Spanish language daily in Puerto Rico.
I was very impressed with the professionalism of the SME Puerto Rico board of directors and had the opportunity to meet with many of the board members and certification committee at a reception hosted by SME Puerto Rico President José Corujo, CME, partner at C2 Group at the newly renovated association offices in San Juan.
SME Puerto Rico has been offering the CME®and CSE® programs with coaching classes over the past 6 years, and will begin offering the Salesperson - SCPS(tm) program in 2008.
Early in 2001, SMEI began to study the possibilities of launching the association in P.R. China, and 6 years later, fruits of that labor are manifest as SMEI officially launched its professional certification programs for sales and marketing on April 2, 2007 at a formal agreement signing in Beijing. The long road to Beijing included extensive market research, consultation and many hours of negotiation and relationship building with SMEI’s new partner, the State Administration for Foreign Experts Affairs.
Since the end of the Cultural Revolution in 1976, China’s reform period has paved the way for both indigenous associations and those linked to their U.S. or international counterparts to begin operations in a country that has evolved into a world power with an emerging open economy. However, for all its promise, China is not an easy market to penetrate. Language and cultural barriers, governmental processes, along with financial and legal complexities are all obstacles that have been deemed insurmountable for some who seek to do business there.
There is no nation or business entity in the world today that is not directly or indirectly affected by China. China’s insatiable demand for financial and material resources is literally gobbling up the world’s supplies. Professional development, a key offering provided through SMEI’s certification programs, is in high demand. Many associations are busy developing strategy to better serve this market or querying how to do so. According to a recent article published by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), Western associations need to be innovative and have recourse to the single most important factor for success in China: guanxi (pronounced gwan-shee), a kind of social capital accruing from one’s personal network of influence. As SMEI has learned, China is a culture of relationships. Foreign entities who wish to succeed need to choose a Chinese partner that has guanxi, and the relationships needed to help launch an endeavor successfully.
SMEI’s collaboration with the State Administration of Foreign Experts Affairs (SAFEA) is based on a sound working agreement to conduct training programs in China that will prepare candidates to successfully complete their certification exams for sales, sales management and marketing. SAFEA’s sincere desire to develop a high standard for the sales and marketing profession in China, coupled with their strong track record of developing the U.S. based project management certification makes them the ideal partner for SMEI.
Working together, SMEI and SAFEA will conduct “Train the Trainer” programs this year using foreign experts selected by SMEI. Following this training, educational classes will be setup at authorized training facilities throughout China to prepare applicants for their certification exams. The educational programs will be conducted in the Chinese language, using translated versions of SMEI approved sales, sales management and marketing management based textbooks by leading U.S. authors.
A growing need for professional certification programs is the result of demand for a skilled workforce. With over 1.3 billion people and few opportunities for university education, professional certification programs help raise quality and efficiency, and ensure that the growing demand for workers employed by foreign-owned companies will be met. China’s culture places a premium on hard work, self-improvement, and learning, characteristics and as result many professional certification, training, and educational programs offered are now oversubscribed.
The Chinese government has taken a pragmatic approach in partnering with SMEI, recognizing the need of a market economy to reach out to global leaders in areas such as standardization, credentialing and workplace professional development.
Members of SMEI’s delegation to Beijing on April 2, 2007 included: Nathalie Roemer, CSE, Chair, designee 2007-2008); Melissa Medley, CME, Chair, Certified Marketing & Sales Professionals; Willis Turner, CAE CSE, President & CEO; Gerard Edwards, CME CSE, Director of Education; and Susan Warren, CSE, SMEI Akron Executive Director.
Increased scrutiny of corporate actions in today’s business climate puts pressure on all facets of corporate structure to adhere to ethical business practices founded on principles that are honest, fair and transparent to the stakeholders. The sales and marketing profession is a driving force in our economy and should not be left untouched when scrutinizing ethical issues. A society where the consumer is confident of honest trade is one that will prosper.
While some would fear that the sales and marketing department would be the last place to go looking for ethical guideposts, we could venture that this should be the first place to build a culture with values that create a climate for sound business decision making and the practice of ethical behavior. The public face of corporations is often painted by brand identity, marketing messages delivered via various mediums and the sales representatives who deal directly with the buying public. With an aligned, sound code of ethics for marketing, sales and customer service, organizations would theoretically build consumer confidence and shareholder value.
Of course, theory doesn’t spell success. An important ingredient in developing an effective ethical culture is through strong exemplary leadership committed to these values. There are many examples of companies that weakly espouse a code of ethics through lip service but in reality, short term results are valued more highly than a longer term strategy and commitment to doing what is right. Unfortunately, some organizations are led by individuals who have given in to the pressures imposed by weightier shareholder centric rather than customer centric values. This ultimately has a bearing on how sales and marketing departments are managed and in part defines the overall corporate culture.