How To Sell and Manage In Tough Times by Tom Reilly
Book Summary Review
The full title of this book by Tom Reilly is "How To Sell And Manage In Tough Times And Tough Markets: You Can Thrive, Not Just Survive, In Tough Times!".
Like "Guerrilla Marketing During Tough Times" it is designed to be a reference when things get difficult.
I thought "How To Sell And Manage In Tough Times and Tough Markets" was going to be great.
I am pessimistic about the economy and business prospects for the next couple of years and I was hoping to find an easy to read essential book to use as a guide for helping readers to survive and even thrive.
Unfortunately I was disappointed.
Apart from one jaw-dropping, "well I never" piece of information (see later in the review) that made by time reading the summary of "How To Sell and Manage In Tough Times" well worthwhile, I struggled to find much substance in the book.
Tough Times & Tough Markets
The author makes an important distinction between tough times and tough markets:
- Tough times - are any extended periods of declining economic activity where supply exceeds demand for the market.
- Tough markets - are where your competitors are strong, well managed and with competitive advantages.
This distinction is important and is one that my own business health check focuses on.
My business health check looks at businesses along four dimensions
- Is the market attractive?
- Do competitors play nicely? They do when they differentiate their products and focus on niche markets, they don't when all the focus is on price and the marginal profit on any extra business.
- Does anyone have a genuine competitive advantage?
- Is the company well managed with an appropriate management style and effectively using planning and control techniques?
One of the main areas that disappointed me about the"How To Sell and Manage In Tough Times" was a focus on tactical rather than strategic issues.
To stay with Tom Reilly's terms tough times happen when either the economy enters a period of recession (and many companies may be highly leveraged to changes in overall economic activity) or when the market itself goes into decline.
To understand the difference, let's look back at history.
Business would have been extremely tough in the Great Depression of the 1930s but it was a temporary blip for the motor industry. But for the horse drawn carriage makers, who were under immense pressure from cars, vans and lorries, it would have been another layer of pain in their inevitable decline.
Tough Times call for a "fight or flight" decision depending on whether the slowdown is temporary or permanent and how strong your competitive position is.
I found nothing to help with this vital decision In the summary of Tom Reilly's book as the assumption seemed to be to fight.
I have no problems with that if it is a fight that you can win but big problems if the odds are against you and you risk losing much more money.
If you have strong competitors with good products and good service but you compete on close to level terms then get over it.
This is what business is all about and it requires effort, imagination, commitment and vision to get better at a faster rate than your competitors. This is the world of normal management and there are a staggering amount of resources to help you.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself and stop using "this is a tough market" as an excuse for poor performance. There is so much that you can achieve with a great strategy translated into an action plan that is well implemented.
If you have a clear competitive disadvantage shown by the fact that you are losing customers and market share year after year, then I agree you are in a tough market. It may take longer for you to put things right than the time you have left.
If your market is growing fast then you will be sheltered as your reduced market share may still translate into reasonable volumes. You have time to consider your options so start a full strategic review.
If your overall market is static or declining and your market share reductions translate into big volume reductions then I agree that you are in trouble. Every day wasted is a day where recover becomes less likely.
You have the same fight or flight decision to make as those suffering from long term market decline but less time to consider all the issues. Find a successful turnaround consultant immediately if you decide you want to fight, or investigate ways out (trade sale, closure) if your commitment to the battle is weak.
Only you know your situation and how you feel about the business.
Book Summary of How To Sell and Manage In Tough Times
There are sections for:
- tough time signals,
- mistakes sales people make during tough times,
- things buyers worry about,
- an indication of what they really want,
- the competitive realities,
- tough time attitudes and positive mental programming,
- advice on selling in tough times,
- advice on managing in tough times including the four biggest mistakes and sixteen things you can do.
It's an impressive list that looks good but I found that much of the contents of the book summary was generalities (you should be doing it anyway) and naive in places.
Tough times and tough markets mean one thing - tough choices and I didn't see anything in the book summary that helps you to make those tough choices.
I've already mentioned the "fight or flight" issue. Sometimes you are better cutting your losses. See my posting on Difficult Decisions and zero based thinking.
The key message that you have to bear in mind when you are trading in tough markets and tough times is "Think Cash".
Businesses go out of business when they run out of cash.
There are a host of difficult decisions that you will have to make.
Yes you could increase sales promotions as the author recommends. Certainly it's probable that everybody else will be cutting down but your advertising still has to be shown to produce quick results.
It's no longer the case that you can take the long term view that advertising is an investment that can be justified on the lifetime value of an average customer if you need to boost cash flow now.
The one jaw dropping moment that I mentioned early was that on average, salespeople reduce face-to-face calling by 38% in tough times.
Isn't that interesting?
At the very time when you most need sales, your competitors could be calling on prospective customers at a lower rate and that leaves a possible opportunity for you.
The big advantage of the BusinessSummaries is that the book summaries let me get a flavour for a book much quicker than having to read the whole book.
While I was disappointed in what I gained from the "How To Sell and Manage In Tough Times" summary, I had high hopes that the book was going to be great. It is tactical rather than strategic but the tactics will help you prepare for the difficult times ahead.
I am very tempted to produce an ebook to look at the strategic issues of tough times and tough markets to complement this book, including my business health check so that you can make your own assessment.
Watch this space for "Business Prosperity In Tough Times & Tough Markets."
I rate this summary as 3 star review. I am glad that I have read the summary and while I am not going to buy the book, it could prove very useful if you are in tough times or tough markets. If you have read the book and would recommend it to others, my readers would like to see your thoughts so please leave a comment.
I believe that a recession is on its way.
We've had it good for too long. The world economies are unbalanced and I expect a shake-out. If I am right and the economy does go into a recession then it's best to prepared in advance and this book makes a good start.
Just remember that you also need the strategic approach to help you face up to the difficult decisions so watch out for my ebook.
Additional resources to help in Tough Times
I suggested you take a look at "Guerrilla Marketing In Tough Times" earlier.
I have also written a long article looking at the issue of how businesses can use business advisers when times are tough - see Business Coaching In Tough Times.
I also recommend that you read the article How To Profit In A Recession which is written by Marcus Cauchi of the Sandler Sales Institute in London.
If you have any tips to share on how to sell and manage in tough times and tough markets, it would be excellent if you could share them by writing a comment.