Book Review: Selling in Tough Times

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Selling in Tough Times, by Tom Hopkins, is a guide for salespeople who have hit a rough patch in their careers. Whether the cause is external (economic downturn, industry scandal, etc.) or internal (losing touch with sales fundamentals, struggling with personal problems, etc.) the suggestions presented here can help.

Selling in Tough Times was published in 2011
Author: Tom Hopkins
Publisher: Business Plus
250 pages


Selling in Tough Times is a primer to help salespeople survive and even thrive during the 'down' parts of their business life cycles. The book starts with a review of basic sales skills and some self-assessment tools to help salespeople brush up on their fundamentals – because 'fast and loose' sales approaches can work fine during good times, but salespeople will need to operate at their peak when sales opportunities get scarcer. Next Hopkins covers customer service with an eye to not only keeping the customers you already have, but also bumping up your wallet share by encouraging them to buy more of your products – and to refer other leads to you. Finally, Hopkins moves on to specifics on selling to prospects during times when, for whatever reason, they're hesitant to buy from you. He particularly emphasizes the importance of qualifying prospects, because as he points out, when you're struggling for every sale you can't afford to waste lots of time pitching people who can't or won't buy from you.

Hopkins throws in a section at the end with ideas for cutting costs, both personally and in the business arena.

Who Should Buy?

Anyone involved in sales can benefit from reading this book. As Hopkins points out early in the book, every business and every career goes though a series of cycles. There are times when selling is just a matter of calling the next lead on your list and setting a time to sign the paperwork.

And then there are times when everyone seems to be too scared to make any changes at all, even buying something. The ideas presented in Selling in Tough Times can help during the latter periods.

Overall Impressions

Selling in Tough Times has a slew of useful ideas for, well, selling in tough times. The sections on luring away customers from the competition while protecting your own customers from poaching is particularly apt, since the smaller the prospect pool gets, the more intense competition will get. Hopkins also provides some clever ways to overcome objections that you're likely to hear when your prospects are reluctant to spend money – objections like 'It's not in the budget' and 'I can get it cheaper somewhere else.' The chapters on fundamental sales skills did seem a bit excessive – Hopkins doesn't even start talking about sales slump strategy until page 87, which means that more than a third of the book is about topics unrelated to the title. This may annoy salespeople who expect him to stick to the subject at hand.

Final Verdict

Overall, Selling in Tough Times is very useful for every salesperson, entrepreneur, and sales manager. You may not be struggling now, but if you stay in sales for more than a few years, you'll hit tough times eventually.

And when you do, you'll be glad to have a resource like this book on hand.

Presents ways to prepare for slumps in advance
Shows the customer's-eye view of what is happening and how to react in a way they'll respond to
Lots of tips on getting more leads, both cold leads and referrals
All new closes that are particularly useful with purse-pinched prospects

Heavily into fundamental sales skills, which won't necessarily help a desperate salesperson