Let's be honest. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to survival during challenging times. But there are some strategies that will help no matter what situation you and your business are in.
The first strategy, for starters, is not to take things too seriously. I know that there can be significant consequences as a result of the things we do or don't do, but in the scope of things that really matter... those consequences are incidental.
Have you heard the expression "Don't sweat the small stuff, and it's all small stuff," from the book of the same name? When you put the everyday occurrences of life into perspective, most of them don't really matter all that much.
It's more important than ever in tough times to keep everything in its proper perspective. "Things" don't matter all that much. It's nice to have toys and gadgets, but toys can be replaced and we can still enjoy life without every latest gadget.
Yes, it's important to make a good impression, but people aren't attracted to you because of the suit you wear or the toys you have. It's who you are as a person that causes people to be attracted to you, choose to do business with you, and decide to follow you.
Don't get me wrong: Toys, gadgets, and suits are nice to have. My point is simply that if you have to forgo some of them in tough times, it won't have much bearing on your success. Don't take things so seriously. Instead, during tough times, be the best "you" that you can be.
A good place to start is by working on your attitude. How do you work on attitude? Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Cut out the negative messages. Stop watching TV news. Stop reading the newspaper. Trust me. In this day and age, you can't help but hear about the really important things. There's no need to seek them out (along with all the negative news and stories).
Avoid negative people. What you focus on determines your reality. If you hang around with people who see everything in a negative light, you will see everything in a negative light. It will become your reality. You can see where I'm headed with this.
If you want positive things to happen in your life, hang out with positive people. Positive people share what works; negative people share what doesn't work. Positive people are more creative. When they are faced with a challenge, they decide to overcome it and are solution-oriented. Negative people tend to focus on the obstacle and get "stuck." Your present reality will slowly shift to a more positive reality as you associate with positive people.
If you really want to kick your attitude into high gear, don't just eliminate negative messages; rather, decide to introduce positive messages. Get your hands on some tapes or CDs that will help you grow. Listen to motivational and personal-growth programs. Will you notice an immediate change? No, but you will over time.
Next, work on your energy. In times of stress and anxiety, it's even more critical to eat right, exercise, and get the proper amount of sleep (generally 6-8 hours a night). By taking care of yourself properly, you maximize your ability to be highly productive throughout the day—every day. Know how to avoid that midafternoon "crash"? Eat 5-6 smaller meals a day instead of the typical 2-3 large meals a day.
This is a nice lead-in to my second strategy for success in tough times: Don't be too hard on yourself, or on others. Each of us is doing the best we can given where we are, what we have to work with, and what we're going through at the time. Most of us make mistakes. Most of us could do things "better." Most of us are feeling the pressure of the world right now. So strive to be more understanding of others. And as hard as it can sometimes be, cut yourself some slack. Staying positive and solution-focused will always produce better results than beating yourself up and focusing on mistakes and weaknesses.
Once your attitude and energy levels are good (physical, emotional, mental, and inspirational), then you need work on the next success strategy—building relationships with current clients, prospects, and centers of influence. (If you try to do this while your attitude and energy levels are low, you'll succeed only in driving people off at a faster pace.) Especially in difficult times, you can't "hard-sell" people. You can only set things up so that when someone decides to buy, they buy from you.
The key to finding prospects, getting referrals, and making sales in challenging times is relationship-building. Make a greater effort to stay in touch with people. Find ways to add more value to current clients and take an interest in them; you will not only create "brand" loyalty to you but also encourage the flow of referrals to you.
Don't hunker down in your office. Get out and meet people in coffee shops, in elevators, at networking events, and at parties. Start a practice of taking your centers of influence to lunch on a regular basis.
Although it's true that the economy is challenging and people are uncertain about their future, it's just as true that life goes on. People still buy things, do things, sell things, go places, and want to enjoy their lives. It's up to us to be available to people, build relationships, and offer solutions. If your focus is simply to "sell" things, you'll find it to be a long, hard, frustrating effort.
Invest in systems that "touch" people, help you stay in people's minds, and let folks know you're thinking of them. (Obviously, the more automated your system is, the better, but you have to be willing to do whatever it takes to succeed.)
To summarize: The best strategies for surviving (or maybe even thriving) in tough times are (1) not to take things too seriously; (2) attain and maintain a positive attitude; (3) eat, exercise, and sleep for high productivity; (4) don't be too hard on yourself or others; and (5) create sales through relationship-building rather than by hard-selling.
Those, of course, are the best strategies for success all the time, but they are especially important in challenging times, when less-effective solutions don't work.