What to Do When Sales Are Down?

Recession is slowing sales for small businesses.

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When you have less business to do, it can either be tempting to do relaxing or distracting activities, like browsing the Web, or it can feel odd, not knowing what to do. Here are three things to work on right now.

Becky McCray
Invest in your people. If you have less business and less work to do, take the time to do training. You don't need to add any cost to do this. Set up in-house classes. Walk through the back room, and build product knowledge. Talk about a new skill or concept over lunch. Take advantage of the billions of free training resources online.

And with all the layoffs from big companies, now is a terrific time to recruit new talent. Experienced people with strong skills are out there.

By the way, this still applies even if you are the only person in your business. Build your own skills, too.

Be more valuable to customers.

If you have fewer customers, spend more time going above and beyond to serve them.

Steve Finikiotis, principal at Osprey Associates, says, "Tough times bring tough problems for clients. Get very clear about what they need help with, and do that well."

Now is the time to be an all-star with your customer service. Give more value. Do more for your customers. Ask more, and listen more.

Cut costs.

Yes, I know everyone has told you this already. But as Justin Cowan, owner of Element Fusion, points out, "This seems obvious, but you'd be surprised how many people try to keep business as usual or try to save face in front of employees by keeping things as they are. Everyone knows the economy is down; it's OK to cut/downgrade/change things to bring your costs in line with the changing climate."

Becky McCray is a small-town entrepreneur, the co-owner of a liquor store and cattle ranch. She writes about small business and rural issues, based on her own successes and failures. As a consultant, she helps small businesses and small-town governments get things funded and get things done. Becky is also a noted speaker on small-business issues. She blogs at Small Biz Survival.