By Joel Crockett June 2, 2003 -- Just when things couldn’t get any better, they didn’t! Someone sucked the fun out of the market. In the San Francisco Bay Area, where these words are being written, for every graphic arts firm that says business is OK, a dozen (or more) are struggling. Really struggling. "Where’s the business?" the sales rep cries. "If people aren’t buying, there’s nothing I can do." Well, if there’s nothing you can do, who needs you? Now is your opportunity to show that a strong, smart sales effort can make a difference. But changes in the economy bring changes to our challenge. It wasn’t always this way! Remember? Fast-paced market, steady stream of business, taking care of customers. And that’s just what a number of us who are called salespeople did — take care of customers. Perhaps we got a little spoiled. Yeah, maybe we could’ve spent a little more time prospecting, but our customers needed us. And business was just fine, thank you. Well business is not just fine now. And we’ve got a new job to do. So let’s call this our "Just Do It" column. "Just do what?" you might ask. Just do what we were hired to do in the first place is my response. Roll up our sleeves. Hit the bricks. Create new business opportunities. Here are some idea-starters: 1. Pay no attention to the news. Predictions are like off-the-cuff, ballpark estimates. They’re meaningless. Believing that our industry is doomed or that we’re still facing a long-term recession only serves to make us fearful, shortsighted and desperate. Desperation drives clients away. On the other hand, accepting the input of those who say the good ol’ days are roarin’ back might cause us to slow down, to loosen up, when perseverance and resolve are called for. Plan on a no-growth economy. It’ll keep you from getting lazy. 2. Challenge your assumptions. Mindset is everything. The older we get (believe me, I know) the more tempted we are to say, "Been there, done that." But maybe we haven’t. Psychologists tell us that our minds work with stereotypes. Once we’ve accepted a notion — all they care about is price, marketing doesn’t work,, this is just a temporary downturn — it sticks. We don’t test it, we don’t even want to change. We base our decisions on preconceived beliefs that do nothing but prevent us from being our best. Practice asking yourself, "Why do I believe that?" 3. Go back to the same old places. Remember that prospect? You know, the one you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get in front of a half-dozen times? Shoot for number seven! The climate has changed. There’s new pressure on many buyers to find better ways of doing things — reducing costs, improving efficiencies. And chances are the buyer has a little more time on her hands. She might welcome a visit! 4. Stop going to the same old places. Some customers are almost too easy to see. Cup of coffee, update on the weekend sports, casual conversation. Sure, you’re likely to get an order now and then. Ask yourself, though, is it an order you’d get even if you spent half the time there? Time is a precious commodity. Spend it wisely. Avoid squandering it on path-of-least-resistance friends who happen to buy a little bit of printing. Take care of them, but take care of business too. 5. Expect more of yourself. Accept no excuses for poor performance. "Everyone else’s sales are down, it’s no wonder ours are too," just doesn’t cut it. It isn’t the economy. It isn’t the market. It’s you! If you’re reading this column, chances are you work for a small company. GATF tells us that small companies are faring much better than large ones. Why? Small companies offer fast-on-your feet flexibility. They can rebound quickly. And they’re better at finding their niche — whether it’s geographically, product, or industry-based. Set your bar high. Establish personal targets. Be tenacious. Expect to succeed! A friend of mine is fond of saying, "whether you believe you can or you can’t, you’re right." You can take the high road, set high targets for yourself, and lead. Or you can join the herd and follow. Just when things couldn’t get any better, they didn’t. But they can. You can be the agent of change. You can make the difference. Just do it!