Selling Through Tough Times of Peak Demand

Seven thoughts to help you thrive in the current selling environment.

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“I cannot find enough product to sell right now.”

“Our lead times have never been longer.”

“We can’t find enough people to support our customers.”

“I’ve had to raise prices three times this year.”

These are the common complaints I hear from those competing in the current market. They’re dealing with the realities of selling during peak demand. Although peak demand provides stability and long-term opportunities, it also creates unique challenges. Ironically, having more demand than supply creates a tough selling environment. It’s a different stressor than what we experience during a downturn. It’s a good problem to have, but it’s still frustrating. Remember to be thankful for this current challenging sales environment. It certainly beats the alternative.

Although this current tough time is unique, this tough time is also good. It’s good because of the positive change that will stem from this struggle. Within every challenge lies an opportunity. In my new book, Selling Through Tough Times (available September 2021), I share countless examples of how our struggles create immense opportunity. This unique tough time is no different.

As you navigate the current market, maintain your perspective, and look for the opportunity. Here are seven thoughts to help you thrive in the current selling environment: 

1) You are experiencing an equalizer event. Everyone is experiencing the current challenges you are facing. Some sellers become easily frustrated and pause while others maintain perspective and press on. Acknowledge the challenges you are facing, but then look for the opportunity. Take comfort in knowing that everyone is dealing with these challenges.

Several years ago, Tiger Woods was asked in an interview to comment on the PGA lengthening the courses because he was hitting the ball further. The reporter wanted to know if he was frustrated by this. Tiger said he wasn’t frustrated, because the course will be longer for everyone, not just him. Right now, everyone is facing the same challenge, not just you.

2) Salespeople are reducing their activity. Your competition is resting on their laurels. I’ve heard several salespeople say, “Why go out and sell, if we don’t have any product?” This statement is reflective of a seller that is waiting around. Sellers are reducing their activity because there is too much demand. This creates a window of opportunity to go after new customers. Think about it. If your competition is making fewer calls, you have an opportunity to increase your coverage. Also, during moments of peak demand, customers are more open to meeting with you because they, too, are experiencing the challenges of the current environment.

3) Now is the time to make your margin. It’s basic economics; as supply decreases and demand remains strong, the price should go up. Never discount during times of peak demand. It’s tempting to offer customers a discount or a delayed price increase, but that is a mistake. Raise your prices to ensure you are hitting your margins. Chances are that your cost of doing business and your materials costs are also going up. It’s important to maintain and grow your profits during moments of peak demand. If you’re not sure whether you should raise your prices, then analyze how much business you are losing because of price. If you’re not losing 15 – 20 percent of your opportunities because of price, then you’re not charging enough.

4) Focus on the personal value you create. Customers receive value from the product you sell, the company you sell for, and you, the salesperson. Our internal research shows that the product represents most of the value — 57 percent. The company you sell for represents 18 percent of the total value, and the salesperson represents 25 percent of the value. During times of peak demand, focus on the one dimension of value you can control — yourself. Find ways to personally create more value for the customer. Look for creative ways to solve the customer’s problem. The 25 percent that you contribute can make all the difference in the world.

For example, one salesperson recently shared his experience of helping a customer during a product shortage. This customer desperately needed product, but nothing was available. The seller contacted another customer who recently stocked up on this high-demand product. The salesperson was able to broker a deal for the two customers to share the extra inventory. That salesperson created personal value.

5) Look for opportunities to improve. The Greek philosopher, Plato, said that necessity is the mother of invention. The challenges you face during peak demand create opportunities to improve. Review your complete customer experience and look for ways to improve. Ask yourself, “What bottlenecks are we experiencing?” “Can we find alternative sources for hard-to-find products?” “How can we improve our end-to-end experience?” During tough times, you’ll need to do more with less. Identify those opportunities and let the pain you experience catalyze positive change.

6) Use this time of peak demand to shed less profitable customers. Every organization has that group of customers that chew away at the bottom line. There is a high-aggravation factor when dealing with these customers. These high-aggravation customers are never satisfied, they complain more, return goods more often, and constantly ask for discounts and then pay their bills late. This is business you want the competition to have. Use this as an opportunity to shed the dead weight. Also, never sacrifice your scarce resources to serve these customers.

7) Maintain the right attitude. Peak demand beats the alternative. At those moments you struggle, temper your frustration by gaining a little perspective. It’s better to compete in a high-demand market than a downturn. The problems you may face during peak demand are good problems to have. Embrace the right attitude as you navigate the challenges of the current market. With the right attitude, it is easier to find the opportunity in the struggle.

Tough times are temporary. They don’t last, and neither does the stress they create. This past summer we watched the Olympics and celebrated the victories. There was a noticeable absence in the Olympic pool this year — Michael Phelps. Michael Phelps is the most decorated Olympic athlete of all time. Phelps had to manage and overcome several challenging times throughout his career. Consider Phelps’ famous quote on overcoming adversity: “There will be obstacles. There will be Paul ReillyPaul Reillydoubters. There will be mistakes. But with hard work…there are no limits.”


Paul Reilly is a speaker, sales trainer, co-author of Value-Added Selling, fourth edition (McGraw-Hill, 2018), and host of The Q and A Sales Podcast. For additional information on Paul’s keynote presentations and seminars, call 636-778-0175 or email Paul@ReillySalesTraining.com. Visit www.TomReillyTraining.com and signup for their free newsletter.

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