When times get tough, one can either give up, or fight back.

“My dad used to tell me, when you lose an account, go in the corner and cry for five minutes,” says Brahms. “Then go open three more.”

In 2009, Brahms applied this anecdote to his company. The recession was causing business to shrink: current customers were either purchasing fewer products, ordering less expensive alternatives or closing their doors. In order for Armchem to persevere, sales reps were going to have to reach new customers — a lot of them.

“Veteran sales reps are usually gun-shy about opening new business; they prefer to just take re-orders,” says Brahms. “I had to figure out how to get veteran reps stimulated to get new orders.”

The solution was to start a lead generation program for the veteran reps. Armchem hired four full-time employees to set sales appointments. These employees focused on prospective business from the industries prospering despite the recession — government, healthcare and education — and passed along any leads to the sales reps. An entire month’s worth of appointments were written out on a giant calendar in the office filling every working hour of the day.

Brahms even went out with the reps to show them it was still possible to land new business in a difficult economy. Even today he keeps his sample bag handy in case he needs to prove a sale can be made.

“Just make the call,” says Brahms. “Don’t worry about the economy. There’s always business if you just make the call.”

During the recession, Brahms advised reps not to get hung-up on the state of the economy. He encouraged them not to pay attention to the headlines, just to focus on the positive. If reps are worried or negative, sales will suffer, he says.

“People have to know you are strong in a bad economy,” says Brahms.  “Customers perceive weakness. And if they think you are weak, they’ll think you offer inferior products.”

Besides showing clients that business was good, Brahms felt it imperative that his employees knew the company was committed to a better future. Brahms upgraded and refurnished the offices, invested in more training opportunities and implemented paperless office technology. Perhaps most important was the investment in people. Armchem didn’t layoff a single employee due to the economy; on the contrary, they added staff.

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