In 2001, the United Sates had a newly elected President who was facing tumultuous international strains with China and their forced landing of one of our planes and the subsequent holding of her crew. The stock market had suffered an extended free fall, companies were going out of business (WebVan), corporations were vilified in the news, a hotly contested battle over the elections’ legitimacy lingered on, and sadly, the events of 9/11. All in all, it was a difficult year to say the least.
The common theme of the year for a sales person was hearing, “We’re just sitting on the sidelines”; or, “We’re going to wait to see what the administration does”; or, “We’re right-sizing”.
The news was a buzz with dismal same-store sales numbers and foot traffic numbers all through the holiday season. The media was so depressing and there seemed no end in sight. Add the realities and commentaries to the fact that winter was setting in and the outlook was really bleak for everyone.
Something started to happen in 2002 that, until now, we did not fully appreciate.
Retailers, arguably the oldest profession, are known to be “potato bugs”. They are accustom to cost-cutting, reductions in force’s, loss leaders, and the like. Retailers find fortitude in curling up like a potato bug and waiting out the storm. It’s a cyclical tradition to them.
In the aftermath of the holiday season of 2001, there was a lot of hoopla about unused gift cards and their expiration dates, overstocked inventory, shipping strangle holds [caused by raised security at the ports because of 9/11] that stymied toys and electronics arriving from Asia in time for the holidays.
However, retailers are not all that accustomed to having 2 back-to-back Black Fridays in the ‘red’: something had to be done. Amongst the clutter of data available thanks to the evil technology bubble, there appeared a glimmer of hope: online sales!
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, OnLine Retail Sales increased 28.6% YoY in 2001 from 2000.
That was the paradigm shift to “perception is no longer a reality!”
A non-statistical 20% of the technology companies were either in a position to take advantage of the coming fortunes, or simply ambitious enough to act while their competition continued to play to the perception of the media. By the summer of 2004, companies such as Google, Saleforce.com, and 82 others successfully IPO’d and, by years end, had an increase from their initial offering price of 36% (RedHerring.com).
If the first part of this writing sounds eerily like those of the 2008-09, then we contest that 2010-11 will sound like the last.
Great salespeople sense this. While they have remained “cloaked” or “off the grid”, they continue to observe the market of opportunities from beneath the veil of success and security. Why? Somewhere out there is another Google. Somewhere out there are organizations that are brazen enough to take advantage of today’s situation and prepare to usurp the “We’re just sitting on the sidelines” crowd. Those salespeople know that somewhere is a leader that will create, or at least redefine, their market in the world and they want to be a part of it.
We plan on being ready, and we hope to see you there!