As I have been traveling around the country, I continually hear, “Business is down. The market is changing. The customers are changing. It is not like it used to be. The economy is killing us.”

OK. Let’s compare the past with today. As I remember in the 1970s and early 1980s, when gas prices jumped up, they never got as high as they are today. Remember the long gas lines the shortages caused at every station?

How about the double-digit interest rates that increased costs? We do not have those today.

And how can you forget the years when we had price controls? We could not legally raise our prices. For those of you who were not around then it went like this: You could not sell an item at a higher price unless you proved you had sold the same item at the higher price in the past.

So your overhead kept going up, you had double-digit inflation and interest rates, but your selling price in most instances, went down.

Things are not all that bad today. Our markets are not all that slow. And you will survive and prosper if you have the right, aggressive attitude.

In the 1950s, an island in the Pacific was discovered. There were thousands and thousands of people native to the island living in primitive conditions. Two shoe manufacturers from the United States heard about the island and each sent a sales representative to the island to investigate the opportunities for new business.

Missed opportunities

Upon arriving on the island, the first sales representative wired back to his company.

“No business here. No one wears shoes,” he said.

The second sales representative, a man with a great, aggressive positive attitude toward the marketplace wired back: “Lots of business here. No one has shoes.”

You cannot control the condition of the market, but you can control the way you view it. I have seen many business owners view their market negatively in slow times and sit by while their business fades away. They literally watch their aggressive, positive competition take their customers from them while they sit back, ringing their hands and saying, “Remember how good it use to be?” or “Remember how easy business used to be?”

All it takes to survive and prosper in a slowing market is to become aggressive and dare to be different. Do things different than your competition and different than you did yesterday to get your customers and prospects to notice and remember you.

Use your staff to get out in the marketplace, personally and by telephone. Stay in touch with your customers and they will stay in touch with you when they make a buying decision. Follow up on every sales call. Thank customers for doing business with you, answer any questions and concerns they may have. Train your staff to be customer focused.

The good old days were not always all that good. And today the market is not all that bad.

Bob Janet is a motivational speaker who specializes in delivering key selling and marketing skills and techniques. He uses his 40-plus years of selling and marketing as owner and operator of his retail, wholesale and manufacturing businesses combined with his presentation style, including audience participation and real-life business stories and examples.

Contact him at (800) 286-1203; fax (704) 882-4148; e-mail; see on the Internet.