If the $700 billion bank bailout and the possible auto industry bailout have you waiting for the government to cast its benevolent eye in your direction, don’t hold your breath. Great salespeople in every industry will do everything they can to bail themselves out of this tough economy. ...

If you haven’t felt assaulted by bad economic news lately, you live in the woods with no TV, no newspaper, and no Internet service. The stock market has lost trillions. Real estate values and sales have declined at record rates all across the U.S. Layoffs are epidemic, small businesses can’t get loans they need to make ends meet and retirement 401k’s have plummeted 30 percent on average. And to add insult to injury, banks and automakers have their hands out, imploring Uncle Sam to rescue them from their own incompetence and bad judgment.

If you’re a business professional, you may well be wondering: Who’s going to bail me out? The answer, of course, is: No one. Not the government, not the new president, not your employer, not your customers. You must use smart, time-tested business and sales strategies to bail yourself out.

Each and every one of us must do our part to conquer this crisis. We must participate in our own rescue by not giving up, by refusing to use the slow economy as an excuse for poor performance, by staying in front of our customers, and by continuing to use proven ‘best practices’ to reach sales success.

I like to compare the current situation to a whitewater-rafting trip I took years ago on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.

We were about to head out, and our instructor was giving us last-minute safety lessons. He warned us that if we should capsize he might not be able to get to us immediately and that we had to participate in our own rescue. He told us to be resourceful and do everything we could to save ourselves until he could get to us. And I think that’s what we business people must do now. We must participate in our own rescue, be accountable for our actions, and realize there is no point in waiting for the government or anyone else to throw us a lifesaver.

Strategies for Success

So how do business people conquer this crisis and orchestrate their own rescue plan? Here are eight fundamental keys:

1. Put the economy in perspective. The economy has been falling, not failing. It’s down, but it’s down from the biggest economic boom of all time, the biggest housing boom of all time, and the easiest loan requirements of all time. Sure, home sales are down 33 percent, but even with this negative statistic, five million homes will still be sold this year.

All of this just means the low-hanging fruit of two years ago is a little higher in the tree. There’s still business in the marketplace-just not as much as a couple of years ago. We’re all going to have to work harder and smarter than ever before, but sales opportunities are still available.

2. Replay the crises that you’ve overcome in the past. Virtually every person and business has conquered at least one crisis. Now’s a good time to reflect on those memories and remember how you came through those crises and found yourself stronger. Remind yourself that tough times never last, but tough people do.

I always reflect on nearing bankruptcy myself back in 2001 after I started my own business. After a couple of years of hard work, I was able to bounce back to enjoy success. I think you’ll find that reflecting on a difficult period that you’ve already overcome will give you the confidence you need to conquer the current economic crisis. I truly believe that new growth and more prosperity are just down the road.

3. Decide that you will make it through the slow economy. This economic crisis is like a crucible that provides us an opportunity to do what’s necessary to recast and forge ourselves into something bigger, better and stronger. We can’t control the events of our lives, but we can control what we decide to think, believe, feel and do about those events.

The only way to come out of this crisis triumphant is to make a defiant decision to think and act like you can’t be stopped. Just as your muscles won’t grow stronger without making the committed decision to push past your comfort zone into harder resistance, you can’t recast yourself in the event of a crisis without making a committed decision to be an unstoppable selling machine during the recession.

4. Strengthen your body and your mind. Because fear and worry hijack the mind, one of the best ways to stay healthy and focused during the economic crisis is to strengthen yourself both physically and mentally. Start today on a committed exercise and fitness plan that will not only condition you to feel stronger than ever before but will also help you manage the stress and anxiety that you are feeling these days.

Condition your soul through daily meditation or by writing down what you’re grateful for. You might also want to consider giving yourself a vacation from all of the bad news in the media every day. Feed your mind pure, powerful and positive stories and information by reading biographies of people who have triumphed over crisis, by listening to inspirational music, and by watching uplifting movies.

No matter how bad things are for you or your business right now, rest assured there are people out there who have it worse than you, who don’t know where their next meal is coming from or where they’ll be sleeping on any given night. Take time to reflect on how truly blessed you are. Your positive thinking will attract more good things your way.

5. Focus only on your goals.One of the laws of the universe is the law of attraction. Simply stated, it’s the idea that everything that comes into our life, we’re attracting into our life. And those things are attracted to us by virtue of the images we hold in our minds. Unfortunately, most people spend more time thinking about what they don’t want than what they do want, and then they wonder why what they don’t want keeps winning out. In a down economy, powerful fears people have about what might happen are even more likely to become self-fulfilling prophecies.

To keep this from happening to you, write down exactly what you want to accomplish from a sales and business standpoint and then review those goals every day. Connect frequently to all the emotional reasons why you want to achieve those goals. Write down what it will mean for you and your family. How will it affect your retirement? Will it help you send your child to college? Will it make a much-needed vacation a possibility? Stack the deck with so many compelling reasons why, that you simply can’t resist achieving your vision. Handling a tough today is much easier if you have an unshakable vision of a bright tomorrow.

6. Keep training to get better. If there’s ever a time to keep getting better at what you do, it’s during a down economy. Continuously learning and improving is the only way to be more effective and efficient than ever before and to ensure you are doing everything in your power to outdo your competitors. 

Too often, successful salespeople and managers develop an overconfidence in their abilities and in ‘their way’ to sell or do business. Then they hit some hard times, struggle, and start blaming the economy when their own failure to keep learning and training is partly to blame for their slow period. When times are tough, sales and business professionals can’t afford a single misstep.

One of the primary reasons I’m in the training business is because I know from personal experience that virtually any person can improve through effective training. So, start reading a sales book during your lunch break, attend a public sales seminar, or get your company’s salespeople some outstanding training ASAP.

7. Step up your high-impact sales activity.During a tough economy it becomes mission critical to spend a greater percentage of time performing high-impact sales activities, which involve selling or prospecting to well-qualified ideal buyer types face-to-face or on the telephone. In other words, stop wasting so much time on things that don’t matter.

Recent research confirms salespeople on average spend only 90 minutes per day in high-impact selling activities. That’s a death rattle in a tough economy. Everyone must prioritize their time and make sure they schedule quality high-impact selling time every day and become more efficient in executing all the other tasks they have to perform.

8. Take the modeling-for-success shortcut.One other fundamental for achieving success rapidly in tough and uncertain times is to find a mentor, coach or colleague who’s achieving the outcomes you desire and model his or her approach. Or find someone who has experience overcoming past economic crises and ask what strategies she or he plans to employ. Spend time with this person so that you can observe the skill sets necessary to achieve success.

This is simply a shortcut as opposed to the trial-and-error approach most people take in their pursuit of success. You find someone who is achieving what you want to achieve in these economic times and then model his or her behavior. Just keep reminding yourself that if they can do it, you can do it.

As President-elect Obama takes office and we wish him great success helping us rescue the economy, we can’t forget that each and every one of us is ultimately responsible for our own rescue. Use the challenges you are facing to energize and motivate yourself during the slow economy. And remember that if you make it a priority, business success is possible. You know the saying, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ Well, it applies in business, too. If this economic period doesn’t put you out of business, it will make you a stronger and better salesperson.