In December of 2007 the worst economic downturn since the 1930’s arrived. Before it was declared “over” the U.S. was to see a 4.1% decrease in its overall economy and jobless rates would rise to 10.1%. Terms like “downward mobility”, “the new frugality” and “Second Starters™” were created during this time to describe; the involuntary shifting to lesser skilled jobs by the workforce (downward mobility), the focus shift toward personal debt reduction and savings versus personal credit and spending (the new frugality), and the necessity to re-create a career due to uncontrollable shifts in the marketplace and the resultant job displacement they caused (Second Starters ™). These terms weren’t nearly as relevant during the double-digit growth years that occurred before the bubble burst.

There have been 47 recessions in the United States since 1790.  Prior recessions lasted between six and fourteen months. In each case the economy rebounded vibrantly and things went back to “normal” once the recession had run its course. Not so for the latest one. In June of 2009, after nineteen months, the recession was declared officially over. Not because the financial situation had improved, but instead because we had reached a permanent recessionary state called “The New Normal”.

The New Normal has had a huge and lasting effect on the profession of sales. Many now say they work three times harder to achieve the same results as in years past. Their new business development is offset by changing budgets, attrition – and from companies simply falling off the map. Many say that it is hard work to just maintain flat sales in this economy.

‘Flat is the new growth’, but flat sales don’t guarantee job security or financial stability. They don’t enhance retirement portfolios nor do they create a better quality of life. While flat growth may be accepted by reasonable managers at reasonable companies, it should not be something that we as sales professional and professional business managers settle for – regardless of economic conditions. With the right tactics and strategies centered around innovation and differentiation we don’t have to.