In the last two weeks, I’ve been asked to do a half dozen speeches and appearances about sales growth in a contracting or recessionary economy.

That’s because the sales environment of the last several economic boom years is doing a literal 180.

During these recent years, products and services basically sold themselves. Consumers were spending, contractors were working, distributors couldn’t keep up with demand, and manufacturers were shipping everything they made as quickly as they could.

Now, consumer spending is slowing dramatically. Look no further than Target’s results announced a few weeks ago and the ensuing steep fall of their stock price. Prices have skyrocketed. Family gas expenses have doubled, and food prices are climbing quickly.

In the economy that’s developing, products and services will no longer sell themselves.

Unsold product inventories will grow — they already are. I read an article over the weekend about how several retailers have so much inventory that they are considering paying consumers to simply keep their returns instead of taking them back.

In the economy that’s developing, the only way to grow sales — or, indeed, to limit how much your sales contract — will be to directly manufacture additional sales.

Sales growth will no longer happen to you.

You will have to be present.

You will have to call your customers and prospects to ask them about what they need.

You will need to differentiate yourself from the competition — by caring more. By being more interested. By showing up more.

My clients running my proactive selling programs are very happy to have systems in place to get them through this difficult economy.

Systems of proactive phone calls, quote follow ups, referral request, and predictably expanding wallet share with existing customers will get you through the coming economic contraction.