According to PwC’s 18th Annual Global CEO Survey, CEOs are less hopeful than they were a year ago about global economic growth prospects. Just over 1/3 think the outlook will improve over the next 12 months, compared with 44% last year. 17% — more than twice as many as last year — think the outlook will worsen.

When hearing news like this, every business leader has two options:

1. Hunker down, prepare for the worst, put new investments on hold, and look for ways to cut costs.

2. See new opportunities to serve, sell, and prosper, knowing that every market downturn brings new opportunities for those poised to take advantage of them.

If your customers choose option #1, you’ll start hearing “We don’t have the budget for that!” So, you can tuck your tail between your legs and slink away into another round of recession, or you can be prepared to say, “No problem! We have another great option for you, let’s take a closer look.”

It means starting now to look for new ways to take care of your clients with different products, services, or price points (no, not just deeper discounts!) to capitalize on the downside. Don’t think this strategy can work? Look at the dollar-type stores and how they’ve thrived during the recession. Simply ask yourself, “What is the job they’re hiring us to do?” and look for new ways of meeting their needs.

If your customers choose option #2, it might just be business as usual, or you may hear requests to serve them with new options.

Either way, it’s all about connecting with your customers NOW to get inside their heads, find out what they’re thinking, and plan your upside/downside strategy long before you may ever need it.

If you’re a luxury consumer brand or the gold standard in your industrial sector, you won’t want to go cheap. Instead, look at areas where your customers may become short-staffed due to downsizing. Are there other products and services you can offer that will uncover hidden opportunities?

If you’re a mid-market player in a highly competitive industry, now is the time to move away from the pack – to actively look at every opportunity to shift the ways you serve your customers, increase your market share, and maintain or improve your margins. This might mean developing downscale products that better meet a budget-minded need.

If you’re a low-end player – the dollar store of your industry – this is a perfect time to ramp up your marketing and draw new customers to your products and services who would otherwise go without.

There’s one sure way to figure out what to do next – get out from behind your desk and connect with your customers face-to-face to find out if they’re optimistic or pessimistic. Understand what shifts they’re planning to make in their business in the coming year. And in the words of Wayne Gretzky, “Skate to where the puck is going, not to where it’s been.” Your best tool for getting inside their heads is something I call a Value Creation Conversation.

You can learn more from a series of 3 free videos I’ve created for you at or by picking up a copy of my new book Profit In Plain Sight at your local bookstore or online.

Which way do YOU think the economy is going to go over the next 12 months, and what’s your plan to succeed regardless of economic turmoil?