As surging interest rates battle against 40-year high inflation, sales teams face the growing prospect of selling in a downturn.
Naturally, recessions hardly feel great for business, especially when you’re in sales. Warm prospects may rapidly cool during this period, and previously receptive leads may postpone buying decisions until after the slump or pull out entirely. With suddenly smaller budgets, even loyal buyers start evaluating their spending in a new light, with most cost centers fair game for the chopping block.
Amid contracting customer spending and a precarious economy, how do salespeople navigate uncertainty and deliver results during a downturn? These four strategies can help.
It’s understandable. A recession hardly brings out the best of news reporting. In fact, there’s more likely to be an enduring focus on everything that’s going wrong, and in the drive to keep tabs on current events, you might find yourself neck deep in screaming headlines and think pieces.
However, the negative emphasis of such news reporting may be unhelpful for you. News outlets tend to favor a negativity bias because it helps them sell more papers, encourages more clicks, and keeps eyeballs glued to their content. But it can be more helpful to move beyond the negativity and prioritize information sources that position you to approach the crisis more constructively.
Think about changing how you consume the news. Perhaps even suspend or drastically reduce how you plug into certain sources. Instead, focus your news consumption on information that directly impacts your sales goals. We recommend setting up news alerts for your top customers, as well as your target accounts, for instance.
Paying more attention to sources with actionable information, such as strategy and business outlets, can also be beneficial. You’ll gain tools and resources that help shape your approach to sales at this period.
After dealing with unhelpful habits and securing the headspace you need for constructive work, turn next to your customers. As all top sellers know, sales is not about the product – it’s about the customer. So, take the time out to check on your clients and exploit opportunities to deepen your relationship with them.
Your customers are likely dealing with the effects of the downturn, although in different ways. While some will experience sharply declining revenue or supply chains that have been torn out of shape, others may feel the recession indirectly, perhaps through rising feelings of uncertainty or fear. Understand that they’re going through a rough time and set out time to reinforce your key relationships.
There are many quick wins you could exploit here. Start by sending out a warm email or set up a quick call to reassure your top customers and offer them your support through this period. It’s important to think early about how your company or product can become a valuable resource for the customer in a downturn, and there’s no better time to hint at this than now.
You can also check with customer service for any outstanding tickets from your customers and escalate where needed. Nothing alienates customers faster than having open issues sit for long or go unresolved.
Ultimately, your focus at this point is to be a wall of support to your customers and ensure you remain top of mind for them. This way, you can set the tone for the period and hopefully avoid or limit churn while the economic slowdown plays out.
Although the downturn will mean business gets harder for most, keep in mind that this may not always be the case. Due to the asymmetry of numerous factors influencing current economic conditions, not every company will face the same challenges. Some of your clients may in fact be experiencing a growth period or facing opportunities that could deliver in a big way – and you could help make that a reality.
Consequently, it’s crucial to go beneath surface-level metrics during your preliminary prospecting and even while interfacing with your existing clients. Take the time to understand exactly how the company is being impacted, where the gains or key prospects lie for them, and how your product contributes to that value.
Another tactic that’s worth pursuing is to consider and pitch how you can help moderate negative market forces. Your product might be the lifesaver some companies need to grapple with falling sales or plummeting productivity. Being able to demonstrate that value could open doors that might have remained closed otherwise.
Lastly, fine tune your selling techniques to fit the new economic situation. How you go about this will vary depending on your specific product and customer profile. However, the key is to be agile and flexible in your approach.
Begin by asking what you can do for your customers to make their current experience less painful or more beneficial. It helps to think about what their ideal scenario would be (of course taking the ongoing downturn into consideration) and then working backwards from there. Then, identify what your company or product does to meet those objectives and double down on those selling points.
With a clear selling proposition tailor-made for recession conditions, you have the tools to move forward and prospect with confidence. It’s worth noting that sales cycles typically get longer during tough times. You’ll find previously slam dunk sales now needing multiple signoffs before closing. Given these changes, it makes sense to expect falling sales output – but you can hedge those results with increased sales activity. Increasing your sales activity by 5-10% can provide the added throughput to keep your sales pipeline healthy.
Amid plunging revenue and mass layoffs, it can be hard to resist the impulse to batten down and let the storm blow over. While business will certainly get harder, there’s an upside. Opportunities that would otherwise be out of reach may become available during tough economic conditions, and identifying and exploiting them may be the key to not only thriving in tough times but coming out stronger.
At Cowen Partners, our executive recruiters are exceptionally skilled at delivering in-demand candidates, no matter the need and across all industries. Backed by a proven executive recruiting process, we have been the partner of choice for startups, corporations, small businesses, non-profits, and more, meeting unique and critical recruitment needs across the entire C-suite, including CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CMOs, CIOs, CTOs, CHROs, VPs, directors, and several other leadership roles.
That’s how Cowen Partners has become a leading executive search firm nationwide, and it’s why our executive recruiters have a reputation for excellence and success.
Contact us to see why we are continually ranked as one of the best executive search firms around and why we have so many repeat and long-term clients, as well as referrals.
We also invite you to continue exploring more executive recruiting insights from our team: