How to sell in a recession

It’s coming.  Some say it’s here.  We dodged the last one….just.  This one is seemingly unavoidable.

 

Selling is easy when the economy is buoyant, when confidence is high and employment is so abundant people are quitting jobs to pursue their passions. 

Relatively speaking. 

There will always be complexities, competition and other considerations, but compared to selling in a recession…..IT’S A WALK IN THE PARK.

 

Australians have enjoyed 25 years of consistent growth.

That’s two generations who have grown up in a world where you had a job if you wanted one, indeed, where you’ve been able to take your pick.  The onus has been on the employer to sell themselves as an employer of choice.

We’ve come to accept those businesses who have maintained skeleton staff numbers and invested instead in marketing to generate demand from a customer base who apparently “knew what they wanted”.  Where profit has been achieved through reducing costs rather than profitable growth. In retail, seasonal sales attract customers into stores.  Essential services are all about the best price.

And it didn’t seem to matter to sales…..at first. 

Is it any wonder then that many in business to business sales struggle?  Without investment in making the shift from price to value, from immediate to ongoing, from a sale today to a revenue stream, new recruits are on their own.  They’re handed a car, a mobile, a territory/client base and of course, a target to achieve.  Some worked out a way for themselves. Some don’t.  The client experience suffers.

I’ve heard sales people (and I am including BDM’s, Account Managers, Head of Services, etc here) complaining that marketing should get better to generate demand, and send more $1million dollar deals their way for them to convert.  Order takers essentially.  Skill, technique, tools and rigour in improving customer engagement…who needs that?  Give me a lead, I’ll convert them.  Simple, right?

Of course it was wrong.  But when targets are achieved in spite of their ability or effort, leading those horses to water so they’ll drink is a push.

With businesses laying off people, closing branches, or closing down entirely the size of the available market will shrink.  Those businesses who are left will become increasingly selective about where they allocate resources. They’ll have to be.  Earning the right to do business with them will become the focus.

When salespeople don’t have the skills, rigour and or willingness to grow their capacity to sell more and sell well, they won’t last.  Without an understanding as to how to sell commercially, salespeople are left with pressure, frequency, price and discounting. Playing the numbers game to achieve targets, is exhausting and the customer experience is usually poor.  Sales at any cost means little or no margin and usually no profit.  Times have changed. 

Reality is hitting now.  Will you be ready when it does?  Will your team?

So I’m asking you to think about the following questions to clarify what you must do to survive in these uncertain times and emerge the other side in a good position to take advantage when things improve, which they will.  We simply don’t know how long we’re in this cycle for, which industries will be further impacted, and what that means for each of us.

 

ONE:

If I asked your customers, what would they say about the value your sales people bring to them consistently? What is their measure of that value?  And what does that value when delivered enable them to do?

 

TWO:

How consistent is the approach across your sales team? How does this impact your ability to increase your market share? How do you know?

 

THREE:

What tools do you use to proactively coach your team? Do you observe them “in play” or merely manage by dashboard?

 

FOUR:

Have you ever wondered whether or not to keep a new recruit or not? Would you like to have data to validate your “gut” feel?  How much does it really cost you to get recruitment wrong?

 

FIVE:

How well does each team member grow their pipeline value? What actions do they take to progress opportunity to win more of the right opportunities?  How does your team connect the work they do to the revenue the business generates?

 

SIX:

What approach does your sales team take to growing their networks? How often does their customer base think about them without being prompted?  How do they know?

 

Selling isn’t innate. It’s a skill that can be developed with practice and time.  Whether or not your business survives these challenging times requires a review of all practices, including sales. Instead of blindly cutting costs, invest in resources that will generate profitable growth.  The right people, using the right tools in the right way at the right time with the right opportunities.

 

 

 

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