When the economy is booming, we're not thinking about recession readiness. However, on average, we have had a recession every 10 years and unfortunately the COVID-19 virus is not only spreading rapidly throughout the Globe, it's also paralyzing manufacturing supply chains, the airline industry, the cruise industry, the hotel industry, restaurant industry, retail industry, and broad areas in consumer spending.
Sorry to say.......the recession is not coming, IT IS HERE! If you’re not prepared, if you don’t have a proactive sales plan, well.......your business will be in BIG trouble.
For the past decade most sales reps in various industries have enjoyed leads coming to them or being provided to them. Prospects saying, “yes we are thinking about buying your product or service like yours”, “yes we have budget”, and “yes let's meet to learn more”.
Well, for a least the next 6 months to a year, those days are gone. In the coming weeks, sales reps are going to hear, “we are not interested in your product or service”, “we don’t have budget”, “reach out to me next year”. Sales reps will be telling their leadership and business owners, “I am having a hard time finding prospects interested in our product or service”, “no one can buy because they don’t have any money”, or "they are interested, but want to talk to us next year".
"The best defense is a good offense."
- Vince Lombardi
Below are 7 strategies and tactics that will help you increase your sales in a recession:
1. Assess your talent
The single most critical responsibility of a leader is to assemble a sales team with members who are both WILLING and ABLE to do their jobs and who understand the importance of being closely connected to the customer.
Take this time to assess your people. You know who are your top performers and you also know those that are struggling to perform. You know who has a strong legit pipeline and you know the reps who have pipelines filled with hopium. You know who are the WILLING & ABLE performers. Take action now and let go of the sales reps who are UNWILLING, who have been consistently average or below average performers, and who have the weakest pipelines. Do not implement a Performance Improvement Plan and do not put the UNWILLING on Probation. Take swift, decisive action and let them go NOW. This will allow you to channel your precious working capital into the productive WILLING & ABLE sales reps and targeted training that will help them to maximize their results.
By the way, as weak companies lay off employees, many good people will find themselves searching for work. Other skilled workers may still have a job, but they may be disenchanted with their struggling firms. Capitalize on this opportunity to identify and attract talented employees. Strike while the iron is HOT!
2. Focus on Core Competencies
In a struggling economy it's important to be LASER focused and understand "you cant be everything to everyone". Now is not the time to be adding other products or services to your offerings. A product update, sure. A brand new product category launch? Well, unless you are launching the next iPhone or Facebook, you need to be very cautious and selective. If not, it could easily be a waste of time and money. Worse, it can damage your core business by taking your time and money away from what you do best. Drop the extras and focus on what you do best that is most profitable to recession-proof your business.
3. Invest in Your Sales Team
During a recession, the number of qualified opportunities will be significantly diminished (when compared to a booming economy). So more than ever, it's critical that you or your sales reps are equipped to make the most out of each and every opportunity. Do you and your sales reps have the ability to position you and your Company to be in the best possible position to win?
The vast majority of salespeople do not spend nearly enough time to work on improving their sales skills and techniques. They might be able to get away with this "wing it" approach in a booming economy, however in a recession, the sale will go to the salesperson who:
- Has a strong prospecting mindset and embraces prospecting best practices
- Establishes a focused Playbook with daily, weekly, KPI's
- Understands why people buy
- Knows how to uncover multiple pain points, including economic pain
- Has the ability to identify real budget availability
- Can successfully navigate the decision process
- Has the ability and guts to go for the NO
This type of sales training will help you and your Company to increase your qualified pipeline with real opportunities, reduce your sales cycle, improve your WIN rates, and even grow revenues in recessionary times.
4. Remove the Hopium From Your Pipeline
Hope is not a strategy. So why do so many sales people fill their pipelines with Hopium? Well, typically this is caused by "happy ear syndrome". You know, the sales person who really isn't a good listener and has a hard time asking prospects the tough qualifying questions. The sales person who clings on to deals, developing their own justifications why it remains qualified, even when it is not.
Often prospects will tell a sales person they’re interested in what they are selling. But are they really? Or, are they about to use you for free consulting or use you just so they can get another quote?
It's a fact, over 30% of the time the winner of a sales opportunity is determined BEFORE the official selection process starts? Another 45% of the time customers have already made up their minds about who they were going to buy from halfway through the selection process. That means 75% of the time customers make their decision halfway through the selection process…..that’s right 75%!
To help combat this issue and remove Hopium from your pipeline, you need to eliminate the "story telling" and take the time to implement a strong sales process (prospect journey) and a quantifiable pipeline methodology.
5. Increase Proactive Sales Activity
In a tough economy most salespeople cut their sales activities. On many occasions, I have actually had sales reps say to me “If we’re not going to sell anything, what’s the point?” Whiskey Tango Foxtrot people, this is completely backward thinking! If you think there isn’t any business out there, well guess what? That is exactly what you will end up with......NO BUSINESS!
Increasing sales activity will increase sales results. Embrace a strong prospecting mindset and a "we will win" mindset. Develop a 6 month sales playbook that identifies the daily, weekly, and monthly behaviors (KPI's: Key Performance Metrics) needed to reach your desired sales goals. Conduct weekly sales activity review meetings and hold each other accountable to the KPI's in the playbook.
6. Make the Most from your Current Customers
We've all heard the old adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. The bird in the hand is your customer or client and he or she is an opportunity to make more sales without incurring the costs of finding a new customer.
Even better, he or she might be a loyal customer, giving you many more sales opportunities. If you want to recession-proof your business, you can't afford to ignore the potential profits of shifting your sales focus to include established customers.
To gain clarity, maximize efficiencies, and to make the most out of your valuable time, I highly recommend you put your customer base into 4 categories: K.A.R.E
Keep: Accounts we definitely want to retain. These aren’t necessarily the largest or most prestigious “rain-makers,” but they are core accounts that are consistent and relatively easy to manage.
Attain: Our ideal accounts that match our target profile, those that we aspire to win. These accounts may already be in your pipeline or they may be accounts that are doing business with your competition, but are ideal for you to target.
Recapture: Previously active accounts that are worthy of the time and resources needed to woo them back. There are many reasons accounts go cold, which are not always tied to performance, but we would like to work with them again. You will be amazed with some of the positive reactions you will receive from these accounts.
Expand: Accounts in which we see great potential for expansion and those in which we are willing, and often eager, to invest in.
7. Do NOT Reduce Demand Generation Spend to Zero
In lean times, many businesses make the mistake of cutting their demand generation budget to the bone or even eliminating it entirely. But lean times are exactly the times your business most needs targeted leads.
During a recession prospects get restless and for various reasons look to make changes in their buying decisions. You need to help them find your products or services and choose them rather than others by getting your name out there. So don't quit your demand generation efforts. In fact, if possible, cut non-essential resources elsewhere, get laser focused and step up your demand generation plans.