The big “R” word is occurring in business conversations today. Some experts believe there will be a recession, others believe we will avoid one. My suggestion is to plan for the worst, hope for the best and up your sales game by equipping your sales team AND all teams within your company with the soft and hard skills needed to win business in tough economic times.
I’ve had a business through several difficult business cycles. There was the dot-com bust, the 9-11 tragedy, the 2008 financial meltdown and Covid-19. Now, we are facing staggering inflation.
Fortunately, I navigated through these tough times as did many of my customers. While, there are many tactics and strategies needed to get your team through tough times, here are two to get you started.
#1. Remind everyone at your company that sales is not a department.
Professional salespeople and sales experts talk a lot about understanding the buyer’s journey in order to align their prospecting and selling systems. During tough times, it’s equally important to understand your customer’s journey. This is the journey your customer experiences AFTER signing an agreement with your organization.
When times are tough, everyone is under more pressure, including your customers. As a result, customers may not bring their best selves to meetings or conversations.
They get more demanding because their customers are becoming more demanding.
They don’t have time to waste.
Improve your customer journey with your company by demonstrating and elevating your team’s level of empathy and expertise.
Conduct an exercise and get set-up as a new customer at your company. Now, contact your organization and see how easy or hard it is to be connected with the right resource or right information. You might discover that by walking a mile in your customers shoes, (empathy) that finding the right person or resources is not easy. Your poor customers might feel like they are lost in a bad Halloween corn maze. Apply the EQ skill of reality testing and make the necessary changes to make it easy to do business with your company.
Continue to provide education and cross-training to your teams so they can better serve your clients quickly and efficiently. Don’t give into the temptation to cut education budgets. Your customers need and want help during tough times. Make the customer journey one they are happy to take over and over with your company.
#2. Stop telling your sales team to sell value. Instead, provide value. My colleague Mike Marks, founder of the Indian River Consulting Group, specializes in the manufacturing and distribution space. His advice to sales professionals. “Stop pushing product like nothing has changed. Use your knowledge and expertise to help your customer value engineer the products they source from you to save money.” That is providing value that still leads to a sale.
Many sales professionals can provide value by providing insights and support that may have nothing to do with your products and services, however, has everything to do with helping your prospects and customers run a successful business.
For example, one of my clients, Class VI Partners, is in the investment banking world. They are providing a series of workshops on recession proofing your business to prospects and clients. The topics range from employee retention, to customer relationships to personal finance.
There is no sale to be made.
Only value to be provided.
You can provide extra value to your best clients by introducing them to a resource you don’t provide; however, they desperately need.
Value selling behaviors require the EQ skill of delayed gratification. Top salespeople and businesses are good at putting in the work of building relationships, adding value, even when there isn’t an instant sale to be made.
There might be turbulent waters ahead. Sales leaders, salespeople, be the person that made the turbulent waters a little calmer by providing empathy, expertise and real value to your customers.