August 26

3 Ways To Coach Your Sales Team Through Tough Times

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Wondering how to coach your sales team through tough times?

It’s easy for all of us to moan and groan about challenges that affect our ability to achieve sales goals. Today’s laundry list is pretty long: High inflation, crazy gas prices, threats of a recession and global unrest just to name a few.

These tough times are like riding on a roller coaster.

Effective sales leaders recognize the pressure their salespeople are under and take steps to prevent them from caving under such pressure. They also realize that the invitations to “pity parties” increase. Attendance is full and the party conversation is around blame and excuses for lack of performance.  

Take Robert Schuller’s advice. “Tough times don’t last but tough people do.” Take these three steps to help your salespeople through tough times.

#1. Control your sales teams limiting beliefs and negative self-talk. Tony Dungy, NFL coach and  Superbowl XLI 29–17 winner shares a powerful perspective:

“You can't always control circumstances. However, you can always control your attitude, approach, and response. Your options are to complain or to look ahead and figure out how to make the situation better.”

Mic drop. Stop complaining.

Help your salespeople focus on what their attitude, approach and response to tough times. 

The reality is tough times aren’t new. I’ve been a business owner for over 20 years and have navigated through four financial meltdowns. There was the dot com crash of the 90’s, the tragedy of 9-11, the 2008 financial debacle and COVID.

It would have been easy for me to allow negative self-talk to dictate non-productive beliefs and actions.

  • “No one is going to invest in speaking or training at this time.”
  • “Companies don’t have money to invest in professional development.”
  • “My clients won’t flip from in person training to virtual, instructor led training.”  

Fortunately, I didn’t buy into those limiting beliefs.

I chose to believe something else.

My belief is that difficult business environments can be one of the best times to approach prospects and acquire new clients. Why? Because during good times, companies are flush with money. Some even fall into complacency because of their success. They aren’t open to conversations about changing or improving.

During tough times, SMART companies realize they don’t have all the answers. SMART companies are willing to pay for solutions that provide better outcomes.

During tough times, SMART companies examine everything that could be affecting success.  Do we have the right people on-board? What processes need updating or eliminating? How should we adjust our go-to-market strategies?

Because of this examination, SMART companies are open to new conversations with new vendors.  

My goal---and belief---during tough times is to find these SMART prospects. They will take action and invest time and dollars to weather the business storm.  

Coach your team on the impact of negative beliefs that drive non-productive actions.

#2:  Avoid the curse of too much empathy.  As someone who teaches and preaches empathy, this might sound like heresy! However, in tough times, it’s easy for salespeople to feel sorry for their prospects and customers. They start buying into their reasons for not making a change.

The reality is tough times call for tough, truth telling sales conversations. 

The reality is that your prospects and customers need to invest in your services in order to be prepared for a better future OR be around for a better future!  

Teach and coach your salespeople to be empathetic. And teach and coach your salespeople to be assertive in sales conversations.  A mentor of mine gave me great advice which illustrates this point. 

“Colleen, if you are meeting with a prospect and know this prospect is headed towards a train wreck, it’s your job to facilitate that difficult conversation around the upcoming wreck. You may still hear a no; however, you have done your job as a consultant. Your job is to point out potential pitfalls of not taking action.”  

#3:  Update your messaging. This should be a best practice, regardless of economic times. If you are not constantly updating your sales messaging, your sales team will sound like they are out of touch with the current business reality and prospects will hit the delete button pretty quickly.

Effective sales messaging is especially critical during tough times because prospects are even busier than normal and much more discerning in their choice of business partners.

For example, a recruiting firm would update their sales messaging, value proposition, to reflect current problems in the hiring and recruiting world. 

“We recruit and hire candidates that don’t ghost employers or quietly quit on the job.”

As I was writing this blog, I hopped on the internet and found this not-so-great sales messaging from a global recruiting firm.

“Work with a dedicated hiring partner who handles all aspects of the hiring process.”

Yawn. Is this really the pain that companies need solved today? Update your value propositions to show you understand the specifics of your prospects tough times.  

Sales leaders, it’s time to lead your sales team through tough times. 

Remember, “Tough times don’t last but tough people do.”

Good Selling!


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