As news of the battered economy is broadcast in the media and consumer confidence stagnates to historic lows, nowhere does the impact hit closer to home than in the sales industry. That’s why it is so critical to have an effective strategy in place to take action when the economy is trending down. In response to this, most companies cut two vital elements in their company. Training and Advertising expenditures, like a ship in a storm get tossed overboard. Most of the people reading this article would agree that those are foolish responses to a tough economy, however a large percentage of even their companies have already made the cuts.
Even if your budget to bring in training is absent, there are a number of things you as the sales leader and manager should be doing to “weather this storm.”
Help your sales team find your clients pain
If there is no pain, there is no sale. Now is the time to thoroughly understand and feel your client’s pain, and adapt accordingly. Pain has three distinct elements; problems, reasons and impact. By putting the pieces together with your client you are able to recognize what’s happening. If you can’t solve your client’s pain, your competition will. More than ever before encourage your sales people to ask more questions and show their customer that they are interested in more than just a sale. One of the symptoms of a down economy is that many sales people get a really bad case of “commission breath”. They sometimes get so desperate to make a sale because their own sales are down that they put undue pressure, some even at a subconscious level, on their customers to buy. Your sales people may even thing they are just offering a “good deal” yet the customer only sees it as desperation.
The Fear Factor
Understand the psychology behind a recession’s fear factor and openly discuss it with your sales team. Engage a team approach of how to meet company goals. Share your vision of what measures need to be taken to ensure success, and ask them to be part of the solution by finding hidden opportunity, up-selling and identifying cost saving measures within the organization. Encourage a positive mindset that looks beyond public perceptions to the opportunities change affords. Remind your seasoned veterans and educate your newer team members about economic business cycles. Make sure they understand that this is all cyclical and they now, more than ever need to stay focused and continue to work hard. Your sales people need to know that “this too shall pass”.
With rising fuel costs many companies have shifted to a condensed work week or other changes to reduce expenses. Make sure your salespeople are willing to meet clients at their location and recognize the changing nature of the standard work week by making yourself accessible and available where and when they are. Have them take advantage of phone conferences, confirmation of appointment calls and email to communicate before jumping in the car. Make sure the team knows you are behind them as their leader and you will also be flexible in helping them to close business.
Coach and Train
The worst time to cut back on sales or training is in a recession. Focus and highlight every area of success and discuss what was done to create it and exploit it. Highlight sales wins, reference goals and site historical examples of how the company or a salesperson has gone above and beyond. Stay consistent with your weekly training meetings. (You do meet with your team don’t you?) Enlist the help of members of your team to lead training and motivational sessions. Encourage your sales people to replace the radio and music in their cars with inspirational and motivational messages. There is no better time than now to be constantly listening to positive messages.
Mobilize your Sales Force
All eyes need to be focused on the objective. That means bringing every department that supports what sales does into the mix. Ratchet your sales focus up a notch. Now is the time to quantify what you can do for clients because everyone is looking for ways to either save money or make more money. Help everyone on the team, sales personnel or not to pull together and work through this business cycle.
Ron Marks is the author of “Managing for Sales Results” published by John Wiley and Sons.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org