SALES & MARKETING
Selling Against Economic Headwinds
Is your sales team making these four mistakes that could make it more difficult to sell during an economic downturn? Here’s how your company can adapt BY JAY SPIELVOGEL, VENATOR SALES GROUP, LLC.
A Jay Spielvogel is CEO of Venator Sales Group (GAWDA member), a sales consulting and training firm specializing in boosting Welding and Gas distribution sales performance. Contact him at: Jay@ venatorsalesgroup.com
88 • Summer 2020
colleague recently asked me, “What are the top mistakes salespeople make when the economy begins to slow down?” I explained that during great economic times, most companies tell me their salespeople are good at closing business with existing accounts, bidding on inbound budgeted projects in new accounts or prospecting on smaller “quickhit” opportunities. On the flipside, the challenge during recessed economic times is that while the phones may be ringing with lower level stakeholders calling to gather info and pricing, larger-scale budgeted projects are more scarce and inbound small projects only maintain cash-flow, but do not provide real growth. One of the early warning signs of economic headwinds is when the sales pipeline begins to dry up. In response and out of desperation, most sales teams react to any interest by forfeiting the company sales process, qualification questions and due diligence in favor of getting quotes out the door. Rather than addressing these mistakes, most companies will simply throw more sales support and technology at the issue, reducing profitability and increasing the cost of every sale. For most sales organizations, the vision during an economic slowdown is to quickly capture larger, more strategic accounts. Many take the first step toward this goal by assigning targets to the sales team. This is a good start, but unfortunately, only scratches the surface. The key to real success is for sales management to help their reps first develop an understanding of
how power and influence work within these target accounts. Why? Because when the economy begins to weaken, people become more risk averse, need more consensus on every decision, and have much less individual power over discretionary budgets. Selling during an economic slowdown requires that salespeople navigate their way through all the stakeholders in a target organization, They also need to align with the right influencers who can champion a project and the right decision makers who can approve it. This is an exhaustive, but crucial effort that most salespeople will avoid in favor of conveniently throwing pricing and resources at lower level stakeholders. So how do sales organizations recalibrate for the oncoming economic cycle? First, we must reverse-engineer the way our people sell by correcting these top four mistakes that are typically made during a strong economic period.
MISTAKE #1 Sales reps not working the entire decision team in each account. Most reps will efficiently focus their sales efforts on the front-line managers. During a slow economy, these prospects are more than happy to receive a proposal that could streamline process, improve support and make their job easier. Typically, these mid-level managers mistake the nod of approval to evaluate a solution or vendor with the approval to make the change-decision and spend the money. However, the solutions they present to upper management are highly scrutinized against other priorities as