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    Don’t Brake While Going Uphill - What Sales Teams Should Do To Prepare For Tough Times

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    Economists say we are experiencing a global combination of factors that will likely lead to a recession again, and soon. Inflation, supply chain issues, rising interest rates, general uncertainty - all add up to economic unease.

    Bracing for it, many companies are starting to cut back on spending, and it may not be long before we start seeing layoffs and other substantial cost-cutting measures become widespread.

    In Sweden, we have an expression: “Man kan inte bromsa sig ur en uppförsbacke.” It means, “You can’t apply your brakes to go uphill.” It refers to the human urge to pull back or slow down when we encounter stress or worry. Sometimes slowing down in these circumstances can be good, but sometimes it’s a mistake that you’ll pay for later.

    If you’re looking at potential cuts to your sales investments - layoffs, training cuts, letting go of consultants, or pulling back on investing in strategy, process, or technology - here’s why you should think twice before you do.

    What’s good for public companies isn’t always good for private companies

    Unlike private companies, public companies are judged on a quarterly basis according to how well they are delivering profits for their shareholders, who often lack insights about what it takes to successfully run the company.

    This fact means that public company leadership is under constant pressure to deliver on a short-term basis in a way that makes outside parties - the shareholders - happy. This is not always beneficial to long-term strategic growth.

    You can’t apply your brakes to go uphill.
    Sally Santesson

    Private companies sometimes model their behavior on that of public companies, but this is an area where private companies can actually gain advantage by taking a more long-term view. If you’re privately owned and reasonably well capitalized at this point in time, you would do well to consider whether you really want to apply the brakes while you’re going uphill. In fact, you might want to consider applying the gas instead.

    Down time can be excellent for building momentum

    For sales professionals, recessions can mean working longer hours, making fewer sales, and offering more discounts. This causes stress on the sales team, often leading to poorer customer outcomes. It also means you make less profit on more work.

    What if, instead, you encouraged your sales team to slow down and invest in building momentum. Instead of discounting, invest in positioning, strategy, process, methodology, skills, training, coaching, and better technology to support your team.

    By applying the gas instead of the brakes, you can reduce the urge to discount and increase your ability to compete while everyone else is cutting back.

    Here’s how to invest during a recession

    During tough times, salespeople need to be able to communicate value. The minute they start competing on price, it’s a race to the bottom. This is always true, but never more true than when everyone is cutting costs.

    For this reason, it’s really important that you execute on a unique way of selling that preserves your pricing and builds strong relationships with customers. Instead of cutting back, double down and invest in HOW you sell.

    • Start with your messaging and positioning
      Even if your positioning and messaging has been working for you, it may have to shift to address the new concerns and needs of your market during the recession. Take the time to really hear what your customers need and the challenges they’re facing. Then adjust your positioning and messaging to meet them where they are

      Then you can develop a strategy designed to address the markets where you can help the most and win the most. Invest in process and methodology to fit the new strategy. Then make sure you execute by enabling your team with the right software, coaching, content, analytics, battle cards, and skills.

      While you’re at it, check that your online messaging and marketing fits the new positioning, so there is alignment between what customers encounter online and what happens when they reach a sales professional.

    • Collect stories
      At Membrain, we believe in the power of stories so much that we recently hired a new Head of Storytelling to help us ensure that our stories fit what our market needs and communicate the value of our offering.

      During down times, the stories you tell will have an even greater impact, and they should reflect what your customers are facing now, not what they were facing six months ago. Take the time to collect stories from your customers about the challenges they’re facing at this time, and specifically how your offering helps them address it.

      Tailor at least one of your standard stories to address a new problem that tough times bring, and make sure your sales team is equipped to use that story and to deliver it in a good way.

    • Know your customers
      When companies are free with their budgets, it’s easier for them to purchase and easier for you to sell. You might even win deals without engaging all the stakeholders, as they can more easily sell the investment internally.

      During difficult times, it’s critical to know your customer much more closely. You need to know who they are and what they’re going through - and you need to know as many stakeholders as you can access.

      During a recession, people often are laid off or change jobs. If you only know a few people, you may lose a deal simply due to these changes. More importantly, companies scrutinize purchases more closely, and the more people you have on your side, the more likely you are to win their continued trust.

    Nobody loves tough times, but it doesn’t have to be all bad. Companies that invest during the downturn will be well positioned to shoot ahead when the economy changes again. I would love to know what you are doing to prepare for the new economy. Shoot me a message on LinkedIn and let me know.

    George Brontén
    Published June 29, 2022
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn