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This might be slightly controversial but at Indicator, we love slower times. Not because it means that it is harder for our clients or even harder for most Kiwis, but because this is the time that the best in our profession shine.

We have been talking recently about how the top salespeople are so important in a slower market but let’s not forget an even more important contributor - the Sales Leader. Whilst a salesperson can influence their own results, a sales leader performs a critical role where they can influence the team and even the whole company. This might also be controversial, but I propose that your sales leader may also be the most important team member in 2023 and beyond.

A tougher economic environment can be a challenging time for any business, (if it’s officially a recession or not depends on who you talk to). What we also know however, is that this environment also creates many opportunities for a leader to influence and create their own legacy. Sales Leaders need to be proactive, creative, and adaptable to ensure their team's success. So, what are we seeing from the best leaders, and what are some of the strategies you can implement to keep sales teams motivated, engaged, and productive.

It's essential to focus on existing customers and deepen those relationships to be seen as a trusted partner. As we headed into Covid we saw some businesses double down in their customer contact, seeking to truly understand their customer's challenges and ambitions, and working to align their offering to what their customers needed. These were the businesses we saw move ahead while others slowed and lost market share. Encourage your teams to continue to reach out to existing customers to understand their developing needs, pain points, and challenges. By being trusted, empathetic and genuinely curious, salespeople can uncover new opportunities, offer solutions to meet customers’ needs and help them also navigate tougher times.

Continue to focus on providing exceptional customer service. Customers are more likely to remember businesses that went above and beyond to help them during challenging times.

Sales Leaders should be adapting their sales strategy to the current market conditions. This may mean changing the types of products or services you sell, adjusting pricing, creating new sales channels or targeting different customer segments.

Sales leaders should also encourage their team to be more creative with their sales approach. Leverage social media and personal brand to reach new customers, create personalised video messages to connect with prospects, or ask for more referrals from engaged customers. By thinking outside the box, salespeople can find new ways to engage with customers.

This year many businesses across a range of industries found themselves emerging from lengthy periods of reactive selling. Demand outstripped supply and salespeople became inventory managers and order takers. We are now seeing Sales Leaders forced to dedicate more time to sales fundamentals development to help their teams navigate back to being true consultative sellers once again. Invest in sales development to help your salespeople adapt to the changing market conditions, better navigate challenges and stay ahead of the competition.

You should also encourage your teams to invest in their own professional development and continuous learning. Attend virtual conferences, read recommended sales books, or take short online courses. It’s important to set realistic goals for your sales team. Work with your team to set achievable targets which take into account the changing current market conditions. This may mean adjusting sales quotas or focusing on specific products or services more likely to sell in the current environment. Your focus might move away from revenue targets to aggressively chasing market share. Track progress towards your goals and provide regular feedback to the team. By setting realistic goals and providing regular feedback your salespeople are more likely to remain motivated and focused as challenges arise.

Sales is hard. In a tougher sales environment, it’s easy for salespeople to become discouraged or disengaged. You need to constantly work on fostering a positive sales culture that keeps your team motivated and engaged. Celebrate small and big wins and provide regular praise, feedback and coaching. Encourage your teams to stay connected and engaged with each other. This can include virtual team building activities, regular team meetings, or one-on-one check-ins. Understand your teams views on flexible working and hybrid vs in-office working. Clearly communicate information equally to your teams regardless of location.

Lastly, to help your sales teams improve their productivity and free up valuable time for strategic selling, investigate some of the increasingly available technology innovations to automate some of the more mundane tasks undertaken by your people. Now is the time to truly understand if you are gaining all the advantages available from the CRM you have, and more importantly, if your people are using it. If you don’t have a CRM, think about how you enable your salespeople to perform?

As a Sales Leader don’t be tempted to batten down the hatches and drop the sails to ride out the storm. Instead, you can view the more challenging environment as your opportunity to action change, change which might not be so easily enacted when things are running smoothly. Take your opportunity to inspire and engage your team to help make your business stronger in the long run.

So for all of us in sales, bring it on!


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