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It might surprise you to know that our business is counter cyclical. 

Being in the business of helping companies enhance their sales performance and effectiveness, we always have a noticeable upturn in people seeking us out whenever the economy slows down. 

We perhaps could have expected to see that a bit earlier in the year but March for many was still buoyant and April the whole country was asleep with a ridiculous number of holidays disrupting business. Personally, I think as a country that should be looked at but that is another story. 

What we are now seeing as we approach the mid-point of the year is that many sectors are still busy but both business and consumer confidence has taken a noticeable dent. Whilst some businesses are still experiencing pent-up demand for their products or services, sales pipelines appear to be thinning out, buyers are taking longer with their decision-making processes, budgets and capital expenditure have been trimmed back and it is noticeable that some companies have gone “into their shells”. I have always thought that this is a dangerous strategy. 

Having witnessed several cycles just like this in my career, I also know that it is times such as this where the best performing salespeople really come into their own. 

In the high inflationary and very stimulated economy that was a hallmark of the last few years (and is still lingering stubbornly) most salespeople could still be successful despite themselves. Let’s be honest, it hasn’t been that hard to look good in a sales role over the past few years. 

But what is noticeable now that the economic tide is turning, is that the cream is starting to rise to the top. This was reinforced last week when a client said “usually it is 20% of our best salespeople that are doing 80% of our sales but now it is more like the top 10% of our best salespeople doing 90% of our sales”. 

As enquiries and sales are slowing, it is good to see more companies turning their attention to being far more proactive and really changing up their ‘sales’ game. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of companies approaching us for advice, support and training. In a tightening economy there is simply no room for inefficiencies and poor sales practices, and we are pleased to observe that companies are now making a deliberate effort to manage their sales opportunities and enquiries with much more care and attention. 

There is also no doubt that the best Sales Leaders are placing more effort on getting the basics right - prospects are being followed up with more urgency, greater care and effort going into proposals and salespeople getting back to doing the basics brilliantly. We are however seeing early signs of desperation from companies falling behind with their sales budgets and often a short-sighted approach completely disregarding the customers’ needs and focusing on their own. 

With fewer leads, smaller budgets, and less enquiry the quality of the work that the salespeople are undertaking is vital. I saw a post recently that quoted a Forbes article saying that 55% of salespeople lack basic sales skills which I believe to be a conservative number. Imagine if we were saying that about other roles inside of companies? 

If your numbers of opportunities are falling then you need to be applying well thought out, well executed sales processes alongside your marketing approach. 

I am calling this the golden time to be a professional salesperson. Honestly it is not hard to be better than the rest. For those companies and individuals who are willing to do the work and focus on quality there are plenty of opportunities out there. For those that don’t, good luck with that strategy. 

Here’s my recommendation for rebooting your sales efforts & effectiveness:

  1. Reset your goals, activities and sales strategy
  2. Get aggressive – not like a pit ball, but its time to get busy
  3. Invest in your sales cadence – sales is about rhythm if you are constantly in a flow of activity working on each segment of your pipeline then sales will flow
  4. Deliver messages that really resonate with customers and prospects in slower times
  5. Recognise that in slower times decision makers will have a keen eye on increasing revenue, improving gross margins, and reducing costs
  6. Be careful how you negotiate and try to avoid the temptation to discount. Focus on delivering value not just the cheapest solution
  7. Do what your competitors are not – time to stand out!
  8. Always remember that in slower times the good will stand out, time to become one of those
  9. Link strongly with marketing and invest in your technology tools. This is a time to set up your sales processes to deliver even more, but with less.
  10. Do not, do not, do not withdraw and go into your shells

And finally, remember that selling in slower times is so much more rewarding than in busy times.

 

 

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