Catalytic Management Consulting
Accelerating Growth, Driving Performance

Staying calm is more important in recession

It’s a difficult selling environment today, and in the face of real challenges too many sales reps are making critical mistakes that cost them and your company money.

As managers, we need to recognize that our sales teams face a choice every day: stay and “fight” through the tough times or take “flight” emotionally and/or physically. Controlling their response to this challenge is especially important for companies whose products often have high price tags or in marketplaces in which a need must be created for new and innovative products and services. We need to watch for panic-driven mistakes and act fast to address the mistake and to support the salesperson emotionally.

Mistake No. 1: Nobody is buying

If you have not heard this, you are either very lucky or deaf. This kind of verbal negativity can be so debilitating that it causes sales reps to shut down, to just go through the motions. In the face of reduced budgets, they fail to demonstrate that your product or service will increase efficiencies and produce results. In other words, they forget to sell the ROI that can create a budget where none existed.

The Answer: Share every sales success story no matter how small. Invite a customer to a sales meeting to talk to the team about why they bought, what value the purchase brought to the company and how the company has benefited.

Mistake No. 2: Failing to qualify leads

Many sales reps fall into the trap of believing that any lead is a good lead. They are so desperate for a “live one” that they will waste time and energy following bad leads.

The Answer: Give your team the approval to not chase every lead. Instead of asking, “What are you going to do to sell this guy,” ask your sales reps what they have done to qualify the lead and why they believe it is a qualified lead.

Mistake No. 3: Shortening the discovery phase, moving too quickly to the product presentation

Panicked salespeople will try to get to the product presentation quickly so they can ask for the close quickly. But this approach may cause them to miss the customer’s real needs and then miss the cues that will tell them how to customize their pitch to a specific customer need.

The Answer: Stop conducting “What did you do this week?” sales meetings and turn them into training opportunities. Remind them there’s a sales process for a reason and ignoring or diminishing a step in the process will not close more business. Demonstrate that discovery itself is a process of “gaining agreement” and of leading a customer to acknowledge a problem for which you have the solution.

Mistake No. 4: Failing to adjust to the new reality, failing to change

Repeating what you have always done before may not work now. Certain aspects of selling never change. But how you do it does change, and a recession should push us to examine every aspect of our sales process, our product and our marketing.

The Answer: How we present our product or service is definitely going to be different. Prospects are afraid and so products or services should be presented in a way that alleviates or eliminates fear as much as possible. Change the context in which you present your product or service. Describe the benefits and results in fresh terms that matter to the prospect.

Mistake No. 5: Failing to respond appropriately to a slower customer decision-making process

Decisions are taking longer. We need to adjust to that new reality and build strategies for it. Calling or e-mailing the prospect constantly will not force a faster decision.

The Answer: Accept that, in a recession, your prospects are likely going to think and rethink every purchase. Be darn sure you can clearly and effectively state your value proposition in specific terms relevant to your buyer. Influence the buying criteria and the decision process. Stay in front of the prospect by adding value during the decision-making process, such as a free seminar or a free trial.

Mistake No. 6: Failing to ask for help

In our culture, asking for help can be viewed as a sign of weakness. But you can’t help your team if they don’t ask.

The Answer: Create a positive environment that encourages coaching and mentoring among peers. In private, one-on-one meetings, ask salespeople how you can help them. Avoid group discussions that require them to come “out of the closet” about their fears.

This list is by no means all the mistakes that can happen. Furthermore, it is management’s responsibility to prevent not only these mistakes but any other mistakes that crop up. Above all, keep a watchful eye for signs that panic-driven mistakes are occurring.

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