It might be too early to use the r-word, but there’s no denying that the economy is in a strange place. Rates are up, profits are down, and companies are conducting layoffs, a sign that things might get a bit turbulent in the coming months.
Sellers, perhaps rightly so, are nervous. We all want to hit our quotas and achieve the financial and personal goals we’ve set for ourselves for the coming years. A recession threatens to upend those plans, and the uncertainty that comes with it is leaving quite a lot of sales reps (and leaders) feeling uncertain and cautious about what the future holds.
But a recession is absolutely not the end of the world. Deals still close in a recession, and plenty of businesses (and sales teams) thrive, regardless of what’s happening on the pages of The Wall Street Journal. In fact, a recession can be a great time to hone your skills and become the top producer you strive to turn into, as long as you view it as an opportunity, rather than a doom and gloom scenario that temporarily puts an end to all your hopes and dreams.
Here are five ways to sell in a recession, and turn it into an advantage you can carry with you for your entire career:
1. Prepare, prepare, prepare
Some studies have shown that what separates high performers from everybody else is the level of preparation they conduct before dealing with prospects.
Recessions are the perfect time to get into the habit of preparing, by not only honing your presentation and sales skills, but by learning as much as you possibly can about the prospect, their company, their problems, and how your solutions can help them.
Winging it can sometimes work, there’s no doubt about that. But in the long run, preparation is the key to being successful — and in a recession, it’s an absolute must.
2. Go deeper with each prospect
When things are booming, you might have the luxury of spending just a little while with each prospect, knowing that there’s another hot lead coming in right around the corner.
In a recession, however, it’s more important than ever to go deep with each prospect, listening more, understanding more, and generally slowing things down in order to build a deeper, more robust relationship. As budgets become tighter, competition increases and nice-to-haves are replaced by need-to-haves, it’s only the sales reps that are willing to take the time to develop strong bonds who will be able to break through.
3. Focus on buyer-seller fit
According to Dooly CEO Kris Hartvigsen, in a recession, buyer-seller fit can oftentimes be one of the most impactful ways to ensure a deal gets over the finish line.
Buyer-seller fit requires pairing reps who can relate on different levels (the people, the problem, the product, the market, the person they need to have conversations with on a regular basis) with the prospects who are the best fit for the rep.
According to Kris, “If you find a high degree of compatibility in one of these areas, match them with seller profiles that have similar inclinations—and see that chemistry spark.” It’s an unconventional approach, but it works.
4. Make the most of your competitive advantage
Recessions are the time when you need to understand your product’s value, its position in the market, and, perhaps most importantly, its competitive advantage.
- Are you the fastest?
- Are you the highest quality?
- Are you the cheapest?
- Or do you have the best customer service?
The answer to these questions will dictate your pitch and sales approach, as you will need to not only lean into your competitive advantage, but you’ll need to drill down and find the prospects who are most likely to be looking for whatever it is your company is uniquely positioned to offer. Understand what your company does best, then communicate that message to the right people.
5. Experiment with messaging
As sales reps, we sometimes get so used to the repetitive nature of our sales pitches that we forget to change things up. In a recession, it’s absolutely critical to experiment with different types and styles of messaging.
Once you identify something that appears to be working, you’ll want to lean into it with other prospects as well. Of course, there’s never a one-size-fits-all approach to sales messaging, and different prospects are likely to be receptive to different things.
But in human behavior, there are always patterns, and if you pay close enough attention, you’ll realize that one message resonates above all. Once you figure out what that is, make sure it’s in every pitch you make from there on out.
Finally, a sales process that gives you the freedom to sell.
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