How to Lead Your Sales Team With Confidence When the Economy Shifts
Times of economic uncertainty and decreased consumer confidence are inevitable, and these downturns during the economic cycle can be particularly challenging for sales organizations. It’s no secret that 2022 trends show a leveling of growth and steadily declining consumer confidence across global markets. Even though market stagnation can make it harder for your team to sell and meet quota, it also offers an opportunity to distinguish yourself from the competition and double down on sales fundamentals to emerge with renewed growth.
So how do you best support and lead your sales organization to rise above the fray? We pulled together key strategies from veteran sales leaders.
Focus on Value
If your customers are facing challenges that come with a down market, help your sales team get focused on being relevant to changing customer needs and providing value where it matters most. Rally your team around a customer-centric mindset. Forward-thinking sales leaders are helping their organization focus on uncovering customer needs, justifying buy-in and positioning their solution as their customer’s ticket out of business pains. Partnerships forged in these times could be the most loyal for years to come.
As your customers’ needs change, your differentiation shifts. Dig into emerging consumer problems to define an updated value offering for the current state of the market. Analyze how your answers to these questions have or will change due to your customer’s current position:
- What mission critical outcomes will your solution provide for customers?
- How specifically will your solution provide these business outcomes?
- How do you provide better value than your competition, even at a higher investment?
- What proof do you have to demonstrate capability of providing these outcomes?
Define a specific message of value that answers the new questions sellers will inevitably face, making them confident and capable to sell in any environment.
Invest in Your Sales Team
Creating synergy between message and execution at every level of your organization can empower your team to sell more intentionally, leading to bigger and better wins. To minimize the impact of a down market on sales performance, use this time to clearly define your offering and evaluate how your sales team is spending their time. Ensure your team is spending time on potential clients who have the ability and appetite to thrive through this season, and give your people the messaging to be relevant to these buyers.
Provide your sales team with a custom qualification framework by defining what a great deal looks like for your company. Identify what is important to your buyer in the selling process, especially given the changing economic environment and align your qualification to those needs. Here are a few important qualification actions to consider in light of economic change:
- Utilize metrics and proof points to directly align to customer outcomes
- Identify all stakeholders and their decision criteria early in the process
- Influence decision criteria by instilling value and differentiation from the first conversation
Once you’ve outlined how qualification looks in your organization, the key to driving adoption is to equip managers with a playbook to reinforce key behaviors in your sales reps on the front line. Force Management’s Managing Direction, Brian Walsh, said in a recent conversation, "The forecast is an outcome. Spend more time making sure [managers] know how to coach, and watch what happens to the forecast."
Be intentional about supporting managers on implementation: clearly define benchmarks and success indicators, and set aside time for manager training that emphasizes coaching rather than inspection. By equipping managers to lead adoption of new qualification methods, you create alignment on a more collaborative and confident forecasting process that drives consistent outcomes for your organization.
Lead From the Front
Prioritize active leadership to provide a morale boost. Consider the strategies that you or other elite leaders have utilized successfully during previous times of rapid change. What can you do differently this time than in previous years?
In a conversation with CCO of BlueVoyant, Paul Kleinschnitz, on the Audible-Ready Podcast, he notes, “When people understand what you’re doing, when they’re bought in and have emotional connection to it, you see the results.”
Get people bought into your current or future initiatives by leading from the front. We define “leading from the front” as the extra effort, involvement and ownership taken by a sales leader that sparks others on their team to follow suit. While delegating is necessary, it’s vital for your sales team to see that you’ve listened to and considered their day-to-day challenges and are invested in their success.
Before you launch a new strategy to adapt to the current market, consult with your customer-facing teams to identify what new customer problems they’re seeing in deals and with existing clients. Work closely with managers and sales enablement as you define your strategic sales plan for next year. Leading up to your next SKO, and during it, ensure your sales organization understands the importance of the event and what you’re launching to support sales success next year. Here are a few topics leaders should be communicating right now.
Keep Your Forward Momentum
When facing a down market, it can be easy to go into preservation mode and “hunker down” to weather the storm. Those who pivot to what customers need will be rewarded with renewed resiliency for their sales organization heading forward.
In times of previous economic challenges, it was the first movers who were able to successfully support their sales team in driving revenue and forward momentum.
Here are two examples of companies we've partnered with and what they prioritized to drive forward momentum and generate sales success:
- Sysdig’s leadership team set a focus on generating company-wide alignment on buyer value and solution differentiation. By leveraging ongoing training and checkpoints, they doubled conversion rates, cut ramp-up time by 50% and multiplied gross and net retention revenue.
- Plex achieved cross-functional alignment on a buyer-focused sales process that enabled them to increase pipeline, improve sales resilience and capture value that spoke to key decision makers in their customer organizations.
Define Your Plan to Lead with Confidence
Take the guesswork out of selling in a down market by defining a repeatable sales strategy that prepares your organization for what’s next – whatever that may be. Learn what the most resilient sales leaders are focused on now to equip their sales organizations to sell through economic challenges. Force Management Managing Director, Brian Walsh, shares the top 5 considerations for confident leadership in our current economic environment in this new webinar.