Recession Proof Your Sales

Have you been hearing rumblings about an impending recession? Wondering if it will happen?  It’s likely. As an economist, I can tell you with confidence that the economy is cyclical, and this period of expansion has been unusually long. While employment numbers are still strong in the U.S., they are not as strong internationally. Since our economy is dependent on the global market to continue expanding, a contraction is likely. 

We don’t know when it will happen or how severe it will be. Nonetheless, it’s a good idea to start preparing. 

You can’t change the market, but you can change your own company. Here are some areas to focus on: 

  1. Sell Value 
  2. Deliver Customer Success 
  3. Ask for Referrals 
  4. Improve Process 
  5. Consistently Coaching 
  6. Prioritize Selling 
  7. Build a Great Sales Team 
  8. Have Positive Attitudes 
  9. Tell Success Stories 

Recession-proof your sales by starting now. 

Sell Value  

Make sure your salespeople are selling value and your clients can measure the return on investment. When companies start cutting, they cut what doesn’t provide value. When budgets decrease, only necessities and those things that will help increase revenue or decrease costs get purchased. 

Deliver Customer Success 

Customer service isn’t enough anymore. Extraordinary customer service is the baseline.  Customer Success is what creates customer relationships that weather recessions. Ask your customers if they are getting what they need. Increase adoption by providing the training and support your customers need at all levels. Invest in retention. It is cheaper than sales. 

Ask for Referrals 

If your customers are getting great results, have strong relationships and count on you to help them be successful, they should be walking billboards for you. Now more than ever, your sales team and your customer success team need to get in the habit of asking for referrals. 80% of satisfied customers say they would give a referral if asked, less than 10% ever get asked. 

Improve Process 

Having process and systems around sales help leadership manage and improve sales outcomes.  Go through your processes and do what you can to refine them. Make sure you have a solid sales plan to prioritize sales activities. Review your sales process and figure out where the process takes too long and where your team drops the ball. Find fixes, implement and reinforce them. Make sure your leadership team is consistent with expectations. 

Consistently Coaching 

Are your sales managers really coaching your salespeople or are they busy doing reports, putting out fires, attending meetings and selling because sales are down? Sales managers need to spend 80% of their time coaching their salespeople to close business. If they are doing anything else, you are missing out on revenue. Now is the time to get your managers some training on best practices in sales coaching so they are ready when you need them. 

Prioritize Selling 

Are your salespeople focused on sales? How much time are your salespeople spending on technology, following up on order or dealing with unhappy customers? Remove all obstacles to selling including poor product delivery. Get your salespeople in front of their customers uncovering needs and closing business. Have them partner with customer success to keep customers happy and uncover future needs. 

Build a Great Sales Team 

Do you have salespeople who are consistently not hitting quota? If you are coaching them properly and giving them time to sell, and their results are still poor, it is time to cut them loose. Start thinking about building a great sales team. After cutting some dead weight, you will be able to hire great salespeople from companies that don’t survive the downturn. Keep the resources available and bide your time, and you will be ready to build while everyone else is cutting. 

Have Positive Attitudes  

Focus on the positive. Words have power and negative words have a negative impact. Make a Zero Tolerance policy for negative attitudes. Positive words need to flow freely throughout a company. Everyone should be quick to recognize a job well done, and that starts at the top.  Your salespeople will be working in a much tougher environment, they will need more praise and encouragement. All employees should be encouraged to speak up when they see something good happening. Start using thank you notes or boards. We are so quick to jump on the stuff people do wrong, why not be quick to jump on the stuff they do right?  

Tell Success Stories 

Now is a good time to start the habit of looking for success stories to capture and share. They are everywhere: a success that employees have with projects, success with difficult situations, sales success, and customer success. It is hard to have a lot of grumbling and complaining when you are telling success stories. If you want more success, focus on it. 

Staving off the negative impact of a recession is hard. Start getting your team ready now by implementing some of the suggestions above. Even in a healthy economy, all these things will improve your sales results. It will be easier to make these changes now while the economy is still booming than it will be when it slumps. So, get positive, get focused and get busy! 


If you need help refining your sales processes, building your team or getting your sales managers coaching more effectively, follow this link and let’s chat.  

About the Author Liz Heiman

A strategic thinker, sales strategist, Japanist, and Rotarian, Liz is a coach, trainer, and prolific speaker on the topics of sales and sales leadership. Liz loves sales, and enjoys working with sales leaders to create strategies and processes that make sense AND bring in results.

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