August 20, 2020
There’s no doubt about it, it’s rough out there.
Unemployment is near an all-time high, companies are struggling to stay in business, and from an economic standpoint this downturn will likely persist into at least mid-2021.
For most business owners there’s likely only one thing that is top of mind, making money.
But, how do you sell and maintain profit in an environment where everyone is struggling? What can you do now to refocus your business and ensure that you make it through this downturn and are in a winning position once it all goes back to normal?
Fact: The way businesses sold in December of last year is not how businesses can proceed selling now.
That’s because the entire customer landscape has changed for everyone, whether your business is profitable or not. However, this shake-up presents an opportunity to succeed given the right adjustments.
The economic crisis is affecting every business differently. In some industries (travel, retail, etc.) activity has been minimal . But other industries (CPG, Healthcare) can’t keep up with demand. In this environment, broad generalized messaging will fall flat. Messaging needs to be tailored and take into consideration unique circumstances for each account. Has the buyer changed? What are buyers prioritizing? How have procurement cycles changed? How are they operating and serving customers? What is their market or customer base experiencing? By doing so sellers are better positioned to restructure the plan and understand quickly where opportunities are possible vs where they are not.
It’s more cost effective to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. Customer retention now more than ever will make the difference between a company that can bounce back quickly versus one that will likely still struggle even when times are good. Given the structural changes most companies will be undertaking to become leaner and more efficient, sellers need to identify key accounts in their purview and ensure that they are re-selling and re-engaging those accounts. This will keep products and services relevant and able to address the customers evolving needs.
After evaluating your account plans, you may see an opportunity to pursue new markets to generate as much revenue as possible. But before you commit resources to new markets consider your organization as it stands right now: do sellers in territories that are doing well have the bandwidth to take on more work? Are there sellers with territories that are underperforming that can be merged and shifted to a retention model? And, are there sellers that have product expertise to take on new markets that have cross selling/upselling potential?
In a recent survey of Fortune 500 Sales Leaders, 72% of sales leaders say that they are confident about their organization's future.
53% also say that their organization provides support for its sales people to be successful and 39% say that their organization provides a strong coaching culture.
In order for businesses to survive the pandemic the internal strategic direction of the sales organization also needs to evolve.
Most businesses engage their customers through some sort of solution selling framework. The typical process being - learn about the customers needs, present a solution to fit those needs, follow-up and close. Even during the best of times this framework isn’t the greatest, but for the most part it gets the job done. In a pandemic buying world however, this framework opens sellers up for tough objections, many of which even the best sellers can’t overcome in the current climate.
Adjusting sales messaging to a framework like the Challenger Sale, that is designed to sell during a recession, is the only way to deliver value and maintain or even reduce your close ratio. Rather than leading with your solution, the Challenger method focuses on leading the customer tothe solution, repositioning your value as something that is integral to how they do business.
CRM’s hold the keys to all sales organizations and now more than ever businesses need to analyze their sales data to make logical determinations on areas for improvement. CRM’s are the blackbox of where a business's current revenue sits and what should be happening to increase that revenue moving forward. Three key indicators to determine if a business needs assistance are close ratio, sales activity and sales cycle.
Pre-pandemic the average close ratio was 10%-15%, and for businesses that use the Challenger method, close ratios are closer to 40%. Businesses with close ratios below 15% should move to promptly address why.
Sales Cycles are likely also getting longer due to slower procurement cycles. Running an analysis of what the current sales cycle looks like can help to better forecast and cash flow plan.
A high volume of sales activity is usually a positive indicator. Running an assessment of current sales activity can help identify bottlenecks in the sales process that need to be alleviated.
Successful sellers like to win and in an environment where winning is being impacted by extraordinary circumstances it’s critical to keep your top sellers happy and motivated. Engaging top performers during this critical time often means giving them the agency to think outside the box and openly contribute ideas that may improve the overall outcome. It also means keeping them motivated with compensation structures that are still competitive and reflective of the current climate. Ensuring that sales training is still a priority also incites confidence amongst sellers and reassures them that the business is committed to give them the tools they need to be successful.
In a recent survey of 330 US finance leaders conducted by PwC, 72% believe their companies will be more resilient in the long run and 53% say the new ways they are serving their customers will put them in a better position down the road.
In order to achieve those results CFO’s are looking to re-adjust product and service offerings as well as pricing strategies based on their customers current and projected buying preferences.
Understanding your prospects' customers is critical in understanding how you should temporarily or permanently adjust your product or service offering. If your prospect is doing well financially they are likely to continue buying, but if they aren’t and you don’t have flexibility in your offering it’s time to make some adjustments.
Adjusting your offering to more directly serve your prospects needs by trimming non-essential value-adds (offering bloat) allows you to focus your customers attention on what will directly impact their bottom line. It will also cause less friction between the seller and the prospect because the offering is so simple, making it easier to buy.
Refocusing your pricing strategy to drive home ROI is critical at this juncture. Sellers need to be able to show how every piece of value adds up to a dollar amount and, what that dollar amount will save the prospect now and, moving forward. Tiering offerings so that prospects can also see what’s available to them when the climate improves also shows that they’re not losing out by purchasing now, and that additional value does await them when they are in a better financial position to upgrade their offering.
While having multiple distribution channels allows a business to more widely sell it’s services, it’s also a resource and time commitment that a pandemic strapped company may no longer be able to adequately support. Whether you are managing a partner program, have wholesale channels or licensing arrangements, taking an audit of how these channels are performing will not only save time but save valuable human resources as well. Doubling-down on distribution channels that are still performing well, and pausing distribution channels that are falling behind helps to divert resources to other areas where they are needed the most.
By taking an honest and constructive look inward, any business can use the above tactics to make structural adjustments that enable them to keep the lights on and remain profitable.
Creating a data driven approach that uses existing data to inform decision making, not only enables business owners to create a blueprint for their organization now but also acts as a roadmap to guide future success.
Tell us about yourself and one of our growth strategists will be intouch within one business day.
As the Principal & Founder of Sales Accelerator, Heidi provide sales training, outsourced sales management and sales consulting to companies that are looking to go-to-market with a sales strategy and sales process that leads to an average of 50%-300% revenue growth in 9 months. She has systematically increased top and bottom line results as the architect, builder and manager of growing software sales organizations. Heidi has also developed product (hardware and software) in both the cannabis and technology space.