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Selling During A Recession: What You Need To Know

Rising interest rates, the highest inflation rate in decades, and war in Europe… 

These are just some signs that a recession may be on the horizon. Despite these worrying developments, selling during a recession is possible. Use these strategies to position yourself to succeed in the next recession.

Step 1: Change your relationship with the business news

The first step to selling successfully in a recession is to change how you view the news. Start by understanding the impact of the negativity bias on media outlets. 

Ever come across the news saying: “if it bleeds, it leads”? The phrase, which first appeared in print in 1989, describes a tendency in journalism to focus on the violent, depressing and negative. If you’ve ever wondered why the media focuses on crime, war, and other negative reasons, negativity bias is a crucial reason.

The negativity bias is the human tendency to scan the environment for threats regularly. In an evolutionary sense, this predisposition served us well in the past. Yet, the negative emphasis of much news reporting is unhelpful to sales professionals. 

Think about how you feel when you read articles about unemployment, people struggling to pay their bills, and shortages. You probably start to feel worried about your future. At best, spending a lot of time-consuming negative news coverage distracts you from your work. At worst? Consuming significant amounts of negative news coverage will leave you feeling sad, discouraged, or stressed out.

The solution is to change your approach to consuming the news. Specifically, we recommend going on a low-news diet. In a recessionary environment, the quantity of negative economic news is likely to skyrocket. However, very little of this information is actionable. By only consuming news information directly relevant to your sales goals, you’ll save time and minimize the chance of distraction.

Action Step: Set up Google Alerts for your top 10 current customers and 10 target accounts. 

By focusing your news consumption on specific companies relevant to your sales goals, you will free up time and free up energy. To set up your Google News alerts, you will get information about companies and people that matter to your sales work. 

Advanced Tip: Break Your Morning News Habit

Some of you may have the habit of starting your work day by reading the news. In that case, it will take more effort to change your habits. Instead, shift your focus to reading a good sales or business book. We’ve published a guide to our favorite sales and business books here.

Step 2: Deepen relationships with customer relationships

The first step was about changing unhelpful habits. This step focuses your attention on how you deal with customers. Most salespeople are trained and incentivized to focus on landing new accounts. Let the sales commission compensation program and management direction guide your emphasis is perfectly natural.

In an economic downturn, your customers will likely be affected in various ways. Some will be directly hit by declining revenue, supply chain problems, and worse. Other customers may suffer indirectly – like experiencing feelings of fear, doubt, and uncertainty. Sometimes, your customers may be under pressure to cut costs like doing business with your company!

To protect your company’s current and prospects, now is the time to deepen your relationships with customers. At a minimum, set aside a few hours each week over the next quarter to reinforce your key relationships. 

Action Steps

Use these tips to deepen your customer relationships:

1) Check-in with customer service for any open issues with your customers.

Nobody likes to feel ignored or unimportant! Yet, that is the exact feeling your customers are likely to experience when their requests and complaints go unanswered. Start by checking internally with your customer service colleagues about your top customers. If there are open issues, do what you can to escalate these issues and get them solved.

2) Reach out to customers to find out what’s new

Over the last few years, many people have changed jobs and found new opportunities. Avoid assuming that the data you have in your CRM from 2020 or 2019 is still current. On your next call with customers, find out about your customer’s work context. Do they have a new boss? Has there been a reorganization? Are there new executives? New policies that might affect purchases?

3) Express your gratitude to customers

There is a new generation of scientific research exploring the power of gratitude. Researchers at Berkeley found that gratitude exercises – including writing letters of thanks – can improve mental health and help people avoid toxic thoughts. In that spirit, set yourself a goal to write thank you notes to your top 10 or 20 customers. To really stand out, consider sending a card in the mail. Few people send cards so it is a great way to stand out and be remembered.

Step 3: Evolve your sales techniques for the downturn

The final strategy is to evolve your selling techniques to respond to downturn scenarios. The specific implementation of this strategy will vary depending on what you sell and your customers. The following principles will help you to get started in fine tuning your approach.

Action Steps

1) Spend more effort understanding your customer’s worries and concerns

Understanding your customer is a longstanding principle. The change here is one of emphasis. In an economic downturn, potential customers may be preoccupied with negative news. For example, they may have seen a colleague at their organization lose their job due to layoffs. Taking the time to understand these concerns in greater depth before making a pitch is an effective way to show you care.

2) Look for recession-friendly benefits in what you sell

Even in a recession, the economy keeps running! Even during the depths of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, trillions of dollars of purchases were made in the United States. With that in mind, remind yourself that there are still plenty of sales to be made. One way to unlock more potential sales lies in finding recession friendly benefits like cost savings and risk reduction.

For inspiration, read through your company’s case studies and talk to your own past customers about what they liked most about your product.

3) Raise your sales activity levels

In tough times, sales cycles tend to get longer. For example, a B2B sale may now require multiple people to approve it, including executives. Given these kinds of changes, it is vital to double down on what you can control as a salesperson: your daily activity. Set yourself a goal to increase your sales activity (e.g. cold calls, referral requests, cold emails) by at least 5% to keep your pipeline healthy.

Economic Downturns: A Great Opportunity To Find New Sales Talent

Mass layoffs have already hit multiple firms in the technology industry. While those job losses are tragic, there is an upside. Recruiting new sales people to join your organization now is easier. Work with Peak to discover how we can help your organization get salespeople with a proven track record today.

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