How to sell in uncertain times

How to sell in uncertain times


You could be forgiven for starting off 2016 in a rather pessimistic manner given all the ‘doom and gloom’ being spread about economic growth issues, the decline of share markets across the globe and talk of another GFC.

Don’t get me wrong, we need to be vigilant and able to adapt and, even if everything that is being predicted turns out to be true, we still need to keep moving forward and seek out the right opportunities to focus on.

In short, how do we keep our head when everyone else around us is losing theirs?

There are those of us who have been around in business for some time now. My line is that I am old enough to have a recyclable wardrobe. Many of us have been through a few major crises before such as the GFC and the major recession we had in the early 1990s.

Things weren’t pretty for sure and yes there was a lot of pain but back then the smart business and sales leaders and salespeople did not go under the ‘doona of gloom’ like everyone else, instead they looked at their markets, their situation, their people, their offerings and refocused and doubled their efforts to go to the market in a proactive, positive manner looking to build really effective and strong relationships with new and existing clients. They didn’t sit there waiting for the phone to ring or the crisis to pass.

For instance, at the start of the GFC, a banking client of ours was preparing with us to roll out a sales enablement program for their 360 person sales team and at the 11th hour questioned whether this was a good idea or not -“Should we be investing money and effort in this project if the market is going down?”

We said “this is precisely the time to invest in getting your sales team sales fit and out into the market talking with clients and prospective clients – if nothing else to reassure them that you are there for them.” So they did just that – they gave their sales team a clear sales strategy and then regularly trained and coached their sales team for 12-18 months during the GFC.

The results speak for themselves: while their overall market was experiencing minus 10% contraction they achieved 5-8% growth. They landed more new clients and retained the clients they wanted which set them up very well when the GFC tailed off.

That’s called selling better.

Selling in the good times is easy, it’s only when things turn down that the good salespeople really stand out. Even in down markets there is opportunity.

So how are we going to sell better in these uncertain times? Here are some tips:

For Sales Managers:

  1. Sales strategy and operations audit: Do an audit on your current sales strategy and operations. Does it suit the current marketplace? Does it need tweaking or an overhaul? Involve senior management, marketing, and key people in your sales team to develop a sales strategy that will deliver the results you need in this market and, de-clutter your sales operations making it easy for salespeople to sell and deliver results.
  2. Market Segmentation: move from broad to micro. Look for where the pockets of value and growth lie within markets and kit your sales force up to sell real value in these micro segments and own those spaces. If there are commodity segments then run your sales efforts with the lowest cost of operation that will deliver volume sales.
  3. Demonstrate Value and a Point of Difference: find your clear water where others cannot copy you for some time. Be really clear about what you stand for and make it easy for your clients to engage and relate to you. Check your sales messaging. Is it client facing and does everyone in your sales team, at least, know how to convey this message?
  4. Go-to-market plan: give your sales team a very clear plan they can take to market and implement in their local sales plans.
  5. Sales process: make sure that your sales teams have a clear and consistent sales process they can learn and apply in the field.
  6. Regular Sales Training & Coaching: support your salespeople with a mix of classroom, field and online training to keep them focused and ‘sales fit’
  7. Review, recalibrate, reconnect

For Salespeople:

  1. Sales Planning: review your current sales plan and see that it aligns to the grand sales strategy. Make adjustments as required and then get out there and implement the plan.
  2. Client account review: look into each account for opportunity. Ask: What’s possible with this account this year? What do they want and need from me? Don’t forget many will want support and help in knowing how to navigate in these uncertain times. Make sure it is you they turn to.
  3. Prospect: nothing happens until you get in touch with prospects and clients. Call them, get in front of them. Ignite opportunities. Don’t wait for the phone to ring.
  4. Practice Solution Selling: bring your very best listening and questioning skills and find out what is important to your clients and prospects. Then help them solve their problems with what you can do for them.
  5. Watch who you let near your mind: the doom and gloom is contagious. Look for facts and evidence and don’t rely on hearsay.
  6. Persistence: keep on going. Do not give up. Remember selling is a quality numbers game.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is the founder and CEO of the innovative and forward-thinking sales advisory and education firm, Barrett and the online sales education & resource platform



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