Selling into a Recession…Does it matter?

We’re seeing an interesting phenomenon.

Many companies are reporting record sales and see nothing but blue skies ahead. Others see storm clouds on the horizon and have already begun laying off salespeople. Who’s right? I’m not sure it matters. The pressure to make your number will always be there regardless of the economy’s direction.

While economic forces amplify underlying trends, they do not change a salesperson’s fundamental role. Salespeople need to reach decision-makers and sell consultatively to survive. Transactional salespeople will always struggle. They just struggle less in good times and lull leadership into a sense of false security. Changing economic conditions always reveal weak salespeople and often cause leaders to make knee-jerk decisions, i.e., cut sales headcount by 10%.

This is the exact moment you should focus on your revenue engine. You cannot cut your way to greatness. You will need to grow. “Hunkering down” is a reaction, not a strategy. You can prepare yourself for whatever comes your way by identifying which of your salespeople will thrive, recession or not, and which ones will never be more than mediocre. If the economy does head south, you’ll likely face a hiring freeze, so replace the weak sellers now and focus on improving the sales team’s capabilities before selling gets tougher.

Sure, your revenue is up, but how much is a result of great sales? For the past two years, most salespeople haven’t done much selling. Sales forces have spent time taking orders for COVID-related supplies. Then, they spent months distracted by supply chain issues and price increases. Their skills have atrophied. They are no longer in playing condition.

Selling is already more difficult than it was just six months ago. The wind is no longer at your back. Add in the fact that buyers in a slowing economy have increased power. The result is more pricing pressure, which weak salespeople have always had trouble handling. The flip side is that elite salespeople will feast on the struggles of the weak.

Here are three things you can do right now to position your business to thrive no matter where the economy goes.
1. Assess your sales capabilities: Start by knowing how your sellers and sales leadership stack up against best-in-class and best-of-the-best. Next, you need to precisely pinpoint who on your team needs what kind of development. Finally, establish the ROI of your development program.

2. Upgrade Your Team: The data confirms what you may already suspect; fewer than one in five salespeople have the skills to sell to modern buyers. Commit to upskilling your team. Upgrade sales capabilities before we enter a difficult period.

3. Train Relentlessly: Sales development takes time, and you don’t have much of it. Act with urgency and start today.

No one has a crystal ball, so hedge your bets by evaluating your sales team’s capabilities and quickly upskilling them so they can succeed in any economic environment.

As Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

What are you going to do?

Jim Peduto, Esq., CBSE
Jim Peduto is the Managing Partner and the co-founder of Knowledgeworx, LLC. Owners and CEOs rely on Jim’s strategic thinking and transformational growth expertise to win market share and achieve performance gains.