Sales strategies for turbulent times

As I write this, we’re facing crippling inflation, persistent supply chain problems, and soaring gas prices. The stock market fluctuates wildly. The Federal Reserve is raising interest rates to cool things down. If it goes well, there will be a soft-landing, and the recession may be shorter than some predict. If it doesn’t, there be a hard landing and months of misery. Which way is it going? No one knows. Read ten articles, and you get 11 opinions.

The question is, what can you do in the face of all the economic uncertainty? Hedge your bets. Merriam Webster defines hedging as “doing things that will prevent great loss or failure if future events do not happen as one plans or hopes.” Hedges reduce risk by taking offsetting or opposite positions i.e a bet for a steep downturn and a corresponding bet on a mild or no recession.

Let’s look at how you can position your company’s sales strategy amidst the economic uncertainty we face.

  1. Hard-landing: If there is economic contraction will companies will lay off salespeople. Some will do it out of necessity. Others will panic. Either way, there is likely to be more sales talent available than in quite a while. This is your opportunity to upgrade and smart-size your team. Use sales-specific sales candidate assessments to distinguish the sales winners from the imposters. The second step you should take is to build your pipeline…now! If the economy heads south, you will want to have enough in your pipeline to carry you through the downturn and compensate for deals that get canceled or put on hold.
  2. Soft-landing: As supply chain issues recede, products will become increasingly available. Buyers who have had no choice but to accept increases will exact their revenge by testing the market. Resist the urge to lay off salespeople and instead upskill your team. In this environment, the ability to hunt, defend the existing business, differentiate, be consultative and sell value is the only defense against a buyer’s process-centric tactics.
  3. Something in between: Mixed economic indicators may cause businesses to put a hold on spending as they wait for clearer signals. In this environment, your salespeople must be able to convince prospects and customers to spend despite a spending freeze. Since decision-makers are the ones who can override the spending freeze, your salespeople need to be adept at reaching actual decision-makers. In addition to developing their skills in engaging decision-makers, they must be equally effective at using a consultative approach, selling value, and using an optimized process-driven approach.

Regardless of whether we have a hard landing or something much milder, you can hedge your bets by evaluating your sales team’s capabilities and quickly upskilling them so that they can succeed no matter which way the economic winds blow.

We know the next six months are going to present unique challenges. Since no one knows precisely what the future holds, following Benjamin Franklin’s adage is the best strategy: “Failing to plan is planning to fail”. What is your plan?

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.