Many business owners and company executives we work with are going through difficult times in ensuring their operations run effectively and, more importantly, keeping their people focused and productive. We don’t know when it will end, but it is incumbent on all of us to stay positive, keep soldiering on and channel any potential despair and negativity.
But the reality is that business occurrences are often out of our control. The U.S. economy has had six recessions in the last 60 years, averaging approximately one every ten years. No different than the weather, the typical business cycle has seasons and the reality is that another one might be on the horizon. If you examine history, you’ll find that in many cases, it’s the companies and organizations that don’t believe in or – adequately prepare for – a recession that suffer the most. As a business leader, here are five steps you can take to help weather the storm:
Check your foundation. Schedule meetings with all your current clients and customers and ask them these questions:
“What would need to occur that would make you want to end our relationship as your vendor/supplier/consultant?”
“If we experience a market downturn or a recession, how do we keep your business without lowering our prices?”
The first question (in case you don’t already know) is designed to help determine the strength of the relationship you have with the account or customer. (Hopefully, they will respond: “The reason we won’t get rid of you is because you do ______ for us.”)
The second question is to acknowledge that you may well be on the brink of a recession and to get them thinking about what you can do to help preserve your margins.
Revamp your marketing strategy. Chances are your salespeople can easily recite your company’s value proposition when times are good. How do they position the company in an unstable or uncertain economy? (Hint: Your customers’ answers to the previous two questions should provide a clue!)
You can’t approach your prospective customers/ prospects in the same traditional way.
What do you do with your sales team? Who do you eliminate? Who are unable/unwilling to adjust to the new reality? What should they be doing differently? How do you hold them accountable? Should any of those changes take place now?
Prepare and train your sales team. Closing business effectively requires both technical and conceptual expertise. The technical side is relatively easy; it’s the words you use to ask for the business (i.e., “Would you like to buy?”) It’s the conceptual side that causes some sellers to struggle, particularly in a difficult business environment: the self-limiting beliefs, the true value of their product or service, a subservient position, the right to ask difficult questions, etc.
Be prepared to hire more. There will be salespeople looking for jobs – many bad, but some good through no fault of their own. Increase your recruiting efforts but raise your standards and only hire the best. (What would your business look like if you could find two more sellers at least as good as your current top sellers?)
If you or someone you know has trained to run a marathon, you know that they likely prepare diligently for the uphill portion of the race, but often don’t prepare adequately for the downhill. In business, if you want to stop the pain, prepare for the downhill.
Jim Marshall is owner, and president, of Sandler Training of Tampa Bay which provides sales, corporate and management training to high-achieving companies and individuals. Contact him at 813.287.1500 or firstname.lastname@example.org.