6 minutes
February 9, 2023

Selling during a recession: 4 tips to lead your team

Prospecting during a recession can cause sales professionals heads to spin. But with these 4 tips, you can successfully captain your sales team through tough times.
Elisia Guerena
Table of Contents

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Prospecting during a recession and captaining a ship on the high seas share many similarities. The tides work against you, the crew wants to jump overboard from the stress, and your prize catch keeps slipping into the fog. How should a sales leader manage? They can co-opt the best-kept secrets of seafaring captains and learn to navigate the churning sales-scape with the right coordinates, a well-equipped team, and a singular focus — all while maintaining stamina and drive to secure the goods.

Here are four tips to help you successfully captain your sales team through the tough times of a recession.

Tip #1: Find your true North

An economic downturn can cause sales professional’s heads to spin. Prospects tend to think and act differently, meaning you’ll need to stay centered and plan strategically to reach them. Follow this four-step plan to locate your team’s true North and guide their prospecting efforts.

Step 1: Call all hands on deck

Keep everyone involved and aligned in your mission. Make sure your entire organization understands the importance of supporting the sales team. Their success fuels everyone’s success, meaning all teams should lend extra elbow grease to helping sales. 

Look closely at how your pipeline operates. Does your funnel visually resemble a funnel — big at the top and gradually tapering down — or does it break form? Identify problem areas in your pipeline, then team up with RevOps to fix them. Focus corrective action on increasing the number of opportunities, accelerating deals, and improving close rates.

Step 2: Know what customers want

All companies ultimately take their orders from customers. Find out how an economic downturn changes their strategy by keeping up-to-date with ongoing customer relationships and marketplace data. See what’s changed with existing customers. Redefine your ideal customer profile if necessary. Then, look at your product. Does it still offer the best return on investment? 

Focus your selling lens on your product’s most valuable offerings. Clarify with your sales team how to reach prospects with these adjusted priorities in mind.

Step 3: Maintain your vision

Your ideal customer profile should reflect the people who will benefit the most from your product. Resist the temptation to compromise by pursuing prospects outside your ICP. Instead, go after deals that are most likely to close and that will add the most value to your organization. 

On the same note, stay intentional about pricing. Don’t give deep discounts just to keep short term business. Doing so backfires in the long run, and makes it seem like you don’t value your product. As a counter strategy, refine pitches to reveal why your product is worth every penny. 

Step 4: Share your insights 

Quality communication within teams and across your organization sets a strong foundation for achieving your goals. Work with other leaders to ensure everyone stays aligned and clear on priorities and objectives. Pay attention to both day-to-day activities and overall trends. 

Also, adopt a policy of internal transparency. This builds trust and validates your team’s hard work. Just as importantly, honesty makes it easier for everyone to understand a situation and get on board with an action plan.

Tip #2: Execute with precision 

After working out a strategy and communicating it to your team, sellers can act. Here’s how to keep your crew in tip-top shape as they prospect.

Sweat the details

If you want to adjust to rapidly changing conditions, your crew has to step lively. Specifically, you need to maximize workflow efficiency. Don’t hesitate to tweak a process if it will save your reps time. Your sales reps should also embody meticulous attention to detail. Their calling card should be proactive, knowledgeable, and responsive communication that makes a buyer’s job easy. 

Personalize outreach

Personalized outreach is paramount. If you’re not already well-versed in calling a rose by its exact name (sorry Shakespeare), start learning now. Just make sure that, in efforts to forge a connection, prospects don’t push too hard. Appearing desperate —  or tone deaf if a prospect’s not interested — will close more doors than it opens.

Instead, focus on starting more conversations and making your message heard. Sellers should seek to listen, understand, and help diagnose buyers’ pains and challenges. Only once they’re certain they can help should they offer solutions. A well-constructed pitch connects the value proposition to what buyers are feeling most acutely right now.

Master objection handling 

Sellers encounter more “no’s” than “yes’s” — especially during a recession. Prepare your team for these scenarios with an “objection turnaround script,” which coaches sellers on common objections and how to handle them. This practice puts sellers fully in the driver’s seat, allowing them to remain confident and in control during an exchange.

A good script encourages sellers to listen closely and validate a prospect’s point of view. It then provides a framework for handling different objections. For instance, a “no” based on budget cuts elicits an empathetic response  (“Many of our customers are making budget adjustments right now”), then introduces a strategy for handling it. (“We’ve constructed an affordable pricing plan that increases growth without going over budget.”) 

Objection handling takes time to learn, but is well worth the effort. 

Tip #3: Invest in your talent

Back in the day, captains paid for extra rations and grog out of their own pocket. A little investment up front can yield a big return later — though be careful with the grog. The best leaders stay resourceful and deliberate with their talent.

A helpful strategy is to identify your prospector’s strengths and build around any deficiencies. For instance, a highly creative seller with subpar organizational skills might benefit from a quality tech stack. If you work to grow your talent (rather than discarding it), that effort pays off.

Investing in your reps can also protect you. As the economy raises competitive stakes, more companies actively scout top prospecting talent. Actively recognize your top sellers and work to ensure their well-being. Otherwise, you run the risk of another organization poaching them.

Perhaps the most important investment you can make in your team is your dedicated support. A recession can require sellers to take on larger territories, bigger quotas, and more responsibility overall. They’re firing on all cylinders — and need fuel to support their efforts. Keep your door open so you can offer them time, feedback, and whatever resources they need to thrive.

Tip #4: Champion your mission

Navigating an economic downturn requires wholehearted and unwavering dedication to your goals. Staying focused on your purpose sets an example for your team, elevating morale and easing inevitable challenges.

When reps grow discouraged from cold-case cold calls, your sustained positivity and big-picture focus can help them move forward. Remind sellers that “nos” aren’t personal. An unlucky streak doesn’t equate to failure. Contextualize performance within their own growth, as well as the economic shifts, and coach them on how to handle disappointing losses with grace. Ending on good terms can open doors in the future.

On the flip side, celebrate wins with well-deserved recognition. Publicly acknowledge successfully closed deals, with involvement from other teams and laudatory social media posts. For big milestones, throw company-wide celebrations. Acknowledge that everyone’s sustained effort contributed to the achievement! 

Once the confetti stops flying, workshop the deal with your team. What did that seller do well? What can others learn from it? Outside of these gatherings, consider running monthly “deal clinics.” These workshop-style gatherings allow sellers to get feedback from their team on works-in-progress. 

Every stormy sea eventually calms. A recession won’t last forever. Remembering that can help you stay strategic, focused, positive, and informed enough to bring home the prize. To gain more prospecting insights, download our eBook: “Navigate your sales team through the recession.”