How To Sell More During Tough Economic Times

by | Mar 17, 2020

This post was originally published and released on Medium although it’s original content created from AgencyFlare.

For the first time in nearly a decade the United States is starting to venture into a scary and unknown economy. With news of COVID-19 continuing to get worse, economies across the globe have taken massive hits over the past six weeks. Although no one can forecast exactly how long these uncertain times will last, it’s best to prepare yourself for a new business landscape that might present new challenges for small business owners, entrepreneurs and sales professionals across the country.

Double Time Your Prospecting Efforts

It’s critical in tough economic times to keep prospecting. So much so, I recommend doubling your efforts. When you’re selling in an uncertain economy you’re going to experience a new set of challenges when it comes to winning new business.

A major myth about “down economies” is that business in general comes to a halt. That’s not true. Business will continue, per usual, but the landscape of your industry could look a little different and some sectors might “cool down” a bit. Companies can hit selling roadblocks when faced with new challenges they’re not used to or haven’t seen before. Therefore, it leaves opportunity for the prepared to jump in and win new business.

That’s why it’s critical we double our prospecting efforts now. Although things might “slow down,” if we double our prospecting efforts we’re giving ourselves the best chance to always win. During uncertain times it’s not uncommon for us to find out it takes longer to close certain deals. If that truly becomes our reality, we’ve now doubled our efforts to keep a strong pipeline, so even with longer sales-cycles, we’re prepared.

I’ve spoken to multiple veteran sales people over the past few days that I respect highly and they all have the same message, “Keep prospecting at all costs.” So let’s not just continue our prospecting during tough times, let’s scale our efforts to keep the same level of results.

Revisit Your Unique Selling Proposition

All sales professionals have a basic unique selling proposition (USP). This is your core feature, process, service, etc that makes you unique from everyone else. USP’s are a tricky thing though. Some companies sell their USP’s too hard, while other companies don’t put enough emphasis on having a unique position in their market and industry.

During economic uncertainty, I recommend revisiting your USP to reflect on the reality of your industry, or the current challenges your clients might be up against in this economy. Odds are, if you’re feeling the impact of a slower economy, they are too. Therefore, taking a very transparent and almost collaborative approach is a valuable way to position yourself to be trusted. Your USP should be revisited and should reflect many of these current challenges that have your clients feeling reserved to buy in uncertain times.

Personally, I recommend having your unique selling proposition focus on a more customer-centric process versus a specific feature. The best USP’s I’ve seen aren’t specific product features or customized pricing, believe it or not. The best USP’s focus on how your prospect will ultimately end up feeling once they become a buyer.

Majority Of Sales Professionals Haven’t Experienced This Yet

I won’t lie, this is a first for me. I haven’t had to “gut it out” through a tough economy. Naturally though, as a small business owner, I’ve spent countless hours of research and have had multiple discussions with sales veterans who’ve not only sold through tough times, but they excelled. I’ve safe-guarded much of my business and investments to be as bullet-proof as possible if and when a recession were to hit. Therefore, for the last seven years, I’ve prepared for any type of turmoil and believe many my age (early 30’s) need to understand the landscape is about to change in sales.

Currently, we know millennials take up much of the workforce, roughly about 35%. Last time the United States went through a “down economy” many of my fellow millennials were just joining the workforce. For perspective, I was 17 years old at the time and hadn’t yet started my career.

When we put these numbers into context, that means much of the current workforce generation hasn’t had to sell through a down economy.

If you’re in business, especially sales, use this to your advantage. The fact is the majority of working professionals might not be fully prepared for slower times. Start focusing and crafting your new strategy now. Whatever your 2020 plan was back on January 1st, consider revisiting it and seeing if there’s a way to monetize during this time.

Your competitors will experience the same economic challenges you face, so make sure you’re prepared to pivot with the new landscape. I was once told by a business coach, when you see problems, look harder for opportunities. Now is a GREAT time to take that mentality. Keep asking yourself, where are there new opportunities?

Double Down On Current Customer Contact

Many of you have heard me say “the best sales team are happy customers!” Essentially, if you have people referring to your product or service, that’s the best type of lead-generation.

I can’t take any credit when it comes to the line item of “doubling down on customer contact”. I got this tactic from a random Twitter connection Maceo Jordan.

A few days back there was a wonderful Twitter thread that discussed what it was like in 2008/2009 in the startup world and what people did to survive. That’s when I saw Maceo’s tweet that read:

“We doubled downed on customer contact. It pushed us to do a Customer Love call post-sale. It prompted the start of a new kind of tech support. Instead of diagnosing, we used iLinc to take control and fix it for them. Referral sales tripled, refunds < 9%.”

When I read that, I thought it was absolutely brilliant. More so, it speaks true to what I tell my sales consulting clients ALL THE TIME. It’s critical, and I mean freaking critical, to create a referral base. This automatically leads to cheaper CPA’s (cost per acquisitions), better CLV’s (customer lifetime values) and it’s often a low-hanging opportunity that’s in your back pocket, you just have to implement it.

In tough times, make sure your clients are happy. Make damn sure they are well taken care of. If they are, do your due-diligence and make sure they are letting people know they are being taken care of by YOU.

Don’t Panic. Keep Going. Take Advantage, and Wash Your Hands.

I’ll leave you with this…

I’m unsure what’s in store for the rest of 2020. I don’t know with certainty if we will experience a “tough and slower economy” or not. This is all theoretical on my part, although I do believe we’re heading into a different economic landscape that I haven’t personally experienced before.

COVID-19 is scary. I’ll be the first to admit it. The repercussions of this virus are even scarier. As business owners, sales pros and entrepreneurs, I believe it’s crucial we don’t panic and we don’t stray too far from our original strategies and business models. Stay the course, but be open to pivot and evolve when and where it’s needed. The biggest threat to our businesses is complacency, especially during uncertain times.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on how you’re preparing your business and team for the weeks and months ahead. I’d also love it if anyone who has experience through slower economic times shares their experience and thoughts.

And of course, be smart and don’t forget to wash your hands.


Author: James Harper – Founder, AgencyFlare