Recessions are inevitable. They are an immutable truth that we all must accept, particularly those of us in the sales profession. Our economy has been incredibly robust for a lengthy stretch of years. You can tell by the sheer number of luxury automobiles that you see every day driving to and from work.
Another clear signal of how well the economy is doing is the real estate market. Not only have home prices soared in appreciation, many folks are buying second homes. Lakefront homes, mountain ski condos, ocean cottages are all the rage. People and companies are spending lots of money on lots of different things. All is well in the sales commission world.
But what happens when the next recession or market correction happens? As a sales leader, are you prepared to weather the storm? Now is a really good time to carefully review your sales team roster and assess what you have or don’t have in terms of experience and make up. How many of your sales reps have sold through a recession before? Does your sales team as currently constructed have the necessary sales grit to make it through a severe market downturn where the lavish spending spree dries up? Because it takes a whole different level of sales determination to sell through a recession.
I’ve always preferred hiring “street smart” sales reps. They have a blue-collar edge about them. They tend to have that Tom Brady chip on their shoulder determined to prove every year that they should have been drafted in the first round rather than the sixth round (yup, he was the 199th draft pick with six other QBs being chosen before him). The street-smart sales reps have an innate ability to smell out the money. They hate wasting their time and ruthlessly qualify out of deals that smell bad.
These types of sales reps are not afraid of asking the tough questions. This sales rep archetype absolutely holds the customer accountable and insists on mutual respect and incremental commitments throughout the sales cycle. They tend to build long lasting, successful relationships with their customers as they earn real trust through their business integrity. I’ve found that the higher you go into the customer’s executive ranks, the more important that no bullshit sales approach resonates to the customer. They appreciate honesty. They value business integrity. They need to trust you as a sales person to buy from you.
This was the foundational sales model that I used to sell with when I was an individual contributor. I would tell the customer “no” when it needed to be said. I would honestly let the customer know what our software could and could not do. I never got defensive when the competition came up. In fact, I embraced a competitive differentiation conversation with the customer because I truly believed that we had the best overall solution. I prided myself on rarely discounting on price. My job was to build and prove out the value of our solution compared to alternative ways of solving the customer’s business problem. If the customer insisted on a discount, then my sales mission had failed.
Are you ready as a sales leader for the next recession? Do you have the right sales team composition to make it through? If you have any question marks or concerns, now is the time to start upgrading your sales team roster or helping the current team develop new sales skills that are essential for successfully selling through a recession. It’s like they say in Game of Thrones (GoT), “Winter is coming!”…are you ready?