Sales Tips for Startups in a Slowing Economy

March 7, 2016

8:00 pm

With recent stock market volatility, concerns about the Chinese economy, the plunge in global oil prices, and other complex factors, many economists and observers are concerned that the U.S. economy is heading for another recession. Whether it’s a “market correction” or a “temporary downturn” or even a full-blown “recession,” a slow economy is always a cause for stress for business leaders. However, even if the economy is slowing down or in recession, that doesn’t mean that your company’s sales have to slow down, too. With a smart sales strategy and a few adjustments to your sales operations, your company can keep closing deals and growing strong – even in the midst of a slow economy.

Here are a few key sales tips for thriving in a slow economy:

Rethink Your Value Proposition

One of the first tips that should be top of mind for your sales and marketing team is: a slow economy gives you the occasion to re-evaluate and re-think your sales value proposition. Ask yourself: “Why are people buying from us?” The reason might be different during a slow economy than it is when the market is flush with cash.

In a slow economy, especially in B2B sales, buyers often cut back on any spending that is considered nonessential. Your company might need to re-evaluate exactly why customers should buy from you, under the new rules of a down economy – show your buyers why they cannot live without your product or service or solution. Show them why your solution is an essential purchase. Reframe and refocus your sales conversations around this idea of making it a “must-have” – with a good demonstration of the ROI to the buyer’s business if they buy from you – and you’ll be able to adapt to a slow economy.

Outflank the Competition

Keep up on the latest industry trends and pay attention to what your competitors are doing. Are they cutting prices? Firing sales staff? Discontinuing certain product lines? Sometimes in a slow economy, it pays to go against the conventional wisdom. Try to “zig” where others “zag.” A slow economy might – counter intuitively – be a great time to make investments in the business or launch a new product line, especially when your competitors are curtailing their spending. Is a competitor showing signs of weakness? This could be a great opportunity to go after one of their big accounts.

In a slow economy, sometimes buyers are more receptive to switching vendors if you can show them that your company is financially sound and committed to being around for the long haul. Don’t get sucked into the negativity and anxiety that might be affecting the rest of your industry – keep running your own race. Even when the economy is slow, you might still find opportunities to outpace your competitors.

Work Smarter

Another silver lining of a slow economy is that it gives you the occasion to re-evaluate some of your business processes. Perhaps your sales team needs to upgrade its customer relationship management software, or your company needs to change the way you work with inbound sales leads to make sure you have better lead qualifying and follow-up. When sales leads are plentiful, sometimes sales people get complacent and too many opportunities fall through the cracks – but when opportunities are fewer and farther between, this is a chance to boost your sales team’s efficiency.

Hire Great People

A slow economy can be a great time to hire excellent sales people. This is another underrated aspect of a slow economy – when your competitors start laying off workers or slow down their hiring, this creates a new pool of talent in the labor market. Your company might be able to hire some great sales talent – and at lower salaries than they might have demanded when the economy was strong. Again – look for ways to capitalize on your competitors’ weaknesses. Just because your overall industry is having some challenges doesn’t mean that your company is stuck. Keep maneuvering and looking for competitive advantages – and one of them might be that your company is able to hire top talent when other companies cannot.

Perhaps the early 2016 stock market volatility will turn out to be a mirage, and the underlying fundamentals of the U.S. economy will prove to be strong enough to avoid an economic downturn. But regardless of what happens with the economy, it’s important to keep in mind that your company still has to focus on what is within your immediate control: keep honing your value proposition, keep working hard, keep finding opportunities and be willing to adapt and reposition your company. Whether the economy is red hot or ice cold, the fundamentals of good sales strategy will give your company the best chance of success.

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Gregg Schwartz is the Vice President of Sales at Strategic Sales & Marketing, one of the industry-founding lead generation companies for B2B major account lead generation and appointment setting services. He leads his firm’s content marketing and SEO strategies.

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