Get Lean and Mean, and Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Too

It’s official. We are in a recession, so business leaders need to be lean and mean. Sometimes that means making cuts: Maybe expenses, maybe headcount.

If it’s the latter, be especially aware. When leaders consider reducing headcount in their sales force, too often they hang onto the veterans who manage the largest accounts or who are responsible for the biggest book of business. And, unfortunately, they all too frequently cut the sellers who too new to have proven themselves.

Is It the Best Strategy?

Well, if the business owner only cares about maintaining the existing client base, maybe. But, if they are truly objective and completely honest about assessing who the best salespeople are, they might view the landscape differently. As we know from past recessions, those companies that prevail and thrive are the ones that have the right salespeople generating new business, not just maintaining existing clients.

Don’t get me wrong, maintaining clients is critical, but it is not how companies will expand and grow. In an economic downturn, companies must strategize about how to get a bigger piece of the pie. They must increase their market share, not just settle for their historic share of a market which is now shrinking.

Get Lean and Mean, Hire Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Salespeople.

What do I mean by that? You need salespeople who have the right selling competencies and the right mindset. You need to hire or keep the salespeople who are the most adept at hunting, who aren’t afraid to fight to get new business and who aren’t bashful about getting paid for the value they and your company deliver. Salespeople who thrive on competition and aren’t complacent. Evaluate all aspects of your business to get lean and use data and science to decide who will be the best salespeople for your business going forward.

What Traits are Necessary?

Hunting skills – You need salespeople who will hunt, who are more interested in generating new business and new clients than being comfortable managing existing business. The sales organization must have the mindset that they will go get a larger share of the market rather than just trying to maintain it.

Reaching Decision Makers – Your team of sellers must be able to get to the real decision-makers, rather than being stuck at lower levels. These salespeople must resonate with those leaders who are also making tough decisions about how they allocate resources. This is part selling competency and part mindset.

Value Selling Skills – In tight economic times, your potential customers are making decisions about how to spend their money. Your salespeople must be able to discuss in a way the prospect cares about, ROI and value. Budgets are being heavily scrutinized. Companies are clamping down on spending. Salespeople must have discussions that focuses on the value to the client, not just the price.

Comfortable Discussing Money – This key trait is closely related to Value Selling Skills but has additional implications. Salespeople can be adept at selling value, but they may not be that comfortable discussing money and therefore produce a lot of proposals that they hope the customer will accept. This is inefficient.

Supportive Buy Cycle™ – The business landscape has been changing rapidly and therefore companies are reacting in unexpected ways. Decision-makers may be supportive of purchasing today but may reverse their decision tomorrow. Therefore, if at all possible, salespeople need to instill a sense of urgency to get it done. If a salesperson has the tendency to think things over, comparison shop, and demand the best deal when they are shopping for large items in their personal life, they may allow or even expect that same behavior from prospects and customers.

The problem is that in a contracting economy where budgets are being scrutinized regularly, sellers cannot afford to let buyers linger over decisions. Now more than ever salespeople need to be efficient in creating a sense of urgency or they will find themselves missing out due to indecision or budget cuts.

More traits may be needed

These are just a select few of the traits that we can measure to enable business leaders to make better decisions, and I see these particular items as integral to success in the current environment. Your company and marketplace may require additional customized traits.

View a sample of a personalized sales evaluation which identifies the numerous traits important in sales and which can be customized for a specific company’s needs. This same methodology can be used with existing teams to identify skill-building opportunities and can be utilized when hiring sales talent to ensure costly mistakes are avoided.

Many companies need to cut support staff and even sales staff during recessions as they tighten their belt. Just make sure you are focusing on the right sales traits necessary to enable long term success as well as help your company actually grow during this time.