March 12, 2009

8 Ways Sales Managers are Dealing with the Downturn

The economic downturn has galvanized the sales community. For many organisations the result has been a sharp increase in the level of activity and innovation respect of sales.

Here are 8 ways Sales Managers are rising to meet the challenges of the slowdown:

1. Top filling the pipeline to allow for the increased likelihood of stalled, or delayed buying decisions, as well as the impact of the general market slowdown. That means increasing the level of sales activity to generate more leads, more meetings, etc. Managers are learning to live with longer sales cycles and falling conversion rates by increasing the pond in which they are fishing, the size of their nets and the hours spend by the water.

2. More clearly communicating the business impact of what is being sold and demonstrating a very quick payback. That means replacing long features and benefits lists with customer success stories that demonstrate the quantifiable impact that your solutions have had on others, in terms of; on costs, revenues, efficiency, etc.

3. Offering the customer better value for money, everybody expects more for less these days but of course that is often a matter of perception, as much as reality.

4. Breaking the overall project and its cost into chunks, phases, or stages, in order to reduce up-front cost, or risk. In particular, make it easy for the customer to try it out. They are packaging and bundling their offering in new and innovative ways.

5. Selling higher and wider in your customer’s organization – more and more decisions require not just a senior management sign-off, but active senior management involvement. Sales people are also preparing for longer sales cycles and more interaction with buyers throughout.

6. Helping existing customers deal with the slowdown and proactively exploring how the services and solutions supplied can be adjusted to help them meet the challenges they are facing in their business.

7. Re-investing in sales skills and most importantly ensuring that the sales team stays positive. A key aspect of this is the transition from salesperson to expert and from selling products / services, to selling solutions to customer problems.

8. Innovating in terms of the offering and how it is marketed. There is a saying in retailing 'when business is bad, paint the shop' - a similar approach is being adopted by sales and marketing managers. Another trend that we notice is that companies are looking to simplify, minimise and reduce the cost of what they are offering.

9. Better understanding customer motivations, challenges and buying decisions. This includes a greater appreciation of buyer risk and uncertaintly, understanding the totality of the choices faced by buyers (including doing nothing) and really understanding the prospects key business drivers and how they can be impacted upon.

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