SELLING IN HARD TIMES

As its impacts continue, we are all experiencing what this crisis means for each of us as humans attempting to adjust in our daily lives. But a lot of us can’t help but think, or may even feel guilty thinking, what does this mean for us as business and as sales & marketing professionals?  One thing is for certain: we are all in this.  Now, what do we do? 

In the Beginning 

We are in the beginning stages of the virus, but we do know that there is an end.  Our fear lies in the unknown, and whether that be in the markets or within our daily lives, this can cause panic.  It is important to remember that in a year from now, businesses will be growing again and working to make up for what they lost in revenue during this pandemic. 

Now, knowing business will continue, we all must keep moving forward.  There is no real “pause” button. B2B companies must continue selling their product and keep their pipeline moving.  With the stock market looking for its bottom (which it will find) and as people continue to lose their jobs, the rest of us are obligated to work harder and smarter than ever.  Many of us are home, and without the added distractions of an office or the road, we are able to be more focused and ensure we have an impact.  I say to my team, when in doubt, type more.   

“…be greedy when others are fearful.” 

This often-repeated sentiment from the Oracle of Omaha sis not insensitive; in fact, it is as true as it was in 2008 – 2009 during the great recession.  Though it could feel counterintuitive, you never sell stocks when down–but so many do so in a panic.  Accordingly, we must not back down in our own efforts in difficult times and instead press harder on marketing and sales initiatives.  Successful lead and revenue generation requires building an engine, achieving momentum and never letting up. If you need to generate more revenue, then find the way to sell more–because it is sales that drives the business.  In my career as a business owner, I have seen 3 major downturns and in each of these I invested both in the market as well as the sales side of the business.  Not pretty, not easy, but looking back, it worked and was very well worth it. 

Sell Your Face Off 

Just as in good times, there is also opportunity in the tough times.  Uncovering the opportunity requires being equally creative and strategic in the ways you generate sales and backlog.   It is more important than ever to invest in the front end of your business and start conversations with potential clients.  Intent data becomes even more powerful, as it allows you to see who is in market for your product or service and start the conversations that are relevant to what is going on NOW.  Leveraging this information will allow you to build and optimize a sales engine with new connections who will be buying now or in the future.  Sure, the time-to-lead/deal will be longer, but this just means the discipline required to keep pressing forward is greater than ever.  A longer sales cycle just means keeping up with putting the relevant content in front of a prospect who has shown signals that they are in market.    

Three Important Items 

It is important to be critical of where you spend money right now, and I have had many conversations with small businesses that are unsure of what to do.  My recommendations stem from a lifetime as a successful entrepreneur and business owner: 

  • First, look for the spending that is unnecessary.  We all spend on things we don’t use or need, personally and professionally, so find money in the cushions.  This can really add up. 
  • Second, if you are service-driven, look at your cash flow.  Keep the team intact if you can (because this is the right thing to do), but if you cannot carry people- don’t.  The health of the company must be first priority. 
  • Third, amp up sales.  The ability to do so is driven from the two suggestions above.  You now have the money to do it- and you must. 

Be Good, Avoid Fear 

It’s going to be hard, and I strongly believe we all need to think of our fellow Americans and fellow humans first.  Go with empathy.    

Fear.  Don’t let it creep in and push you to make the wrong decisions.  As a business owner, your fiduciary responsibility is to keep the company alive and to help it flourish.  Building demand in hard times is necessary, so get after it.  Don’t ever back down… always keep moving forward. 

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