How to Motivate Your Sales Team to Prospect in a Down Economy

Sales Management | Prospecting | Sales Leadership

It’s easy for sales professionals to get frustrated and lose motivation when selling into a slowing economy. There are many headwinds facing client organizations these days – including recovery from COVID, ongoing recessionary pressures, inflation, budget cuts, supply chain issues, and continued employee turnover.

These challenges can make it even more difficult to book meetings with key prospects which causes sales professionals to become discouraged, disgruntled and burned out.

Unfortunately, many sales reps keep doing the same things that worked in the past, but these tactics may no longer be effective. And, when reps begin missing targets this leads to even greater frustration. This is often due to the following reasons:

  • They haven’t been through a downturn like this before and only have one set of plays in their playbook.
  • They don’t realize that getting a prospect’s attention requires a more compelling message which takes time to develop.
  • They are applying a generic approach to all their prospects when more targeted and tailored communications are necessary.
  • They are being measured and incented only on results, but they don’t have the required skills and tools to produce those results.

It’s Time to Energize and Upskill Your Sales Team

As a sales leader or business owner the best way to overcome a recession and other unique challenges is to motivate and train your sales team. Here are five practical tips that you can implement today:

1. Track Prospecting Behaviors and Results

It’s easy to over-focus on the desired outcome (new business) and forget that consistent behaviors are what leads to future results. Start with the results and work backward. “Acquisition Meetings” (first meetings) are the key leading indicator that will result in identifying new opportunities, and ultimately winning new business. What does your team need to do to increase your chances of getting that first meeting? What motions do you need to put in place (research, referrals, targeted messaging, outbound campaigns, etc.). Measure and report on these activities and celebrate the appropriate behaviors and sales motions you see, as well as the results they drive.

2. Re-evaluate Your Ideal Client Profile (ICP) and Target Personas

Your target buyer and their buying journey may have changed over the past few years. There are now more decision makers involved in B2B transactions than ever – which means other key executives are even more likely to weigh in on the final decision. If your sales team is only talking to one person within that target account, how do they know what all the other stakeholders are thinking about their solution? For example, has your sales team considered how financial buyers, procurement specialists, and human resources stakeholders will be involved in the deals?

3. Develop New Sales Plays

New plays are needed to cut through the noise and gain the attention of your target audience. To get their attention, you must be business relevant and personalized – specific to their industry, company, and persona. Do “just enough” research – but the more strategic, higher level the target, the more research is necessary. Depending on the target buyer’s perceived need, determine how your solution can help reduce cost, increase productivity, or provide an increased return on investment over maintaining the status quo or selecting the competitors’ solution. These messages will have increased relevancy as target company executives are always asked to “do more with less.”

4. Leverage Referrals Like Never Before

Referrals have never been more important than they are today. Between the ‘great resignation” where people are voluntarily moving onto other positions, and targeted reductions in force, where employers are being forced to reduce headcount because of shrinking sales, many buyers are moving to various companies and into different roles. Connecting and following your clients can provide a great way to get introduced into a new organization. Leverage these contacts to ask for an introduction or referral to a target buyer within their new or previous employer(s). As we know, referrals are six to eight times more likely to result in closed business, and research suggests that the subsequent client can generate even higher lifetime value than an average new client.

5. Consider an Informal Contest

Waiting until the end of the quarter (or year) to find out you missed your number can be very frustrating for reps, and just seeing they’re behind can be demotivating. Put a simple contest in place to drive the behaviors you want to see. This can be a fun way to reinforce the skills and actions you want. Use outbound calling campaigns, emails, and meeting “blitzes” where everyone is focused on outbound calling for a short time. This can really help to invigorate an otherwise stagnant prospecting program. The prizes can be as simple as recognition and an award, gift cards, or more significant spiffs. The point is to make it fun and visible rather than reengineer the existing compensation and bonus structure.

It is harder to prospect during challenging economic times and recessions, yet business executives still need to attract new customers, invest in technology, and improve their operations. Delivering the right message, at the right time, to the right executive is a recipe for booking meetings with key buyers. Enabling your sales team to have these conversations and create more interim “wins” can help create a more motivated and effective sales team.

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About Ray Makela

Ray Makela is CEO and Managing Director at Sales Readiness Group (SRG). He oversees all client engagements as well as serves as a senior facilitator on sales management, coaching, negotiation and sales training workshops. Ray has over 20 years of management, consulting, and sales experience and writes frequently on best practices for coaching and developing sales teams.