Business owners and CEOs must reevaluate all business functions during a shutdown period. A key area to focus on is the sales function, including what adjustments will be needed to prepare a business for ramp up, and position a company to quickly capture new opportunities and revenue sources. Sales are the lifeblood of most businesses, and there are several steps that you can take to improve results during and after a period of market slow down.
1) Invest or Improve Your Customer Relationship Management Tool
Many companies try to manage prospects without a customer relationship management (CRM) tool. More than half of small businesses do not have a CRM, but every business can sell more efficiently when they employ one. There are many relatively inexpensive but effective options to consider. Further, many CRMs offer free trials so you can make sure they fit the budget and the needs of your business. It is critical that you leverage technology to track your pipeline and create an accurate forecast for your business.
2) Reassess Opportunities in your Sales Pipeline
A period of slow growth is an opportunity to remove prospects that have been in the sales pipeline that should be removed. A review of prospects to determine if they are still viable is a good use of time for any business, but even more so when the market slows. Documentation in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool as to the reason that the opportunity was lost is also essential. A review of lost prospects can help the organization and the sales team learn and make adjustments to be more productive with future leads. A reassessment of future opportunities can also be helpful to provide an accurate assessment of the company’s future sales forecast.
3) Stay Connected to Customers
Every customer is important and essential. This fact is even more true during times of downturn. Companies who wish to be effective in a shutdown should reach out directly to both current customers and prospects to better understand their present situation (both business and personal) and ask what the company could do to help support them. Companies and sales teams that show empathy and cultivate an authentic relationship with customers will find that those relationships will pay dividends for the company in the future.
4) Scrub your CRM
One excellent use of time during a downturn is to review all information in the CRM thoroughly. Detailed notes should be added to each customer information profile, tasks, and appropriate next steps about projects, and prospects should be considered to help the sale to continue to move forward. You should also check to make sure your CRM reflects the current sales process that is being practiced. When sales teams and sales tools are in alignment, sales become easier, and salespeople become more productive.
5) Consider Discounts and other Potential Savings Opportunities
Downturns provide an opportunity to offer discounts on products and services. One idea to consider is discounting the most profitable products and services to drive immediate profit to the bottom line and to increase cash flow. Discounts provide an excellent opportunity to contact the customer to inform them of a new opportunity to purchase that product or service at a lower rate for a period of time.
6) Analyze your Sales Team
During a downturn, an evaluation of the developmental needs of each salesperson on the sales team can be beneficial. An assessment of each salesperson to determine long-term company cultural fit can provide clarity to know if a company has the right team to produce the right results after the market starts to progress. An ineffective team will never produce great results. In today’s crowded marketplace, it is more critical than ever that companies have the right salespeople who are a good fit for the organization. When there is a market downturn, one upside is that more sales talent is available to organizations looking to upgrade. One area of assessment that should be considered is the growth and learning potential of each salesperson. When a salesperson quits growing, sales will suffer.
7) Training and Development
Downturns can be a valuable time for training and development of the sales team. Training examples might include learning how to tell your sales story, practicing active listening, and how to discover new leads and lead sources. While the market is slowed, prepare your team to be better and more capable for when the business comes back.
Following these steps will help prepare your company to be ahead of the competition and better poised for growth once market conditions improve.