Any sales person will testify to the fact that it’s a tough market out there at the moment. Uncertainty, driven in part by COVID-19 situation, is resulting in longer sales cycles, greater scrutiny over deals with decision making often delayed or, in many cases, sales people feeling that they are simply being ghosted by prospects.
The results? Sales targets are missed with the ‘B’ word being blamed.
However, this isn’t true for all organisations. There are organisations out there that are very successful despite current market challenges. Why? Their sales people understand that the buying landscape has changed, and rather than have the wind knocked out of their sails and lay the blame squarely at COVID-19 door, they face the challenge head on. Ultimately, they know how to sell in uncertain times.
Crucially, these effective sales people look for new ways of engaging with customers and pay more care to ensure they are demonstrating true value. They refuse to be a victim. In essence, they possess the skills to adapt, find new opportunities and drive sales to a successful outcome.
What are the specific challenges sales teams face?
Prospects not getting back to you
Maybe their budgets have been cut and they are afraid of overspending, or perhaps their own jobs are on the line so they don’t want to make any mistakes that could jeopardise their role.
The sales cycle is longer
Similar to the above, but it may not just be an individual holding up the process, the company as a whole may be reigning everything in and curbing what may be deemed unnecessary spending.
Your buyers are on the move
If your customers consistently seem to be in motion you may start to wonder whether they know something you don’t, or you may need to redirect your efforts further up the chain of command.
The threat of competitor quotes
Your customers may start to request competitor quotes, either for internal justification or as a comparison to ensure they are getting the best deal. This information can then be used as a bargaining tool in an attempt to negotiate lower rates.
Company bankruptcies and redundancies
A changing economic climate means the risk of companies going bust and laying people off is ever present. You can mitigate this risk with financial understanding training so that you can spot the signs, and only target more robust companies. If you have already sold into a company, be sure to gather the money owed to avoid debts mounting up.
Negative team culture
If other members of your sales team are stressed about targets, it can bring everyone else down. Be sure not to surround yourself with negativity – in fact, do this at all times! If you’re a sales leader, it’s essential to rally everyone, looking for ways to overcome these challenges rather than drag each other down.
What can you do to overcome them?
Keep your skills up to date
Successful sales people are continually tweaking their approach to stay fresh so sharpen the axe and get some training to make sure you’re at the top of your game.
Build resilience and confidence
It’s tricky to feel strong, confident and at your best all the time, but people prefer to buy from confident (but not arrogant!) sales people who fill them with confidence that they know what they’re talking about. If you appear nervous or unsure, they will pick up on this and buy elsewhere.
Widen the sales funnel
Creating more opportunities to sell will result in more sales – simple but true!
Right people, right place, right time
Make sure you are talking to the right people, in the right context and who are in a position to buy right now. By creating the perfect environment to sell you are more likely to achieve results.
Try something new
Look for inventive and innovative ways to generate new enquiries, spark new conversations and come at things from a different angle rather than sticking only to tried and tested methods. People are different, and what works for one may not work for others so get creative!
Focus on the benefits
It’s all about delivering value to your clients – don’t just list the features of a product, focus on the tangible benefits your solution will bring to the individual or organisation.
Keep busy and stay positive
Don’t sit around and wait for the sales to come to you or blame the declining market for a lack of sales – take action. As they say, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Stay positive and make sure you celebrate the successes.
Investing in success
Sales is a business-critical function in any organisation. However, as well as being one of the most under-invested in teams in terms of development, the temptation when budgets are lacking is to simply turn up the pressure rather than ensuring sales people have the right skills to meet demands.
By not changing anything you will generate the same or worse results, but by equipping your sales people with the skills they need to succeed in today’s environment you will ensure that you not only deliver on your targets but outperform the competition.