How To Buffer A Recession In Sales
Updated: Jan 19
Consider your customer as prospects once more and deliver solutions that fit their needs.
Radio sales teams everywhere stepped up unprecedentedly during the pandemic to support, nurture and protect customer relationships. We were all unified by one macro dynamic issue and the need to get through to the other side together. Today, the "Recession" is on the news channels daily, along with inflation causing concerns. How can we approach uncertainty once more and maintain balance as we navigate these economic hurdles?
Too often in sales, when times get tough and business slows down, we tend to rush toward our customers with product-driven offers rather than solutions, fire sales, and knee-jerk reactions due to pressure from above. As sales managers, we must step back and start with what the customer thinks about their business climate.
Sales teams can settle into a working relationship with customers based more on service than discovery. The importance of service and the value it represents is well documented. However, ask yourself this question, when did you conduct the last "deep dive" with your top fifty customers or the 20% who represent 80% of the billing?
Our customers need to be prospects again.
We have always relied on the power of curiosity and using questions to define a prospect's goals. It's time to start fresh with our current customers and treat them like prospects. In the last 30 days, how has your customer's business continued to evolve, or is it stalled? What do you know about their current circumstances? We know that with more information, we can provide better solutions to current needs in proposals and get higher renewal ratios for next year.
Protecting our best customer relationships requires we should be business people in sales, not salespeople in the business. The story you first heard when customers came on board and how you established a marketing plan for them needs refreshing. Get back inside their company to understand what makes them valuable to their customers. Is the creative running on your stations addressing what their customers and prospects need to hear?
Proactive communication and monthly reviews.
Customers who have experienced less attention feel taken for granted and are more subject to competitive offers and pulling off your stations. In short-staffed, lean sales operations, managers have relied on sellers to meet regularly to keep pace with changing customer needs or concerns. In the current economic climate, management should have a comprehensive plan to reach out to customers.
As managers, you typically conduct weekly reviews with your sales team; what about the customers? Weekly meetings with customers are too much; monthly would be ideal in a fast-changing world. Check your CRM program for clients with less contact in the past 60 days and put them on your meeting calendar. Overcoming hesitation to meet for fear of hearing something negative, "no news is good news," will only get you blindsided and result in unexpected cancellations.
Do not be a price looking for a customer.
Pre-determined discounts are an example of looking at your internal goals rather than prioritizing your customer's needs first. Stop the unsolicited offers that revolve around discounts. Yes, the price may be critical to some customers, and I suggest they are not your best customers if they only buy on price. Highly price-sensitive customers will leave and chase the next best offer.
Your best customers care about results first, along with R.O.I, and the price is not number one on the list.
Pre-configured sales packages can demote your value as they ignore the customer and push the focus back on your needs. We must resist a sales package wrapped in creative spin to spike the sales numbers. Replace short-term practices with better strategies that protect your perceived product value and continue to serve your customer's needs.
Takeaway: In times of macro downdrafts impacting sales, you should first be current with the customer's point of view. Consider them prospects once more and get back to solutions that fit their needs. Customers who trust your intentions as their marketing partner; will be less prone to attrition. Your goal is more robust customer engagement with proactive communication, reaffirming the value of your products, and resetting the customer relationship before recession fears do it for you.
Thank you for reading this article, and please pass it along to your colleagues.
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About The Author:
Alec Drake openly shares revenue management strategies and sales improvement ideas in the "Sales Success Library" at Alecdrake.com. He is a regular contributor to Radio Ink Magazine, where he leverages four decades of experience to write about sales and management. Alec is the founder of The Radio Invigoration Project (T.R.I.P.), a support initiative for local radio sales and promotion staff.
Drake Media Group, LLC retains exclusive rights to any original content in articles written by Alec Drake or published on any third-party platforms and featured in any podcast.