Most economic forecasts predict a downturn in the next two years; some economists believe we’re already experiencing one. Yet many enterprise sales organizations wait until a recession hits to change course—and by then, their response is often too little and too late.

But in a recent study of all U.S. public companies with more than $50 million in sales over the last four downturns, Boston Consulting Group found that 14% accelerated their growth and increased their profitability. Their secret? Investing in these three actions.

1. Act Early

 Many sales organizations are reluctant to act because they can’t predict their needs in a fluctuating market. While sales are still growing as money continues to flow through the economy, organizations see little need to transform their processes.

But they should take a closer look at the numbers before deciding not to act. Though revenue plan attainment is up for the third year in a row, seller performance continues to decline, according to the CSO Insights 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. This paradox suggests that a healthy economy—rather than selling prowess—is responsible for rising sales numbers, hiding the weaknesses inherent in many organizations’ sales processes.

Once the economy stalls and sales numbers stagnate or decline, sales organizations are more likely to consider sales transformation initiatives. But by then it’s too late: it takes 6 to 12 months to achieve meaningful sales transformation. That means organizations will see a dip in sales for up to a year before their selling effectiveness improves. Complicating this problem is that attrition during a downturn may spike. Salespeople and sales leaders may lose their jobs or those that leave voluntarily may not be replaced, making it harder to roll out a sales transformation program.

Now is the time to build a sales transformation roadmap, given the signals warning of an impending economic slowdown. Diagnostic tools like the Sales Performance Meter provide immediate insights into a sales organization’s performance and help sales leaders pinpoint their strengths and weaknesses and prioritize the actions needed to transform them.

2. Take a Long-Term Perspective

While many organizations focus on improving results in the short-term during a recession, it’s essential to plan for the future. The Boston Consulting Group found that “companies with a longer-term perspective achieved 4 percentage points higher annual growth during the downturn.”

Organizations facing the prospect of a downturn may experience analysis paralysis: it’s hard to figure out how to prepare for the unknown. Our Sales Performance Meter directs you where to start improving your sales processes by evaluating your sales organization in three critical areas:

  • Customer engagement: How well does your sales team, including frontline sellers as well as customer success, initiate and manage opportunities? What sales skills, processes and methodologies do they use?
  • Performance support: How does your sales team use selling tools to create the desired customer experience? How robust are your sales management, operations and enablement functions?
  • Alignment between marketing, sales and service: Are these teams working together toward the same goals? Do they have a unified strategy for going to market, developing talent through sales effectiveness training and employing data analytics?

The report you receive after completing the Sales Performance Meter compares practices at your sales organization against the 12 leading sales practices culled from nearly 1,000 sales organizations that took part in the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. By unearthing your vulnerabilities now, you’ll create a roadmap to fix them—before they surface and hurt your sales results.

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3. Focus on Growth

The final differentiator in organizations that flourish during a recession is a focus on growth initiatives—not just cost-cutting measures. Key areas that spur growth in sales organizations are talent and innovation.

Take the First Step Toward a More Profitable Future

Now is the time to prepare for the economic uncertainties on the horizon. Get your customized report from the Sales Performance Meter and start your sales transformation journey today.

 

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