Sales Training

How to Prepare for a Slowdown in 2020

Happy New Year! It’s that time of the year again. Some of you are closing out Q4. Others are half-way through the year. And many of you are shaking off the holidays, trying to get a few early wins on the board. Regardless of your fiscal year, looking into our crystal ball for calendar 2020 we continue to see lots of risk for our clients.

Businesses are entering a year of peak uncertainty. Global markets are uneasy. Trade and tariffs continue to impact many industries. Capital expenditures are more under scrutiny. New regulations are hitting. Budgets are maxing out on growth and cost savings. All this while a US presidential election looms on the horizon. Risk and unknowns in every direction.

Sales professionals must be prepared to navigate their customers through this period of uncertainty by:

  • Giving buyers confidence that their decision processes are strong.
  • Helping customers see potential issues and solutions that may not be apparent.
  • Effectively guide customers through change.

In concept, solid advice. But how do sales teams make it a reality? What can sales leaders and sales enablement teams provide the right support?

Here are some tactical strategies that your teams can use to improve the odds they hit the number this year:

Get in Early (Read: Now!): The pipeline you’re building right now will determine whether this year is successful or not. Early in the year is a great time to reconnect with past customers and other contacts to understand what’s in store for the year. Many budgets are just getting finalized and executed on – so it’s a great time to get on their radar. Run relationship and insight strategies here to gain an audience.

Be Prepared for Lower Conversion: Every rep on your team should know their personal conversion metrics. Work funnels backward based on goal, average deal sizes, the number of deals required, the sales cycle for each, opportunity, and the number of touches to turn a lead into an opportunity. This year, we’re recommending that you plan for up to 10 pts of lower opportunity conversion. What will that do to the number of touches your teams need? How can will they execute on that? What can sales enablement and operations do to support them?

Own Consensus Building: The President Club winners this time next year will folks who have successfully built consensus in their deals. They will have leaned into and owned consensus building along the various stages of the decision journey. This starts with identifying and accessing the important buying influencers. But it quickly moves to having the right messages and delivering the right sales experiences that help customers buy. We believe building a coalition of buyer support will be the leading theme for this year.

Be Prepared to Sequence or Scope Down: Buyers love to talk big, but buy small. As sales professionals we’re often caught off guard when customers want to rescope, start with a pilot, or downsize the opportunity. Let’s be more proactive by showing alternative approaches or sequencing options early in the sales process. Have the customer verify for you that the larger scope is the right fit. And collaboratively work with your champions on where and how to rescope if you hit budgets or timing constraints.

Productize Your Service Offerings: For our services clients, we continue to advocate for the productization of service offerings during downturns. The goal of productizing is to help customers understand, procure, and implement your solutions. Productization can make the purchase decision easier and feel less risky. In contracting markets, it’s less about showcasing ALL of your capabilities vs. directing your buyers on where to start. Be more prescriptive in your recommendations. Point prospects to the solutions that will generate the most business impact in the quickest timeframe.

Use Every Tool in Your Bag: This tactic shouldn't be any surprise coming from us. We never advocate for a one-size fits all selling. But it’s especially important now. Your team must be using every selling strategy in their arsenal based on the situation. They also need to be ready to pivot on a dime. Your deal reviews should drill into what strategies they’re using. The winners will use the right tool in the right situation: consultative techniques to build alignment, disruptive approaches to dislodge status quo, value-based messaging to justify pricing, relationship-driven strategies to gain access, and so on.

A Year of Practical Execution

Nothing is certain in today’s modern sales arena. Smart opportunity management matters more than ever. Leave no doubt that your teams have covered all the key elements of their deals. A small misstep can mean the difference between winning and losing.

Despite the risk we see, we remain confident and optimistic for our clients. The savvy sales organizations are facing the new year at full speed. In part because they’re acknowledging and preparing for the risk. But also, because they know it all comes down to execution. Leveraging these tactics will be key to hitting the number this year. Good advice for this year, and any other.

Fully explore our new website loaded with additional insights. We look forward to hearing from you in 2020.

About The Author

Author photo Ralph is a partner with The Brevet Group, and for 20 years he has led sales performance teams in the United States and Asia. Recently he also served as a sales leader in both the media and technology industries. Ralph’s work has focused on a unique blend of management consulting and sales enablement to help companies execute their sales strategies. Prior to this role, Ralph was the APAC sales effectiveness leader at Mercer.

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