Recession Roadmap: Driving Sales in Tough Times

The hard truth? South Africa is in a recession – something we saw coming last year.

It doesn’t take an economist to see that we’re in a tough spot. The shops are empty. People – and businesses – are under huge pressure.

Will things get better? While they say that time heals all, the fact is that market downturns mean deep economic recalibration – there will be winners and losers at the end of this. It’s scary, but it’s true.

The good news for businesses? It’s not only up to the markets. Yes, we’re all in for one hell of a tough ride. However, there are tools and strategies that can make getting through far easier.

The better news? It’s possible to emerge even stronger on the other side.

So strap in, hold on and commit.

 1 – Work smarter

It may seem counterintuitive, but when times are tough, resist the urge to do more. Instead, get back to basics – focus on your business’s core. Do fewer things, but do them right! Boom times allow for the growth of fluff, while recessions reveal the real revenue drivers. Exploit this opportunity to identify them.

Tough times reveal the products and services that are your business’s bedrock – direct your energy there.

 2 – Get the right mix

Getting the right customer mix is always tricky. Slow seasons make it harder still. For existing clients: stay close, secure budget and work together – remember, their pressures are your pressures! Take the time to understand how their needs and wants have changed, and work to deliver on them.

New customers? Be crystal clear on your targets for new acquisitions – come one, come all isn’t a strategy to deploy when the market is making life difficult.

 3 – Improve your sales process

Use this opportunity to review. Tweak, adjust, refine – and CUT. Sales, especially early solution sales, can be human heavy. When pressures mount, automate. Streamline in other areas too. Use templates where you can, and compress the parts of the sales cycle where real gains are achievable.

By driving efficiencies in this part of your business, you’ll free yourself up to add value elsewhere.

 4 – Improve your sales productivity

Reduce sales admin. Minimising the time spent on reporting, drawing up time sheets and reports can free up capacity to drive revenue. More productive people = more deals.

Automation can give people the time they need to focus on sales. When back-office processes are taken care of, there’s no need to sit in the office crunching through admin. You can work from anywhere, knowing those aspects of business are taken care of.

 5 – Improve and automate your reporting

Reporting should be a natural by-product of the sales process. Slow cycles highlight how important this is – when driving revenue is critical, waiting for a once-a-week sales meeting just won’t cut it. Stalled deals, blockers affecting salespeople, which leads or customers require immediate action … your reporting should allow an instant snapshot of it all.

Smart software that integrates machine learning techniques can help streamline the process and power intelligent decisions.

Need a report? You should be able to grab one instantly.

 6 – Work on your product offerings

When the market gets tough, there are two options. One – to use an example from the ice-cream industry – is to shrink the tub.

The second? Stop customers from straying. You can do this, for example, by introducing a sub-brand, which customers can cancel their use of later.

 7 – Improve your marketing

Get your sales and marketing alignment right. For guidance, see our article on the subject. Instead of having your sales team deal with whitewash early on, focus your attention on quality leads.

Secondly, get social. Go where your customers are and get your customer mix right. Closeness with the right customers has never been more important than right now.

 8 – Focus on your cash flow

They say cash is king. Correction: cash is queen. Cash FLOW is king. Create deals that will help keep your cash flow strong.

With your admin and reporting under control, this becomes far easier. You have both the time and the necessary tools to make revenue generation a top priority.

It’s simple, really

Seize, hold, build … and win. We’re all in for one hell of a ride here. That much we can’t change.

What we can change is how we react.

Make this a reality!

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