The questions we’re helping Chief Revenue Officers consider may sound familiar: How should I adjust my sales plan and marketing approach during an economic downturn or other time period of significant challenge? Should I make changes to my team? How do I protect existing customers? And so on.
No one has all the answers, but we put together a framework of questions to ask yourself as you work towards a solution that’s best for your company and customers. Everyone’s conclusion and ability to act on it will be unique to their situation, but hopefully this roadmap can help get you started.
At LLR, we’ve learned from experience to break major challenges into phases: triage & discovery to solve immediate needs that might be more inbound and reactive, assess the broader situation, and then reposition your plan and resources accordingly.
Phase 1 – Triage & Discovery
Even during robust economic times, there is a strong correlation between the degree of a team’s focus and its long-term success. In challenging selling environments, this becomes even more critical. An economic shift may force your organization to evolve its focus alongside its market message and communication methods. Just as change will push customers to confront new problems and challenges, sales and marketing teams should be equally diligent in understanding those changes and adapting their strategies accordingly. Sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin so it is essential to be synchronized in response and use of data to make decisions.
Your existing customer relationships are also more critical during an economic downturn than ever. Unlike new logo acquisition, existing customers are already garnering value from your solution and may even stand to gain further value during a more challenging environment.
- How mission critical is your product or service to customers? Does the answer differ by persona or segment (size, geography, end market, etc.)? Are there new, more highly-focused customer segments or personas who can most benefit from your solutions?
- What message should you deliver in the short term, knowing that information may change quickly and the situation is likely fluid? Dust off your mission statement for inspiration but present it within the context of the current situation.
- What is the best method to deliver a proactive message to your customers? Should you communicate with them en masse, in small groups or 1:1? This may be a function of your customer make up, so think about it holistically as well as per customer.
Acknowledge → Relate → Respond → Reinforce
- Have you adjusted your prospect list and clearly communicated to sales which segments to focus on based on how the crisis impacts them and the highest probability of a win? Some sectors get busier during crises (healthcare providers, remote office technology, etc.) which may give you an opportunity to serve them while other target sectors contract.
- Do you have a clear picture of each sales team member’s performance, potential and fit within their role? If you’re able to understand each seller’s skills, competencies and development needs, it will help maximize results, minimize attrition and identify weaknesses. Be prepared to “stack rank” the team and consider adjustments to quotas or reductions in force as a result of the assessment.
- Are you celebrating wins? In the toughest times, every small win and positive story matters. Acknowledging them keeps spirits high, helps people feel like progress is being made and instills confidence that, as a team, you will come out ok on the other side.
A simple 9-Box exercise can help rapidly assess your sales talent landscape and assist in developing a short and long-term talent management plan that aligns with your new revenue model.
- Have you evaluated the impact on current customers based on the same segments as marketing and sales, and prioritized them for triage based on value, risk, links to one another, or the opportunity to gain from your solution?
- Should you redeploy field sales or BDRs to account management to protect your current customers? What tools and data can they use to know where to focus and to optimize the flow of information for customers?
- Do you have a way to gather and organize responses from customers and teams on the ground in real time? This includes a feedback loop and an escalation protocol to deliver clear customer sentiment up to management and to enable decisions on how to adapt to their needs.
In the next post, we’ll offer considerations for the second phase of managing through a downturn: Assess.
Insights for this post compiled from Eric Nelson and John Spiliotis, Sales Advisors to LLR portfolio companies; Michael Sala, Managing Director of Origination at LLR; and Kristy DelMuto, Vice President of Strategic Marketing at LLR.