In the previous post, we suggested a number of questions to ask yourself about Marketing, Sales and Customer Success during the initial Triage phase of a crisis or economic downturn.
Once you’ve made it through those early days and decisions, first: breathe.
Then, consider this: Economic downturns force companies (both buyers and sellers) to Assess new problems or look at old problems in new ways. Now more than ever, it is essential to align solutions to the customer’s pain points, create executive alignments during the sales cycle, and clearly articulate return on investment. Basic sales processes such as deal qualification and closure plans will become requirements to ensure you are focused on the most relevant prospects and all parties are aligned around a decision.
Harsh selling environments also rapidly expose bad habits. As you evaluate your team and processes, inventory these exposure points and implement an enablement plan that ensures skill gaps and inefficient processes are rapidly resolved.
Phase 2 – Assess
- Where are the opportunities to solve new problems or help customers maintain productivity with fewer resources? Should you shift your message to focus on different aspects of your solution set, particularly in platform solutions?
- Do you have an internal feedback process between sales and marketing to aggregate trends and feedback from the front lines and incorporate them into your evolving marketing message? Is it often enough, or should you increase frequency during a down market?
- What is the state of each of your lead gen channels? Are they still sustainable (Google Ads), overcrowded (email), or out of commission (trade shows)? Are there quick tests you can run to determine which channels are still delivering ROI under current conditions?
Where are the opportunities to solve new problems?
- What data do you have and need to adjust sales projections for the next few quarters? Are you aligned with your CEO/CFO on an adjusted bookings target?
- If you have enough forecast clarity to determine whether an adjustment to quota is necessary, which method is best for your structure: top down with an adjustment to head count or bottom up by realigning compensation across the board? Should you consider pushing quota to the following one or two quarters, lowering thresholds in your compensation plan or other creative options?
- What organizational account mapping can be done to ensure you understand who makes up the full Buying Team and that you are engaging with prospects at the appropriate level? Is your team selling features/functions or selling the full value of your solution? When the economy gets tougher, value-selling is exceptionally important and must align with messages coming from marketing.
Remind targets how you can help and be willing to adjust your message to align with individual customer needs.
- If you step back and look at your customer success function, what purpose did it historically serve: Support/Services? Renewals? Do you need to redefine it around Customer Experience to ensure customers are achieving meaningful ROI during a difficult time and contributing to revenue stability or growth?
- To protect existing accounts, what 3-5 questions can Customer Success reps ask each customer to identify their true needs and motivations? Examples: Are they speaking to the real decision maker? How would the customer articulate the value of the product/offering to his own organization? What one thing would really make the customer’s life easier right now?
- Do you have an internal escalation plan ready to get creative relief ideas and incentives approved? What mechanisms are in place to effectively present these incentives to the customer?
- What are your competitors doing to support customers during a challenging time and is there risk of your customers making a switch? If a competitor isn’t handling things well, where are the opportunities for you?
What one thing would really make the customer’s life easier right now?
Here’s the bottom line.
In an economic downturn, it is incumbent upon solution providers to evaluate the markets and segments served and identify new and creative ways to help customers weather these changes. These shifts can provide new opportunities to penetrate markets or industries that otherwise would not have been serviced, as well as opportunities to shift focus to different features of a solution set. In some instances, the solution’s value can become even more important to customers as they search for ways to maintain productivity with fewer resources. Mobilize a cross functional team to identify ways in which your solution might evolve to address these newly exposed challenges.
In the next and final post, we’ll offer considerations for finding the opportunities during the third phase of a downturn: Reposition.
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.