Evidence of past economic downturns suggests that leaders who assess quickly and then act decisively will better position their business for success. But what are the critical assessments and actions that sales managers need to perform in their ongoing B2B sales strategy?
Familiarize yourself with economic principles (inflation, stagflation, recession). Also, understand the financial impacts of these economic conditions on businesses. For example, high demand and tight supply push prices up. Consider this base guide of the International Monetary Fund to share with your team.
Evaluate the following areas of the B2B sales strategy and plan. Determine if the change will be positive, neutral or negative due to economic pressure.
Market launch assessment
Identify and prioritize buyers most likely to buy now. Remember, however, to identify buyers who cannot buy now but will once the economy recovers. These buyers need to be fed in the meantime.
- Buyer segments. Are there segments that are more vulnerable to lower spending by consumers and other shoppers? Consider especially those who may not have recovered from the pandemic.
- Buyer response. Consider how buyers may react to reduced or frozen budgets. Will they:
- Cancel contracts or subscriptions?
- Reduced use of services?
- Delay spending? Or cancel projects altogether?
- Request financial assistance for essential expenses?
- Customer engagement. If your offers are priced by usage, consider how customer behavior might affect user counts. Also, will the number of interactions they will have with your platform be affected?
Evaluation of products/prices/packaging
Work with product management to evaluate the following components of your offerings. Also gather feedback from your sales team to understand changing buyer needs. Integrate the changes into your B2B sales strategy.
- The range of products. Do you have the offerings that will meet the immediate, short-term, and longer-term needs of buyers?
- Product packaging. Maybe you have the offers, but ask yourself if they should be packaged differently. For example, are buyers looking for an entry-level freemium version?
- Revenues and profits. Given changes in shopper response by segment, how will this potentially affect product purchase? Existing and future income? Profit?
Once you and your peers have assessed the market landscape and your ecosystem, take action. Incorporate immediate actions into existing sales plans and required future actions into your B2B sales strategy.
As with all changes affecting our teams, we must take a leadership role. For example, we need to treat economic downturns and the changes we need to make as an overall change agenda. As usual, it begins and continues with communication.
- Communication. When the economy has an impact on our activities, our teams and those of our partner ecosystems need to be reassured about the future of the company. Moreover, they need to be reassured about their personal future. Share the management team’s views on the market. Communicate the results of any assessments that have been made and actions that are planned.
- Take care of your team. Managers must ensure that open and transparent communications are available. Continue to appreciate and recognize the efforts of employees during what may be a difficult time. A culture of appreciation boosts employee engagement and productivity.
- Budget. While sales doesn’t have a huge discretionary budget, it goes without saying that leaders should cut all unnecessary expenses, including travel, and consider freezing hiring where appropriate.
Position resources toward market priorities that will produce the best current and future results. For example, some industries such as health care may be more recession-proof than others.
- Request engine changes. Redirect marketing spend to appropriately drive demand in target segments and nurture those who will be ready to act when recovery occurs. Share six tips marketing operations managers can use to prepare for a possible downturn with your marketing partners.
- Digital routes to market. Consider how buyers can change their buying behavior. If, for example, they want self-service, consider whether now is the right time to invest in digital selling capabilities. It can meet the needs of buyers and reduce human selling costs.
- Vendor Activation. Educate direct sellers and partners on new messages, offers, packages, etc. Also, coach them to make sure they can harness these resources effectively.
- Coverage and quota. Change coverage to ensure that existing and targeted priorities are effectively covered. Consider changing quotas or incentives to nudge the most potential customers and opportunities into action. Also consider how quotas or incentives may need to be adjusted if existing targets are no longer achievable.
A key priority is retaining the customers you have. Therefore, take steps to ensure that you are able to create the necessary relationship and value.
- Sale of value. Ensure salespeople can map and communicate the value of solutions and offerings to the customer’s highest priorities. Plus, coach sellers to educate buyers and deliver value throughout the buying process.
- Customer value. Focus resources to ensure existing customers have strong, positive experiences. Plus, help them quantify the value your solution brings them.
- Customer appreciation. Create or update customer appreciation programs that empower customer-facing teams to surprise and delight customers.
- Customer renewal. Educate direct sellers and partners on renewal changes or financial terms to support customers, especially those who need/want to continue using your service but may be impacted by budget constraints. Don’t forget to coach salespeople to use them effectively.
Sales often see changes to buyers’ needs first. Therefore, sales managers need to identify key buyer needs during an economic downturn, so share this information with product and marketing managers. Also, work with them to make changes to offers to better meet buyer needs.
- Product and packaging. Consider freemium or basic packages to help buyers who can’t buy now but could realize near-term value and support the promise of future income when markets recover.
- Financial conditions. Define any changes to financial terms for existing customers and future buyers.
As in all difficult economic times, we need to reduce our expenses and take care of our teams and our customers. Therefore, assess and take action to create a solid platform from which to bounce back as the economy recovers. Effective B2B sales strategy and planning can pave the way.
This post was written by VP, Principal Analyst Nancy Maluso and it originally appeared here.