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We Asked 9 Successful Sales Leaders About the Economy

Economic Downturn Roundup - Image

It’s been a tough couple of years, Sales Hackers.

And it’s about to get tougher.

From layoffs at Redfin and Tesla to the plummeting crypto markets, companies are starting to tighten their belts — and the economy has shifted from the so-called “Great Resignation,” with a job market heavily favoring employees, to the “Forced Resignation.”

What do the changing market conditions mean for RevOps and sales?

We asked the experts. Here’s what they said.

(Spoiler: It’s all about efficiency, agility, and being good to your people.)

Ralph Barsi

VP of Global Inside Sales at Tray.io

@ralph-barsi

Q: How can you know it’s time to take measures against recession, such as pivot toward deal efficiency?

It’s about listening — mostly to customers, prospects, and partners — and managing what you measure.

For example, your best, most active customers may pull back on expansion talks or inquire about term or price adjustments. Your prospects may share that they’re pausing on projects or vendor meetings. Your partners may alert you to news they’re hearing in the field.

Listen for the signals and the tells, so you can calibrate your GTM motion if needed.

Keep a close watch on your KPIs: win rates, average deal cycles, and pipeline coverage, for example. You can’t win if you don’t keep score, so keep score often.

Keep a close watch on your KPIs: win rates, average deal cycles, and pipeline coverage, for example. You can’t win if you don’t keep score, so keep score often.

 


Tito Bohrt

CEO of Altisales, BDR/SDR advocate

@tito-bohrt

Q: What advice would you give to SDR managers right now?

Treat your SDRs as a sports team. Explain to them the importance of winning together! Have them collaborate and share best practices. If you find something that’s working, help your peers out. Have them move away from “I’m the best (and you’re not)” mentality to “We’re the best.”

Make them feel safe. Have their back (and tell them you do). Even if you don’t control the headcount and even if layoffs come later, help them find a new role. The economy is tough, and to survive we need to produce a lot of results.

Encourage them to go above and beyond. Gone are the days of working 4-5 hours a day and then have a side hustle that makes you $1000/mo extra… now is the time to hustle AT WORK!

 


Latané Conant

CMO of 6sense & GTM advisor

@latane-conant

Q: What should sales orgs expect to see in the coming weeks? Months? Days?

In the face of an economic softening, a lot of companies scale back on expenses while they wait to see what unfolds. Of course, they don’t want to take their foot off the gas in terms of goals — which leaves a lot of revenue teams grappling to do more with less.

While that poses a number of challenges, it’s also an opportunity for revenue leaders to look at systems, processes, data, and tech to make sure you’re investing your time and energy as efficiently as possible.

First, ask yourself: Are your customer success, and rev ops, sales and marketing teams all aligned and working toward the same goals? Are they measuring the same things? Is it crystal clear who’s responsible for what? Manage your budget like a joint checking account and make the hard decisions together. Maximizing efficiency requires everyone to play off the same sheet of music.

Second, now is the perfect time to “find the red.” In other words, drill down into your operations to find the areas where you’re wasting time, money, or energy. One important way to do that is to re-evaluate your tech stack. Is there waste or duplication? Is your technology helping keep your whole revenue team in sync on goals and metrics? If not, look at combining or replacing solutions where appropriate.

Ensure you’re optimizing your most expensive resource: Your sellers’ time.

Finally, ensure you’re optimizing your most expensive resource: Your sellers’ time. That means working holistically, as a revenue team. You want to ensure your sellers are devoting their energy to the accounts that are most likely to convert to revenue in the least amount of time possible. Those are the accounts that are the best fit for what you sell and are showing intent to buy right now. Marketing can continue to nurture earlier stage accounts while sales doubles down on getting deals across the finish line.

Whatever the economy holds in the near and long-term future, these improvements will help you run a more efficient and successful revenue team.

 


Richard Harris

2021 and 2022 Salesforce Sales Leader to Follow; founder, consultant, author

@rharris415

Q: What can sales leaders do to guide their teams through the economic downturn?

A few things. First, lead with vulnerability:

  • Be 100% honest about what you know and don’t know.
  • If your team asks, “Are we at risk?” be honest and say, “Honestly, I don’t know, I hope not, but I won’t lie to you.”
  • Find ways to stay engaged personally, not just professionally, especially if everyone is remote.
  • Share ideas on “if the situation happens,” then here’s what you would do.

If you have to lay off employees:

  • Run the numbers at various scenarios. Try not to overcut or undercut.
  • Hug them out the door: If you have to let people go, minimum 60-day severance and health insurance.
  • Pay for a professional resume writer and LinkedIn writer to update their resume.
  • Bonus: Check out Richard’s upcoming free job skills workshop!

Leaders better take pay cuts first before everyone else, and theirs should be at minimum double the % of everyone else.

For the employees you keep:

  • Don’t expect them to be “grateful” that they still have a job, and don’t expect them to work harder with fewer resources and internal support.
  • Show them you care about them and will invest in them.
  • Offload the burden onto your tech tools so folks don’t get overworked or overburdened.
  • 📚 Related reading: What’s In Your Personal Health Stack?
  • Invest in training. It could be paid or it could be something you put together internally.

 


Harmony Anderson

Head of Demand Generation at Outreach

Q: How should demand gen orgs pivot in times like these? How do you know if you need to? What are the metrics you look at?

Demand gen orgs should always be looking at efficiency metrics and know exactly where they would need to pull back if/when the market gets tough.

Most demand gen orgs focus on driving demand at every stage of the funnel from lead creation all the way down pipeline acceleration and closing. Typically when the markets are down, you will see your marketing-sourced lead to qualified opportunity conversion rates start to decrease as your customers/prospects start reprioritizing their own internal resources and budgets. They will push out/cancel demo meetings or they might just completely go dark in the middle of a deal cycle.

Typically when the markets are down, you will see your marketing-sourced lead to qualified opportunity conversion rates start to decrease.

You also typically will see this happen with the segments and industries that experience more volatility during recessions — startups or small businesses, travel/entertainment, etc. When this happens you’ll need to think about the programs and channels that are driving predictable growth and have the biggest impact on pipeline. In order to do this you would look at a lot of different metrics — cost per lead (CPL), cost per SAL (CPSAL), ROI by each source — channel and partner. As well as average SAL value, SALs by market segment, industry, etc. Then you would optimize from there!

Q: What do you do to improve efficiency (or get more out of your current budgets) when markets get rocky?

First you would look at the above metrics, cost per lead (CPL), cost per SAL (CPSAL), and ROI by channel and partner. These metrics will tell you which programs have the highest and lowest impact on the funnel, allowing you to reduce or reallocate spend accordingly.

Similarly, most demand gen teams set aside budgets for new program pilots, A/B testing, software, agencies, etc. When times get tough, most teams would typically pull back completely from testing/pilot programs and would pause any new tech acquisitions and agency partnerships. It’s all about being data driven and agile!

🧠 Related webinar: How to Align Demand Gen and Inside Sales to Close More Deals

 


Jamal Reimer

Bestselling author of Mega Deal Secrets and international coach to enterprise sellers

Q: What’s my best move as a seller in an economic downturn?

Consider the financial stability of your current employer. If solid, stay the course. If not, start developing relationships with reps and hiring managers at companies with better financial footing, just in case.

Additionally, define your sales motion to the current theme “how to do more with less.” That is the directive coming down from boards everywhere. If your pitch meets that criteria, you have a better chance of a deal.

Q: Any other tips for sellers in this economic environment?

Building a personal brand on LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube has never been more important. You need to become a known entity around a specific industry/theme. Opportunities will come to you and your perceived/real value to employers will skyrocket.

🎬 Related video: How I Gained 10,000 LinkedIn Followers in 7 Months

 


Lori Richardson

2021 and 2022 Salesforce Sales Leader to Follow

President, Women Sales Pros

Q: What should sales orgs expect in the coming weeks? Months?

The uncertainty in the air in some business circles can cause people to freeze. Now is not the time to stay still – now is the time to analyze your data and stay away from your “gut feel.” Gain outside opinions. And look at trends that could impact your buyers’ industries. When we say to learn about your buyer – what impacts them, who their customers are, what impacts them – you really can’t get too much insight.

📚 Related reading: Gathering the Right Win/Loss Data to Guide Your Team Through the Toughest Storms

Now is not the time to stay still – now is the time to analyze your data.

Q: What can sales leaders do to guide their teams through the downturn?
Sales leaders need to face potential changes in the economy with a strong set of what we call supportive beliefs (as opposed to unsupportive beliefs). Use “downturn” conversations to help newer sellers understand that business is cyclical – don’t do or say things that will cause negativity or a scarcity mentality. Thoughts of a downturn can get a client moving forward who wasn’t going to or who was stuck in the status quo.

No one can afford to sit in status quo anymore – make your best case for why your buyer would be better to move forward and if that is the case, there is no better time than now.

 


Feras Abdel

Senior Director of Revenue Operations, Outreach

Q: Does the economic environment change how you’re prioritizing ops work? Are you aiming more for efficiency in deals than before?

You can never really be prepared for something like this. You can try to predict, but you don’t want underprepare, and you don’t want to overindex.

Now, we can’t ignore what’s going on in the market. We definitely know that the sales team and go-to-market team are dealing with different conversations now. RevOps has to help support them in those conversations.

For example, we may be looking at ways to help support businesses that are not as prepared for a recession. Whether that’s equipping our sales team with data or ability to update our own resources in Salesforce — whatever the downmarket is, we’ve got to be able to say, “Hey, we lost this deal or this deal lost out because of a market trend.”

Set up your operations to have the ability to pivot when you need to.

Overall, I’d say: Set up your revenue operations to have the ability to pivot when you need to. If you try to build really rigid operations that don’t make sense, it’ll be difficult to pivot when the market changes.

 


Jacco van der Kooij

Founder, Winning by Design

@jacco

Q: What mistakes do you see companies making in recessions? What should they do instead?

Companies are battening down the hatches; many SaaS companies have already started layoffs.

Common reactions to a potential market downturn are to:

A. See that targets may not be hit, and fire sales reps to save costs and in the name of “scaling back to fighting weight”, and/or

B. see that targets may not be hit, and put a stop on investments and spending as much as possible.

Both of these reactions are flawed, and will not achieve the desired outcome.

What companies are actually trying to achieve is to scale their revenue. To find sustainable growth that will get them through a downturn.

Firing reps and scaling back the investments that were planned to drive lead gen and pipeline will not help achieve the objective of sustainable growth.

So what strategies will help them get there?

  1. Adjust the mentality to achieving sustainable, measurable growth and getting to profitability — rather than growing at all costs. The VC culture and race to IPO has taught founders to grow as fast as possible while ignoring costs. This does not work in the long run, and quickly falls apart during a downturn.
  1. Focus on your existing team — use the resources that you have, and make small improvements consistently for big incremental gain. This means focusing on improving productivity per rep.

How to do this? Skill up the team that you already have. Assess the team, find the gaps, and give them the resources to fill those gaps, whether it’s tools, training, etc. We have more tips on LinkedIn.

  1. Optimize revenue from existing customers. The vast majority of SaaS companies, even in good times, place far too much focus on new logo acquisition, ignoring the potential of the customers that they already have. Especially in a downturn, the best place to look for a growth driver for your business is your existing customer base — optimize your renewal rate and focus on strategies to expand your customers to more/new services.
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      Profile picture of eugenesunchoi
      @eugenesunchoi
      ( 200 POINTS )
      1 day, 15 hours ago

      Thanks for this post! I really resonated with Latone’s quote about how workers are having to “do more with less”. That’s unfortunately the slogan our CEO has implemented even in the good times, which makes it hard to innovate in our company. I think Richard Harris hit the nail on the head when he said to lead with vulnerability. That’s not seen very much from the leaders up top, so I was glad to see him say that.

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