I recently led a workshop for a company’s sales team on how they could succeed during periods of recession and rising interest rates. Much of the workshop was discussion-based, and the topics of conversation were fascinating.
Why did this client request such a workshop? The answer is simple: nobody can ignore the storm clouds anymore.
Disclaimer – This article is not meant to depress you. There are often great opportunities to be had during economic downturns. This article is intended to prepare you and help you find the silver lining during the coming tempest.
Frankly, the “storm” is already here. We have been dealing with significant talent/labor shortages and supply chain interruptions for two years now. We have the worst inflation in 40 years. Critically important things like food and energy are particularly more expensive. Interest rates have doubled and will likely continue increasing.
And then there’s the looming likelihood of a recession, The U.S. economy shrunk by 1.5 percent during the first quarter of this year. The definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative growth. Our current quarter ends in six days. Shortly after that, the results will come out. If the second quarter turns out to be negative, well, we’re in a recession.
Even if we manage to show economic growth this quarter, the recession threat is not gone. Check out this quote from the Wall Street Journal:
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal have dramatically raised the probability of recession, now putting it at 44% in the next 12 months, a level usually seen only on the brink of or during actual recessions.
The likelihood of a recession has increased rapidly this year as inflationary pressures remained strong and the Federal Reserve took increasingly aggressive action to tame them. Economists on average put the probability of the economy being in recession sometime in the next 12 months at 28% in the Journal’s last survey in April and at 18% in January.
Some recessions are worse than others, but most are exacerbated by public fretting and media sensationalizing. Traditionally, I’ve viewed recessions the same way I view having to go to work when you have a head cold. You feel like crap, but you can still work and be productive. When you have a cold, life is temporarily uncomfortable, but you’re not going to die anytime soon. You might feel crappy during a recession, but you still plow forward.
But with the right outlook and approach, recessions can actually yield better times for certain sales pros in certain industries. Either way, here are a few things that can help you succeed during unsettling times:
Double down on your prospecting NOW – Regular readers of this column know that I’m obsessed with prospecting. I believe you keep pushing the prospecting gas pedal even when your company is super busy. Regardless of your company’s current business flow, I urge you to prospect heavily. Don’t waste any time. Keep prospecting during good, bad and regular times.
Resist the negative – Fear can be paralyzing. Much of the negativity that occurs during challenging economic periods is self-perpetuated. If you refuse to participate in fearful, fatalistic or other forms of negative thinking, you just might make yourself immune to the recession.
Go back to the fundamentals – When you feel stressed, go back to what has worked for generations of sales pros: diligent customer service, timely communication, proactive prospecting, an early start to the day, making “just one more call” before going home, etc.
Rediscover the networking game – For much of the past two years, the pandemic shut down face-to-face networking events. Now, most of those networking opportunities are back, yet many sales pros are still not attending. I think the reason for that is we got used to not attending these events and no longer feel like doing it. Well, now’s the time to get off the couch or out of the office and show up at public events where opportunities (and clients) can be found.
Reassess your target audience – During periods of economic difficulty, it is sometimes advantageous to change your target audience (or at least tweak it). This depends on your industry and company policy, but there could be customers who are more or less likely to buy during recessionary periods than during normal times.
Pent-up demand from non-traditional buyers – Look for clients/buyers who have pent-up demand. Certain buyers spend less during good times, preferring to save their money for when times are bad and good deals are to be had. These cash-rich buyers could be the perfect medicine to what might ail you during economic downturns. Be sure to look carefully and thoroughly for these people, because they are sometimes hard to notice at first glance.