Nothing will test your sales leadership skills like going through an economic downturn and managing through layoffs. Budgets are likely to be tight for both your business and your prospects. It may be difficult to generate enough leads to fill your pipeline. Prospects and clients alike will try to save every nickel they can, which means they may be cutting back on dollars you were counting on.
Even worse, you may have to let some employees go, and the impact on the remaining employees can be detrimental to the team’s morale. If you are not managing these situations correctly, you may experience even more turnover.
Recessions are not uncommon, and good leaders rise to the occasion. Historically, markets go south every 7 years, so the skills you learn during tough times now will likely be useful to you again in the future.
Here are five helpful tips to get through the toughest economic times:
1. Communicate often, and clearly
Don’t avoid communicating with your team if you want to keep their trust – especially if the message you’re conveying isn’t a good one. Get in front of any bad news and have a plan to address team members who are impacted. Also, make sure your message is consistent and crystal clear. It’s best to practice before addressing the team, and don’t waffle on any decisions.
You should also increase your communication cadence during tough times. If your teams meet bi-weekly, increase that to every week or even more often. If you are present and proactive, you can keep morale up even in difficult times.
2. Add more quick-hit incentives
Being more present and proactive with your team is a motivator, but there are plenty of other ways to motivate your team too.
One way to keep the team engaged and positive is to run small quick-hit SPIFFS (sales performance incentive funds). They don’t always have to be monetary. A SPIFF could be picking the spot for a team meal, or dedicated time with the company leadership team (sales reps love getting time with company executives). One of our clients just gave away a grill as part of a quarterly sales incentive.
3. Celebrate wins
Over-promote wins – ALL OF THEM. This is highly motivating to everyone on the team, and the ‘win’ doesn’t have to be deal-related. For example, you could choose a day to recognize the first employee in the office that day.
4. Fall back on culture
Lean into your company’s strong team and company culture during tough times – whether that’s a strong camaraderie, a history of recognizing wins, or openly welcoming feedback. This will help your team focus on the positive when everything outside the business may seem negative. Leaders who foster strong culture have probably been through lean times before and have experience managing through it.
5. Increase training
Use this time to upgrade your employees’ skills. Increase your sales team’s training schedule, and if you don’t have one, make one. This will show you are invested in their success. Ask your senior reps to share some of their experiences, which can also be a motivator to the rest of the team.
Recessions can be a scary time for any industry, but embrace the challenge on your sales team and use it as an opportunity to improve your leadership skills. Over-communicate, celebrate small wins, and focus on training, and your team (and your company) will come out of this situation stronger.
Want more advice? Read why it’s so critical to hire “A” players during tough economic times