Trying to Sell in a Recession? Stop Being So Hard on Your Sales Team!

When it comes to selling in uncertain economic times, there are no two people better placed to advise than Lisa Addison and Jason Tooley, two hugely successful Chief Revenue Officers who have worked with countless growing businesses and scaleups to help them get laser focused on their selling strategies.

We had the honour and pleasure of speaking with Lisa and Jason for our November masterclass, and their insights did not disappoint!


Has selling changed since 2019?

Despite all the ups and downs of COVID-19 and WFH, the fundamentals of selling have, according to Jason, remained more or less the same. These are the fundamentals of how you engage with customers, how you develop a high degree of customer intimacy, and how you learn to focus on key strategies and tactics in times of stress that allow you to grow your business.

It’s an approach often known as the ‘consultative sales process’. Most clients and C-level execs are looking for help right now, so the role of the salesperson is to engage and add value to their thinking, and then bring credibility by way of great customer success stories too. 

Granted, a lot of businesses are still searching for that more programmatic demand gen model, but actually, combining customer intimacy with a more integrated business model is a better approach to take, and not just in times of economic uncertainty.

For Lisa, focus is also key. But her most important piece of advice in these uncertain times – don’t panic! And don’t put the entirety of the problem on your sales team!

Instead, take a long hard look at how you’re organised internally.

  • Have you got the right ‘hunters’ in place to go after business?
  • Have you got the right ‘farmers’ in place to nurture deals and fill the pipeline?
  • Have you broken down silos to optimise growth?
  • Have you got the right people in the right roles to be agile and nimble?


For example, perhaps there’s someone in your marketing team who would be better placed to support the sales function?

Lisa recalls a business she worked with a while ago where someone in the marketing team was perfectly placed to drive better sales insights for the sales team. They were analytical, they understood the market in great depth, and they had some really good ideas about how to segment the market too. It’s this sort of internal focus and rethinking roles and responsibilities that can really make a difference to your revenue and growth.


The role of the Chief Revenue Officer

It’s this approach of challenging internal processes and taking a broader look across departments that plays extremely well into the role of the Chief Revenue Officer (CRO).

And alongside an internal review also lies a customer audit, something that again, the CRO is extremely well placed to carry out.

As Jason outlines, this is all about looking at the market with fresh eyes and recognising that customer needs and priorities have changed. Then it’s about asking yourself – are you still relevant in this new world? Are you positioned as a key enabler for your customers’ key strategies?

Lisa adds that now is a great time to be doing this and taking stock. 

Ask yourself, are you servicing your clients in the right way? With needs and priorities having shifted, how are you continuing to listen, seduce and tantalise your customers?


No more face-to-face events to fall back on!

Obviously one of the biggest holes in any 2020 business calendar has been the lack of face-to-face events, where a glass of wine can clinch a deal at the end of a busy conference day!

Lisa’s point of view on this is clear though – if you can’t crack your deals between 9am and 6pm, then you’re doing something wrong!

And the first place to look for inspiration right now is the multitude of digital tools we have available to us! Which, incidentally, offer up a golden opportunity, as the cost barriers are much lower than with the usual big events.

But tread carefully… this is not about those spammy LinkedIn messages we’ve all been getting recently. This is a much more curated and tailored approach based on careful mapping of your buyer ecosystem and a deep understanding of your customer problems.

Then it’s about using the right touchpoints and being extremely clever with your engagement – know the person you’re trying to speak to, articulate your value proposition and USP(s) clearly, and build mutual respect and credibility. 

There are no shortcuts to doing this! But if you use the data and channels available, then you’ll be able to devise that hook to drag the next opportunity in. It’s all about selling a clever thing to a clever buyer!

Jason echoes this and underlines that especially at the moment, complex propositions just aren’t working. Your message needs to be really clear and it needs to be 100% focused on the person you’re reaching out to. You’ve got to keep it simple and you’ve got to be easy to do business with. If you’re difficult or complex, it will, quite simply, preclude you from winning and servicing your clients.


So how do you make a channel like LinkedIn work? And are there other digital options available?

According to Lisa, there is definitely a creative art to making LinkedIn messages work. We’ve all been on the receiving end of the spammy ones, but then we’ve also seen some of the good ones too. And the key with these is nearly always poignancy and relevance. 

You’ve got to be conscious of your audience – they’re invariably time-poor, but they’re also smart. So you need to be equally smart in communicating with them. 

For Jason, LinkedIn can also serve really well for content as it gives you a platform to share your point of view and position on the market. Just as long as you use it wisely and keep it tight, which goes especially for video content – it’s a great medium but it’s got to be relevant!

In terms of other channels available, Lisa has had some success with 3rd party calling or telemarketing agencies. Of course, this channel very much depends on the size of your business, but if you can share a clear articulation with that agency of who your buyer is and what the message needs to be, then it can be a very effective route to market and can fill the pipeline relatively quickly. But the key is, again, keep it tight – communicate 3 points, not 50!


And what about rewarding sales teams in the current climate?

This is another area where organisations need to review their structures and consider different compensation plans and reward schemes.

Now, this isn’t about cutting salaries, as Lisa is keen to point out. Yes, you may have to make redundancies, but avoid cutting salaries at all costs or your best salespeople will find other jobs!

Instead, it’s about rethinking structures and roles, and assessing if things like territory assignment is working at the moment.

And always bear in mind too that people can take on hybrid roles – the old divisions between, for example, sales and marketing, don’t need to happen anymore. Smart people are capable of straddling two or more ‘old-fashioned’ functions as long as they have clear goals and targets, and are fulfilled personally too.

It’s something that Jason agrees with – the time is right at the moment to recognise intrinsic motivations within employees, especially with so many of us working remotely. If leadership can think differently about how their organisations are structured and how they hire and motivate talent, then they’ll also flatten the ramp to productivity, which of course will lead to increased growth!

If you’d like to chat more about the role of the CRO with Lisa or Jason, you can do so via the Invigorate Platform.

Members can sign-in here.

Non-members can sign up here.


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