Here is some very sound advice for all you sales managers heading to airports, renting cars, working with salespeople, or just plain putting up with corporate bravo sierra. (Any military people out there?) Your job in the light of all the recession talk (should we doff our hats to the media on this one?) is to stay calm and stay the course. (back to this in a second).
Last night I had an enjoyable evening with six other business professionals all of whom have been through some interesting business challenges. We all call on people who make decisions, i.e. C-level folks. All of us have heard our customers and/or prospects talk about the business climate and its uncertainty. It hasn’t gotten to the point where the CEO is foaming at the mouth wondering if he or she should close the doors, sell the company and retire to Aruba. But news about the economy is a topic and there is a certain wariness about the economic climate.
So, back to our intrepid sales manager. Your job is to block out a lot of the white noise about recessions, downturns, poor economic climate or whatever else you hear. If you stay calm your salespeople will stay calm; if you show signs of strain your salespeople will start caroming off the walls wondering what they should do next to avert disaster! So, how do you do that? You do that by staying with the “sales behavior plan” that you and your salespeople created when the year began. You may be tired of hearing me talk about behavior plans but, frankly, if those plans work during good times then why won’t they work in other times?
Think about this. Sales managers and salespeople sooner or later will live through the following:
Dramatic competitive pushes with either new products or new pricing.
Crazy or bizarre marketing strategies.
Upper management folly.
What any sane person (particularly sales managers) does during these times is call for a moratorium on panic! Ask yourself this question, what did I do in the past when business obstacles arose? You helped salespeople stay focused and disciplined on behaviors like prospecting, getting appointments, going on sales calls, handling objections, asking for business and referrals, selling value instead of price. Stay with this plan! My other suggestion is to meet with your salespeople for half a day. Go to a bowling alley, a driving range or treat everyone to a nice dinner. In a subtle way get feedback from these folks about their business, the industry or whatever. If they have concerns deal with them by using the same tactics you would have used the last time they had concerns. There is no need to change tactics, approaches to the business, sales methods because doing so only heightens the sense that something is wrong. Business is a fluid environment and there will always be challenges. Challenges don’t always imply that actions have to change.
The Final Thought: The greatest challenge to any thinker is stating the problem in a way that will allow a solution. Bertrand Russell